“Some of the art created today can be inaccessible, but for me, it’s about having an emotional reaction or experience rather than seeking a specific meaning.”
Upon returning to her native Berlin from New York in 2014, Anna Rosa Thomae founded A R T, a communication and branding consultancy for art, design and architecture. Drawing upon her cross-continental experience in the cultural sector, she shares with us her story on how she came to collect.
FAM: Anna Rosa, even your initials spell out ART–has art been in your life since day 1?
Anna Rosa Thomae: My parents often joke about knowing that I would somehow end up in the art world, so yes, maybe you could say that art has been in my life since day one! I started collecting postcards of artwork images from museums when I was a child, so art has been prominent in my life from an early age. After finishing my masters at Christie’s, working extensively in the industry, and starting my own business, I gradually began having the means to buy original pieces, mainly works on paper. But I still accumulate postcards or magazine clippings, as for me collecting is about surrounding myself with images and ideas that inspire my creativity.
You work with art every day, and are surrounded by artists you admire–how do you decide what to buy?
I am very grateful that I was able to turn my passion into my work. Working with artists and visiting their studios is something that constantly drives me to expand my horizons, as they allow me to gain an insight into the process and mindset behind each work.
I believe the best investment is collecting what you love–if you feel good about something, you have to just follow your gut instinct. When I come across a piece that I instantly connect to, I usually buy on the spot… that is, if its within budget, of course!
Do you still have the same relationships to all your artworks now as when you first bought them, or have the feelings changed with time?
Luckily, I still like all the works in my collection, including my very first piece by Sigmar Polke. I have a special connection with his work as I wrote my thesis on his paintings from the 80s. It’s safe to say there are pieces I wish I could have acquired, but wasn’t able to. What comes to mind is when I was outbid at an auction for the Martin Kippenerger “Medusa” series. I also thought about buying a Jonas Wood before he was represented by Gagosian Gallery. I don’t look back with any regrets, however, as I think it’s important to live with the decisions you’ve made.
Is there a unifying element in your art collection?
I’m often drawn to post-war art, particularly German, and works on paper. For the latter, the paper itself carries so much character in its texture and the way it works with different mediums—the way ink, graphite, or watercolors sink into the material. I’m also intrigued by the various ways paper is used in the artistic process, whether it’s to sketch ideas before painting, or as the primary medium in an entire series.
Besides artworks, I collect objects and books on my travels. I found a beautiful coral in Tulum, and then carried it in my suitcase to Art Basel Miami Beach and New York, before finally getting it home in one piece and hanging it on the wall.
What do you look for in art, both personally and professionally?
Some of the art created today can be inaccessible, but for me, it’s about having an emotional reaction or experience rather than seeking a specific meaning. The best art is the kind that makes you laugh, cry, or even both.
I’m very much drawn to immersive large-scale installation work because of their experiential quality. Some artists that come to mind are Richard Serra, Christo, and Chiharu Shiota. Though those are difficult to fit into my apartment…
Tell us about your new cultural initiative ART 25.
ART 25 is about looking at how different worlds merge, intertwine, and grow. I wanted to open up the conversation within the arts, involving topics from philosophy, science, or social sciences. This enables artists to talk about subjects related to their practice that aren’t necessarily directly about their work. It gives us the opportunity to look at things in new engaging ways.
The first series we hosted in my space, “The Cosmic Culture Sessions”, focused on an artistic perspective on outer space, time, and exploration. The idea was to underline our relationship to planet earth rather than the amazingness of space or the possibilities of holidaying on Mars someday. Shouldn’t we be using our knowledge to make the earth a better place instead?
What brought you back to Berlin, after many years away from home?
When I was living in New York, there was so much talk about the Berlin art scene. When asked about it, I had to admit that I had limited knowledge, since I had been abroad for over ten years! I wanted to come back to understand what was going on in my hometown, and to be able to share that with people. Berlin is my home, and it’s a beautiful place to return to.
What have you been most surprised by since returning?
The artistic production and creative energy in Berlin is incredible, and it would be good to see an increase in market here too. It’s fascinating walking around international biennials, where it feels like every second label reads “lives and works in Berlin.”
What’s next with ART 25?
The next conversation I am planning at ART 25 is on the topic of art and chaos. I like that concept, even though I am not very chaotic. For now, I curate based on specific topics born from political or social concepts that I feel deserve further investigation. When I curate around a theme, I look for artists and speakers who can enrich the discourse with their artistic practice. During the events, I encourage an organic flow to take place, inviting more of a spontaneous, open discussion to unfold.
And what’s next for your collection?
I am evermore fascinated by sketches of nude women–the female form is beautiful, and I am drawn to the intimacy of these artworks. My most recent acquisition was a drawing from a series by an unknown artist found in an old attic in Berlin, which I came across at the Independent Art Fair. I love all the interpretations that the ambiguous history behind them invites.
I have always wanted an Egon Schiele… but for now these two posters will have to do!
Interview by Minnie McIntyre