Back in 2016 Artnet selected Rolf and Venke Hoff as two of the 100 most important collectors in the world, and in the same year, they exhibited parts of their collection for FIAC’s VIP-programme in Paris.
In collaboration with Artland, we share stories of the people behind the collections and the motivation to want to own contemporary art. This week, we caught up with Norwegian collectors Venke and Rolf Hoff inside their KavairFactory.
How did you become and art collector?VENKE HOFF
When I married Rolf, I didn’t really have much of a choice, I married a collector! He had been collecting antiques, rare coins, and stamps for a long time, and had a keen eye for quality.
How would you describe yourself as an art collector?VENKE HOFF
I was a flight attendant for a while. I was in New York once a week and Copenhagen was my second home. Regardless of where I was, I always wanted to go to galleries and see art. So even though Rolf, in many ways has been my mentor, I have always been an independent woman with my own thoughts on and visions about art. Rolf has always been the crazy and fearless one, who always bought a lot. I have had to pull the brakes more than once!
What was the first piece of work you purchased?VENKE HOFF
The first really big piece we bought was a painting by Kjell Erik Kili Olsen in the early 1980s. After all, Kili Olsen did almost create as much furore back then as Bjarne Melgaard is creating today.
What is the main motivation behind you collecting?VENKE HOFF
Twenty years ago we visited ARCO in Madrid. Back then; there was very little focus on art fairs unlike today where they are everywhere. It was an incredible experience; to be able to see so much great art from all over the world, so concentrated and focused. We have been fortunate enough to travel the world and experience art and we have gotten to know so many interesting people around the world, and have made a lot of new friends because of the art and through collecting it. Artists, collectors, and curators. The social element, and the fact that it has been fun has definitely been a motivation for us to keep collecting and engaging.
Being collectors has made sure that our marriage and lives are never boring. We have so much fun. Art has never been something we have invested in because of the money. When that is said, the acknowledgement that we have had a keen eye when it comes to art has been important to us.
How would you describe your collection using only three words?VENKE HOFF
I cannot do that. I suppose we are a bit impulsive and unstructured as people, and that shows in the collection.
Is there any type of art that appeals to you more than other, or a theme which functions as a cohesive factor in the collection?VENKE HOFF
If I could have started over, I would have liked a slightly tighter and sharper focus. However saying that, our collection reflects our social life, so it is honest. Besides that, I have taken an interest in objects recently, things you cannot hang on your walls. If I had to give you a common denominator for the collection, then it would be that it is all great art!
Which do you prefer: The hunt associated with collecting art or the joy of ownership?VENKE HOFF
When art becomes a necessary part of life, it does not really come down to hunt or ownership. It almost becomes a sickness, and there is no medicine. We are collectors to our very cores.
How important is it for you to meet the artist behind the artwork?VENKE HOFF
Knowing the artist has never been that important to me. The art itself always comes first. However, we do know almost every single artist in our collection. That is how it is when the art and collecting becomes such an important part of your everyday life. We are social people, and because of that, it is only natural that the people behind the art gets a certain place in our lives.
What was the reason behind you choosing to open KaviarFactory?VENKE HOFF
Rolf used to be the chairman of LIAF (Lofoten International Art Festival), and in 1998, we bought the Henningsvær lighthouse. Even though there had never been any residency-agreement, we have lent the space to countless artists. Then, I came across the caviar factory. It was a fantastic building, but it was in very bad shape. To cut a long story short, I felt that we had to save it, soe bought the factory in 2009 and opened KaviarFactory in 2013. We never had a clear idea of wanting to turn this place into a place for exhibitions, however, we have developed a strong connection to this place throughout the years, so it felt right turning it into a place where we could display art.
You have supported a lot of young, up-and-coming artists. What is the reason for this?VENKE HOFF
We have always been collectors firstly and foremost. That means that the art has always been the most important thing to us. However, it is obvious that it is important to give artists good living conditions. Had it not been for collectors, a lot of artists would have struggled to survive.
What thoughts do you have regarding the contemporary Norwegian art scene and the international art scene?VENKE HOFF
An important difference between the art scene when we started collecting and now is social media. Back then the only way of receiving news on and invitations to exhibitions was through the mail. The postman was just about the only one who knew we were interested in art back then. Now it is a brand new world. The Internet has opened many doors, but it has also taken away some of the trial and error, which has been a fun part of collecting for us.
What work of art would you wish you owned if the price tag did not matter?VENKE HOFF
That is hard to say. The only thing I can say for sure is that the only reason I would love to have more money is the thought of all the great art I could afford.
What is the best advice you have given or been given in terms of art collecting?VENKE HOFF
Do not throw yourself at the first work you see. Take a second look at the art available. In addition, remember to see as much art as possible!