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ART AMSTERDAM: Interview with Erika Hoffmann (Collection Hoffmann)

Erika Hoffmann

The art collector Erika Hoffmann, a native of the Rhineland, moved to Berlin in 1994. Together with her husband Rolf Hoffmann, she opened her 1000m² private museum in the former “Sophien-Gips-Höfe”. Her collection includes works of Günther Uecker, Frank Stella, Bruce Nauman and Mike Kelly. For the Art Amsterdam, she selected works from artists who once worked in the Rijksakademie and now live in Berlin. The artists are, among others, Tjebbe Beekman, Mathilde ter Heijne, Alexandra Leykauf, Mathilde Rosier, Bojan Sarcevic and Marike Schuurman.. The exhibition “Berlin – Amsterdam” can be visited at this year’s Art Amsterdam.
Artfacts.Net talked to the collector.

AfN: Dear Mrs. Hoffmann, I am glad that you could take some time for us and answer a few questions. First of all, I would like to know how you came to the art world.

Hoffmann: I actually found out during my preparation time here; because I have been asked again and again why exactly I was working for Art Amsterdam and for the Rijksakademie respectively. - I think it's because here, in Dutch museums, I have seen contemporary art for the first time. We lived in the Rhineland at that time. I accompanied my stepfather, who was the director of a museum, on his travels. And it was at the age of 15, 16, 17 that I have seen it here for the first time. It gave me a true reality check. So many people were actually visiting the museums - a lot more than what I knew from German museums. Whole families came, lifting up their children to show the objects, and it was such a pleasure! In Germany, I had to address myself to the attendants when I wanted to talk to someone during the day. There was no one else. That was the situation in the 50s.

AfN: You already mentioned Amsterdam. You curated an exhibition from the Rijksakademie, Berlin - Amsterdam; what were the criteria for your selection of artists?

Hoffmann: Personal taste. And I was told at the beginning to proceed just how I was used to approach art. Actually, there would not have been an alternative because I don't have a professional routine to follow.

AfN: Could you explain the title of the exhibition: "Folded or tilted realities, where delusion and reality overlap"?

Hoffmann: I don't know if you have already been in the showroom which we like to call "pavilion", in opposition to the other booths. You will perhaps see what I mean: there is an overlap, or a bend, between the created reality that is superimposed or to be seen simultaneously which is quite irritating, and you are wondering what it is exactly that you are seeing, because there is also a third reality on the wall. All this discharges of course in the cliché that Dutch people have always presented reality in an interesting way. They were considered as the masters of this art - at least from the German point of view -, whereas we have perhaps rather developed the speculative. And I was interested in that. You might have noticed that there are three Dutch, one German, one Serb and one Frenchwoman.

AfN: You studied history of art, worked for 20 years as fashion designer, you have collected art for almost 40 years now, and now you are here as a curator. Fashion and art are always linked to society in which they develop. What are - from your point of view - the social questions that contemporary art is dealing with? And what kinds of themes interest you?

Hoffmann: This is directly connected to the fact that I have perceived reality in a special way. I am really interested in the question how the relation to the body is changing, given the growing virtuality of our environment, of our information and of all that we are exposed to. As designer, the relation to the the body has always been the centre of attention: how do you feel "inside your skin"? - And in this case, let's consider clothes as a second skin, and architecture as a third. - What will happen to our physis? How can we succeed to stand up to all that is assailing us? We will soon be able to use buttons that perceive all this, but I already feel overwhelmed by all this information that I am supposed to gather, and that I am cetrainly also interested in at the same time.

Marike Schuurman - from the series 'Plots' 2005; Courtesy: Rijksakademie

AfN: It is interesting that you are mentioning the subject "body". So much is possible nowadays; every little lappet can be remodelled. There seems to be a need to make a decision for or against this kind of intervention. It clearly is a question of decision.

Hoffmann: It starts already with the decision whether you will be born or not. In the past, this was accepted as a part of destiny, and people were happy because it could not be different anyway, there was no alternative...

AfN: Let's talk about the art market. I went to a lecture of Isabelle Gros yesterday, and she quoted a Spiegel- interview with Tobias Meyer, star auctioneer at Sotheby's. He said something like: "The most expensive works are the best." Do you agree?

Hoffmann: No, I don't. They get the highest prices but if we just think of our valuation of the 19th century, we will understand how quickly everything is changing. We also remember that, in the 50s, Malevich was not appreciated at all, and that he is nowadays considered as more than an icon. No different statement can be expected from Tobias Meyer but I personally do not agree with him.

AfN: For 40 years now, you have collected experiences in the art market. Do you still enjoy collecting art in view of the fast purchase decisions that need to be done?

Hoffmann: No. I do not like these fast purchase decisions, and to be honest, I usually do not visit art fairs but stay away from them instead - in order to maintain the perhaps naive idea that art is something else than a commodity. When visiting Frieze or Art Basel Miami, I cannot maintain this idea, it's ripped from me. I certainly still visit the art fair in Berlin, I also go to Basel, and I have recently been at ARCO because people there are so charming and hospitable, and both the Thyssen-Collection and the Prado offer more than an incentive. The fair is interesting, too, but I would not enjoy it otherwise. I don't go there in order to buy something, I just look; it is a wonderful source of information but I will never decide at a fair. My husband and I never did in the past.

AfN: Yes, but it was still possible in the past. These days, it is not anymore.

Hoffmann: It is not possible anymore; it's already sold then, and you cannot really say: "I'll come back tomorrow" or "I'll call you tomorrow". It is still possible sometime or other; I could do it at the last ARCO, but most of the time, it is not working like this, and then it is just not anything for me.

AfN: Finally, I would like to know: How would you define "good art"? When does it start to prickle when you want to buy a work?

Hoffmann: That is difficult to say. This is not an easy question. It just happens sometimes, and that is not necessarily and exclusively something physical. I also admire these researches and fantasies about the outer space; what is happening out there; these ideas that everything is moving, and that nothing is like we have thought it to be, and that we do not know what will move in which direction... all this is very interesting. And sometimes, it causes a physical prickling.

AfN: Everything is flowing.

Hoffmann: Yes, everything is flowing. The universe is wafting, even when we think that we are sitting in a building which is fix - that is a false conclusion of our false consciousness.

AfN: And this consciousness is also a matter of art.

Hoffmann: Yes. It just has to make me think and keep me thinking. It has to be fun. It has to be inspiring. I want to have art that is asking questions. If you read a book, it has to interest you. It is not about old, well-known stories. It is about language itself. So if it happens that the formal side is interesting, that I actually look - because this is how it starts -, that it deserves closer attention, and that there is something hidden behind that can only be discovered stepwise in the course of time, and never entirely - the more enigmatic it remains, the better -, then it is quite possible that I take to it.

"We measure fame" - Artfacts.Net at Art Amsterdam

AfN: And we wish all visitors of Art Amsterdam and all art lovers this kind of overview. Thank you very much for the interview.

Interview: Sabine Rieck

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