A pioneer of Belgium's art collecting scene discusses Basquiat, Warhol and wedding gifts, ahead of works from her collection being offered at Christie's
What inspired you to start collecting art?
I come from a family of art connoisseurs. My uncle was a writer and poet, and his house was a trove of wonderful objects, Old Masters and modern paintings. My three brothers have always been collectors, though sadly one of them had his entire collection stolen. My early exposure to art, and the opportunities I had to meet artists in their workshops in Italy and Belgium, enabled me to build friendships with artists and refine my aesthetic tastes.
What was the first piece you acquired and when? Did you ever have the opportunity to meet any of the artists featured in your collection?
When I got married I received presents of works from Olga Carol Rama, Riccardo Cordero, Vincenzo Agnetti, Cavaliere, Piero Gilardi, Renata Boero and Carlo Maria Mariani. They were all glad that we would be able to enjoy their work in Brussels.
In 1959 I moved to Belgium. As a first wedding anniversary present, I asked for a small drawing by Magritte that I had seen at Brachot; I bought my first Fontana on Avenue Louise. I got to know Walter Leblanc and his wife, as well as other Belgian artists such as Pierre Alechinsky.
How do you decide what to buy — what sort of research do you do?
My husband and I have shared a passion for art for almost 60 years. Our extensive travels have given me opportunities to acquire works by young American and Chinese artists such as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Ling Jian. I was the first collector in Belgium to buy young Arte Povera artists including Giulio Paolini, Giuseppe Penone and Mario Merz, and later Transavanguardia and young Italian contemporary artists.
My husband and I have visited the major art fairs in Basel, Chicago and New York at least once. I have also attended events in Milan, Turin, Paris and Brussels. At these fairs I have discovered new artists and, if the price is right, acquired pieces. I have had the opportunity to meet many of the artists whose work I own, including Pierre Alechinsky, Peter Blake, Mimmo Rotella, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol, and have exhibited them.
What would be your advice to new collectors?
Friends sometimes ask, ‘What do you advise me to buy?’ I always say that you should only purchase art that you love, from respected galleries and auction houses.