“People are getting lost in these digital worlds and so the physical interaction of people and their experiences in real space become more important.”

Art lover and CEO of FTWild Agency Sebastian Peichl has been putting groundbreaking interactive experiences together for decades. Exploding with ideas he sees himself as the interface between business and culture—fostering creativity wherever possible. He tells us about his art collection which has an unbreakable bond with his homeland of Austria, and about being tricked by Sven Johne.

FAM: Sebastian Peichl, CEO and art collector...
Sebastian Peichl: But I am not a collector.

You’re an art lover, can I say that?
Art lover? Yeah, that sounds lovely. I would not regard myself as being a collector because I grew up in this artistic family and when I was a child there were two alternatives for the weekend program—going to museums and galleries or walking through the woods outside of Vienna. Art is just a normal part of my everyday life.

A painting by Clemens Krauss

On the left Sven Johne, Vinta, 2004, 6 screenprints and on the right Viennese bread rolls by Erwin Wurm

So art has a personal connection for you?
Absolutely, art is the representation of my Heimat (homeland) which is why I have lots of Austrian artists. But also my relationship to artists and my fascination for their personalities—that is maybe where the love comes from. Having the possibility to go to their studio, to talk and interact with them, and really get to know the artist behind the work. This for example (he points to a portrait) was a present from the future. A little portrait of me from the wonderful EVA & ADELE—I was overjoyed and also taken aback!

You are the founder and CEO of FTWild, a strategic and creative communications agency. Have you ever been daunted by the challenge of a project someone has approached you with? 
That is what we are looking for exactly, for challenges. Just recently we opened up the world’s highest co-working space on a mountain in the Tyrol at 2000m above zero in an old summit station of a cable car. Three years ago we started to intensively explore the changes of work environments and how people work and communicate together. Designing these kind of spaces is my favorite type of project at the moment.On the left Sebastian Peichl sitting in front of a work by Andre Rival and on the right Das Wunder Österreich by Sebastian’s father, Gustav Peichl

The name FTWild (Fuchsteufelswild) is a memorable one, meaning “to be apoplectic with rage”! Do you find yourself losing your temper often?
Unfortunately, I can be very demanding and impatient if things don’t come together. And yes, I get fuchsteufelswild but I use my Viennese charm too, which is a fair deal I would say.

I know you were instrumental when working for your previous company Art+Com in putting together the prestigious New Austria exhibition in 2005 at Belvedere Castle in Vienna. This commemorated the 50-year anniversary of the Austrian State Treaty when Austria became independent from the Allies. 
This was one of the most important exhibitions in Vienna for a long time—a very political exhibition about the freedom of Austria. It was the outcome of a huge interdisciplinary team and I was the interface between the Austrians and the Germans. We won the commission because we had the best idea by proposing a 250-meter-long flag which flew around the whole Belvedere castle. It was interactive, so you could walk on it, make a graph from it, and when it came to the timeline of the Third Reich it went dark.

A work by Katharina Schmidl taken from the Belvedere Castle Exhibition celebrating Austria's freedom

You have also set up many fairs and I wanted to ask why you think that in an increasingly digitalized world there has been an explosion in such events in recent years?  
In the digitalized world you should not forget about real physical space—which is also true for art. Experiencing art in a certain space is a totally different experience from looking at the artworks on a website. What I am totally convinced of is that in the digital times people are becoming more media-literate. But people are also getting lost in these digital worlds and so the physical interaction of people and the ability to communicate together, to interact, to have experiences in a real space, become more and more important.

If you look at the development of many successful online platforms they are all starting to open stores and inventing experiences where people physically can go and try out the product or design. There’s a backlash against the digitalized portals, and physical space has become indispensable. And for these physical experiences you need different disciplines like designers, architects, musicians and content people.

On the left Valie Export, grausam einsam Lust, 1997 and on the right A work by Peter Kogler

So as the digital world grows so does the demand for genuine physical interaction?
Yes, and you have to open a nice space for fineartmultiple. People will love it. Promise!

Okay! You once said this wonderful line “Art is everything and nothing.” What did you mean by that?
Well, this is difficult to express in English, but I’ll give it a try. Although actually, there is nothing to add because luckily the understanding of art is very subjective. And I think what I am a little bit concerned about is design or other disciplines claiming to be art. For example, thinking of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, their work is nice and legitimate, but this is “one-idea-art” in my point of view.

Event art?
Exactly. And people should be honest enough to call it event art. And that’s what my company does, we do events. But we would never say that we make art. But everything nowadays has become art in people’s minds.

Your multi-disciplinary work is reflected perhaps in the many artists you admire who effortlessly cross over into different genres. Tomi Ungerer, one of your favorites, does political caricature, advertising, and fine art—does this intrigue you?
Ungerer shares a background in advertising with Erwin Wurm and yes they both have diverse biographies, but what I like about them both is that they also don’t take the art world too seriously.  

A work by Olaf Mayek

So this kind of humor appeals to you?
Certainly, take these Sven Johne limited editions for instance—I bought them when no one had heard of him. I was completely emotionally caught when I saw these. I wandered into the gallery and began reading the stories, about a pediatrician escaping the GDR and believing he had landed in Denmark, but had in fact landed on the island of Vinta which was controlled by the GDR. He was then arrested. Lots of moving, heart-wrenching stories. I left the gallery, wandered down Chausseestrasse and suddenly thought, hang-on a minute, this is all fiction! And of course it was, the gallerist chuckled when I came back in minutes later.

On the left a work by Christian Flamm and a work by Thomas Florschuetz and on the right from top to bottom, EVA & ADELE (portrait of Sebastian), John Bock, and a work by Jonathan Meese

Can you tell me about this work?
I have a great connection with Via Lewandowsky, an artist from the GDR, who is a really funny, really interesting guy. For my 40th birthday I gave myself a present from Via, and this is a portrait of me that he did and then smeared over the wall. If I ever move he has promised to recreate it for me in my new house. Or I could cut it out of the plaster board, but I can’t see the landlord being too happy about that.

Have you benefited from Berlin’s elevation in the last 10 years?
It has been much longer than that! I am convinced that Berlin provokes a totally different form of creativity than other cities. And as an agency owner I profit from this, because all the creatives want to come to Berlin. It is a city that has had to reinvent itself so many times and this is a special phenomenon. And that is what I love so much about Berlin. It helps us come up with those great creative ideas.

Via Lewandowsky, Abgeschmiert, a portrait of Sebastian Peichl

To find out more about Sebastian Peichl’s FTWild agency click here.

Interview by Duncan Ballantyne-Way