You have 2,300 works of art and since 2004 all of them have been accessible to the public. Do you see yourself as a taste-maker? Does your collection influence the general public?
Harald Falckenberg: ‘Collecting art, for me, has little to do with taste and culture. I understand art as a mirror to developments in society, and that is why I feel more like an analyst than a lover of art objects. ‘
This intersection between public and private is usually covered by state museums.
‘The relationship between public and private collections has changed drastically over the last few years. Traditional museums rely on ever-changing exhibitions; about 80 per cent of visitors don’t come for the actual collection. This forces the museums to concentrate on their exhibition programmes. It is up to private collectors, who are interested in collecting one artistic movement, to present their collections. ‘
This is a very individual portrayal of art.
‘That isn’t a problem, as private museums are shaped by the collectors themselves and are generally dissolved after that person’s death. That is the reason why I also support public museums: they have a totally different lifespan and influence.’
'For me, art has always been a kind of adventure, an exploration.'
Is this the reason for your cooperation with the Deichtorhallen museum in Hamburg, or do you also think that a professionalisation of curatorial work is important?
‘If it is possible and useful, I would like to make my collection available to a public institution. The cooperation with the Deichtorhallen is currently limited to 2023, with the option of prolonging the partnership if both parties are happy to do so.’
Isn’t every museum happy to receive loans and donations?
‘The curator needs complete and utter freedom, which means that the collector could find that most of his or her pieces land in the warehouse instead of going on display. It would make more sense to make the pieces available to other collectors.’
Does this mean putting them back on the market?
‘I would put it differently: I would go back to the gallery which represents the artist to make sure the pieces find the right homes.’
So there won’t be a Falckenberg museum?
‘I think the notion that a collection will stay intact after the death of the collector is unrealistic. I am a businessman and am willing to hand over responsibility after I reach a certain age. Hence my partnership with the Deichtorhallen. The special thing about our cooperation is that my collection is integrated in the ongoing exhibition programme and is not exhibited as a static collection.’
Are there connections between exhibiting and collecting?
‘I don’t buy pieces purely to help or enrich an exhibition. This is more a question for a museum; but in fact with my friend Hans Jochen Waitz I have created a private foundation which buys pieces at the request of the museum and loans them to the institution for a certain length of time.’
Your collection mainly consists of contemporary pieces. Do you also buy historical pieces of art?
‘For me, art has always been a kind of adventure, an exploration; so it has necessarily been a journey through contemporary art and the primary market. This has changed a little in recent times because you can’t buy contemporary art indefinitely: the collection would suffer and lose its sense. I have created a collection which, at its heart, consists of “critical art”; I have then tried to integrate the predecessors and the successors of this direction of art into the collection as a whole. This means that I deal with the secondary market much more nowadays. However, the lines between primary and secondary markets have blurred to such an extent in the past 20 years that this behaviour is merely mirroring the structural changes within the market.’
Interview by Dirk Boll. Jonathan Meese © DACS 2015