“I have to be moved by what I see. My best buys are based on an immediate instinct.”
Graphic designer and art director Christina Knapp Voith gives us a tour of her sumptuous apartment and tells us about her love of the glam rock era, David Bowie and iconic photography from the 50s and 60s.
FAM: Christina, you studied in New York and after several pit stops have now ended up in Berlin. What do you find inspiring about the Berlin art scene as a graphic designer?
Christina Knapp Voith: When I left New York and decided to come back to Germany there was only one option. Everyone had lived or wanted to live in the Berlin. Everything was so “underground”, mysterious, and a little trashy. There was so much going on and over the years I have realized that it really never changes. I think Berlin is unique and that the people who decide to live here want to be free and not to be judged. Berlin has become my home and an inspiration on many levels.
How do you manage to stay up-to-date on contemporary art trends?
The fact that I collect solely for my own pleasure gives me the freedom to buy artwork based on an emotional decision rather than on a rational one. I don’t collect professionally or with an abundant ambition. I would say that I generally buy what I like and can afford, and also that my preferences are independent from any current trends. As a graphic designer I work with gallerists and artists in Berlin which means I’m automatically updated on what’s going. The ongoing dialogue I have with my art enthusiastic friends also helps for this.
What’s important to you when collecting?
I have to be moved by what I see; only I will know if it suits me or not. My best purchases are always impulse buys, which are somehow based on an immediate instinct. I bought Georg Baselitz’s Gute Hoffnung in Berlin, I saw it in a gallery and was immediately taken by the colour and title—it was an absolute impulse buy! There are certain styles and colors that attract me such as the style of the 50s/60s and I love the photography from that era. When I was 24, I fell in love with the Marilyn Monroe portraits by Bert Stern. They are so sensual but tinged with sadness considering that she died only a few weeks later. It is the same with the Nico portrait by Jerry Schatzberg, which caught my attention when I saw it in a gallery in New York. It is full of happiness and gravity at the same time.
After I had moved to Berlin I started to collect more local art and street art. For example Doppeldenk’s Toast and Milk, or Artomie by Initial Roc / Mickey Mouse. Pieces like that add humor, ease, and cynicism to any collection. Every piece of art has its own story and as a part of a private collection—carefully chosen by an individual—a piece can gain a whole other history, and a whole new meaning. All in all, the art that I buy definitely reflects my personality and every piece can be connected to certain time or feeling.
A palm tree theme seems to run through your wonderful warm and colorful apartment. Where does your passion stem form?
In my mind the palm tree symbolizes warmth, freedom, and being far away. My brother used to live in California and I frequently visited him. The palm tree stands for that iconic Californian lifestyle and has become this “thing” that I started to collect, I can’t really explain it. My most recent acquisition is a photography by the German artist Hannah Herzberg. It is the most mysterious and abstract depiction of a palm tree that I own. I also find the work of Julius Shulman totally masterful, his use of color and his composition has always attracted me.
Could you tell me something about the flamingo light installation?
I am a fan of mixing styles together—photography, painting, sculpture and so on. The flamingo is my third neon sign and I love the light. I think all kind of light installations add a certain warmth to a home and a collection. The pink flamingo is such an iconic and funny animal and it was a very personal gift.
How did you start out as a collector?
I have subconsciously adopted a similar taste in artists to my father. He gave me my first pieces, a tiny Peter Beard composition, which is still one of my favorite pieces, and a Louise Lawler. Richard Prince is also an artist that I grew up with and my collage of his is very special to me. It will always hang on its own.
What role do editions play in your collection?
They play a very important role in my collection as probably more than half of it consists of editions. Editions made it possible for me to own particular artists in the first place. They might not be unique in a formal way but they are certainly to me and within the context of my collection.
Are there any particular artists whose development you’ve followed closely and even helped their career?
There are some artists that I follow such as Sophie Wahlquist (formerly Holstein). She is very strong with colors and shapes and her organic and energetic work is a balance to my rather graphic and photographic collection.
Did Sophie also make a portait of you or is it pure coincidence that the lady dressed in violet looks like you?
Sophie and I are very close friends and for as long as I have known her, she has never made portraits of people. I do know however, that her surroundings (which includes the people she spends time with) have an influence and may occur in her paintings!
David Bowie or Chris Martin? Although Chris’ portrait seems to take particular pride of place in your home…
Both! Music is very important to me and can have such an impact. Going to school in England, Britpop and rock were inevitable. Ever since I watched the movie The Velvet Goldmine I was fascinated by the glam rock era and of course David Bowie. The Chris Martin portrait by Nadav Kander was shot for the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine in 2008 and was the first piece I bought in Berlin. I will always love its statuesque expression and how well it was composed for its purpose. Unfortunately, it was too dominant for my boyfriend’s taste and had to be moved to the guest room.
Discover Christina’s beautiful graphics and photography here.
Interview by Juliane Spaete