In collaboration with LISTE, we speak to Chantal Blatzheim about what it was like to be raised surrounded by collectors, why not having a theme to her collection is crucial, and how her career of fundraising for the world’s leading art events allows her to explore areas of the art market that might otherwise be difficult to find, or even hidden.
You were raised within a family of collectors –how has that helped, or perhaps, hindered your attitude to collecting?CHANTAL BLATZHEIM
I would say that growing up with art at home and going to art fairs at a rather young age first of all created curiosity more than anything. I think getting into buying art can be a big step for most of us and crossing this line was very easy for me since I was used to the whole process: the gallery visits and museum shows etc. But the real interest began when I started studying Art History in Madrid in 2000. I was more interested in Old Masters and Modern Art, from an art historical point of view and because of what I was used to, and Madrid really opened my eyes for contemporary art. During my studies I worked at Helga de Alvear Gallery, one of the best contemporary art galleries in Spain, and meeting artists like Elmgreen & Dragset, Thomas Ruff and Santiago Sierra completely opened my eyes. A friend of the family, the German gallerist Gerhard Reinz who sadly passed away a few years ago, made the contact. The first work I bought, or should I say “worked for” was from Helga’s gallery and was a collage by the Spanish artist Jesus Palomino which I still have to this day. So, I would say that my family’s background was always encouraging me and never hindered me.
What does your family think of your collection?CHANTAL BLATZHEIM
I am especially interested in more conceptual artworks, installations and abstract painting. Obviously my family can sometimes be a bit skeptical and some works might need some further explaining, but in general they respond positively.
What artists and artworks are you interested in?CHANTAL BLATZHEIM
I am interested in collecting art by artists from my own generation but do add some so-called “father-figures” to it as well. I like the dialogues between the two generations. Whilst studying Art History, I became interested in photography and especially the phenomena of seriality and typology – which is why I have works by Bernd and Hilla Becher as well as younger photographers in the collection. Another interest that evolved over the years is a taste for minimal, conceptual and abstract artworks – something that probably stands out.
What are you looking for when considering buying an artwork? Is it purely a personal connection or is there an element of strategy involved?
There is no strategy such as dedicating oneself to a collection of “female photography after 1980” or “time based media” or a national focus on German or American painters, but rather I have always collected intuitively and very personally and therefore the collection includes nearly every medium, except maybe performance. Though looking back I can probably figure out some tendencies. For me, the best art is the one that you don’t understand right away, the type that makes you curious to find out more, that disturbs you or leaves an impression on you both positively or negatively. Ideally I would like to live with the art works I buy at least for a while, and I have never bought anything which went into storage right away. Art should make one’s life richer as well as allowing space for intellectual contemplation.
How has your relationship to your collection changed over the years?CHANTAL BLATZHEIM
The collection has grown, which of course makes more work, but I don’t think it has changed a lot – I have always lived with it and still do. I also moved a lot, which is always a nightmare when you own a lot of art and a big library, but the spirit has moved with me.
How do you go about finding and buying artworks?CHANTAL BLATZHEIM
The best way to get curious is by visiting an art fair but the best way to really find out about the artist is still by going to see an exhibition at a gallery and then establishing a close contact with said gallery. I travel a lot for work and visiting museum and gallery exhibitions worldwide is a good way to find out about new artists. Also seeing as much as possible and educating yourself not just about contemporary art but also historical positions, is in my opinion really important.
As well as buying at galleries, you have previously purchased artworks at LISTE. How do you find the experience of buying art fairs?CHANTAL BLATZHEIM
Yes I have. I don’t think the experience of the actual “buy” is so much different from buying at a gallery. Obviously it is a nice experience. As mentioned in the answer to your previous question, I think the combination of visiting art fairs, galleries and institutional exhibitions and Biennales is the best one.
Is there anything coming up at this year’s LISTE that you are particularly interested in seeing?CHANTAL BLATZHEIM
I am looking forward to seeing Sven Loven at Christian Anderson, Violet Dennison at Jan Kaps, Bunny Rogers at Société, Galerie Bernhard and Lala Rukh at Grey Noise, as well as hopefully making some unexpected discoveries.
Your career is orientated around fund raising and sponsoring within the art world – how do you keep your professional and private interests with art separate and how does this line of work influence you as an art collector?
I do not see a conflict between collecting privately and my company Chantal Blatzheim Cultural Consulting (CBCC) which does fundraising and sponsoring for Museums, Biennales and VIP relations. I would rather say that my knowledge as a collector helps me to understand better what other collectors expect when they support a project and my experience as a patron of various institutions in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland helps the institutions vice-versa. I have always traveled a lot to see exhibitions and art fairs, and have met a lot of interesting people along the way which obviously helps when you are looking for help to fund exhibition projects, education and museums. I am not a dealer or an adviser and rather focus on helping non-profit organizations to raise funds and to establish their private financial support groups, like for example the Manifesta Biennale Foundation. I think especially in times of financial difficulties due to cuts in the governmental cultural budgets private help is essential for so many institutions. My work is a part of the art circuit today without being part of the “market” itself, something I really like. I’m free as a collector and made my passion to support NPOs my job – I think it cannot get any better than that.
What is next for your collection? Do you have any plans to change direction or expand on a certain topic?CHANTAL BLATZHEIM
Over the last eighteen months I have bought almost solely female artists, something I was not aware of until I recently updated the archive! There are some really interesting female artists, most of them working cross-media, out there at the moment, for example Ida Ekblad, Bunny Rogers, Claudia Comte, Katharina Grosse and Melanie Matranga to just name a few. I also had the chance to meet Phyllida Barlow who is representing the UK at the Venice Biennale this year and the experience was very inspiring, especially since she is seventy-three years old and has just started to receive recognition for her work from fifteen years ago. I do not think that I will ever restrict myself to one “theme”, but maybe that is a direction I am going in at the moment.