BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors

Portraiture Confronting a Land’s Traumatic Past

The Walther Collection – Project Space New York – New York City

Portrait of Artur Walther / Photo: Orla Connolly
Portrait of Artur Walther / Photo: Orla Connolly

Devoted photography collector Artur Walther has grown his collection since the 1990s, cultivating one of the most expansive and prominent selections of African and Asian photography to date. In 2011, Walther brought this collection to a new, U.S.-based audience with the inauguration of The Walther Collection Project Space in Chelsea, New York.

The collection ranges from nineteenth century to contemporary works, due to Walther’s keen interest in how African photography fits into the broader history and ethnography of the continent. If there’s one thing I learn during my visit at the collection, absorbing these images in such an austere, white, and arrestingly quiet space, is that it’s impossible to consider these artworks without first acknowledging both the legacy that European colonialism had, and the apartheid and numerous civil wars endured. These photographs break the rigidity of the conventional portrait format, and serve in equal parts archives as they do creative pieces.

Nosi ’Ginga’ Marumo, Yeoville, Johannesburg (detail), from the series ’Faces and Phases’ by Zanele Muholi, 2007
Nosi ’Ginga’ Marumo, Yeoville, Johannesburg (detail), from the series ’Faces and Phases’ by Zanele Muholi, 2007
Gulu Real Art Studio (detail) by Martina Bacigalupo, 2013 / courtesy of the artist and The Walther Collection
Gulu Real Art Studio (detail) by Martina Bacigalupo, 2013 / courtesy of the artist and The Walther Collection

The latest show at The Project Space, ‘A Metaphorical Biography’, is a retrospective of South African artist Santu Mofokeng that extends over the three decades of his career, and is being installed as I wander. The pieces are not arranged by date but by story, a trend at The Walther Collection, where the concept of the exhibition always takes precedence. If the collector cannot acquire the work he needs, he will seek to borrow one from other collections. One piece that strikes me in particular is entitled ‘Concentration Camp Graves, Brandfort, 1999’. While at first glance inconspicuous, it shows an unmarked gravesite for Afrikaner victims of the Anglo-Boer war, which took place in South Africa at the turn of the twentieth century, and it sustains these lives within its image.

The collection also creates visibility on contemporary communities. In Zanele Muholi’s monograph book, co-published by The Walther Collection and Steidl, photographic portraits of lesbians and trans-gendered individuals living in South Africa confront the viewer with proud looks. They examine a minority community’s issues of sexuality and gender representation with empowerment and grace.

Lifeline, from the series ’Discoloured’ by Berni Searle, 1999 / courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town / Johannesburg and The Walther Collection
Lifeline, from the series ’Discoloured’ by Berni Searle, 1999 / courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town / Johannesburg and The Walther Collection
Concentration Camp Graves, Brandfort, from the series ’Landscapes’ by Santu Mofokeng, 1999 / courtesy of Lunetta Bartz/MAKER, Johannesburg and The Walther Collection – © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Concentration Camp Graves, Brandfort, from the series ’Landscapes’ by Santu Mofokeng, 1999 / courtesy of Lunetta Bartz/MAKER, Johannesburg and The Walther Collection – © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

In Northern Uganda, contemporary photographer Martina Bacigalupo came across discarded ID portrait plates with the faces of its subjects removed. These portraits came from the Gulu Real Art Studio, where ID photos were created by printing a full-length portrait and cutting out the head shot, as it was cheaper than creating multiple “passport-size” photographs. As these photographs were needed for driver’s licenses, new jobs, and loan applications, they symbolized a fresh start for civilians who had been affected by civil war for more than two decades. By choosing to display these faceless portraits, Bacigalupo brings light to this issue in an objective way, always managing to keep a certain distance from her subjects, and never cheapening them with superfluous emotion.

While the collection raises important questions about race, gender, and the many experiences communities in Africa have faced over generations, it also manages to transcend serving the purpose of ethnographical archives, providing a contemporary reflection for both beauty and hope.

Still Life: Lying Down Textiles (detail) by Grace Ndiritu, 2005-2007 / courtesy of the artist and The Walther Collection
Still Life: Lying Down Textiles (detail) by Grace Ndiritu, 2005-2007 / courtesy of the artist and The Walther Collection

With the current exhibition, The Walther Collection Project Space brings together photographs that deal with complex historical issues, which are neutrally presented in its modern white cube setting. Situated in the West Chelsea Art Building, the collection’s cosmopolitan perspective offers both new discoveries and modern masters.

Cecilia Salama was born in London, England and graduated from Brown University in 2012 with a BA Hons in Visual Arts. She is an artist living and working in New York and also writes several culture publications including the Opening Ceremony blog and the IRL Mag.

All images via The Walther Collection – Project Space New York

More Information on The Walther Collection

Collections (137)


In this exhibition, held back art, raises questions about the act of collecting, the history of the works and their relationship with the exhibition space.

Saloni Doshi Collection

The Right to Look- Photographs from the Saloni Doshi Collection.


Curated exhibitions of emerging and established artistic positions in the space of a former fittings factory.


One of the most relevant international contemporary art collections in Europe.

The Donum Collection

One of the world's largest accessible private sculpture collections


One of the many initiatives of the Basma Al Sulaiman collection.

Zuzāns Collection

The largest private collection of Latvian art

ARtBON Collection and Foundation

Contemporary art is presented in a surprising way – and enriched by a blue exhibition pavilion

Museum Insel Hombroich

A unique cultural space of international significance

The Ojikutu Collection

Exquisite showcase of treasures of African art, culture, and history

miramART Collection

A non profit association created by Grand Hotel Miramare in Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy


Collection relooked in 'Two Together'


A leading arts organization based in Whistler, British Columbia


A diverse collection of contemporary art

The Sotiris Felios Collection

A unique collection of contemporary art focused on the human figure.

Collezione De Iorio

Interview with Collector Mauro De Iorio

Kiran Nadar Museum of Art

KNMA is a non-commercial, not-for-profit organisation that aims to bridge the gap between art and the public


One of the world’s foremost privately-owned art collections encompassing Islamic, Middle Eastern and Western art.

Colección SOLO

A collection displayed through different temporary exhibitions


Unique Collection based in Naples, Italy


Frankfurt based Art Collector Tyrown Vincent on his 360° approach

The Bradshaw Collection

A collector couple that profits from the bundled synergy of their highly developed feel for art

Schlosspark Eybesfeld

Carefully executed art projects in a palace-garden setting

The Fernanda Feitosa & Heitor Martins Collection

A journey into the postwar Brazilian art scene

Takahashi Ryutaro Collection

One of the most important collections of contemporary Japanese art

Barjeel Art Foundation

Modern and contemporary art from four corners of the Arab world

The Perimeter

Famous contemporaries and Victorian industrial architecture in Bloomsbury

Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens

Re-opened and in the middle of Flanders, international art stars show in quick succession

West Collection

Key names in international art meet new voices

Rubell Museum

Curator Joey Lico teams up with artist Alexis Diaz to visit the mighty Rubell Museum in Miami

Vorres Museum

3 000 years of Greek history and postwar Greek art

Alexander Ramselaar Collection

A townhouse of young talent from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and around the world

Quetzal Art Centre

Contemporary art on a winery in the picturesque Alentejo region

Sammlung Wemhöner

A spontaneous exhibition set up in the now empty ballroom, before opening in 2023 as the collection's new home

Museum Liaunig

Nuriel Molcho and Francesca Gavin travel out of Vienna to hillside Carinthia, to meet with Peter Liaunig

Frissiras Museum

3 500 contemporary figurative paintings

Arario Museum in Space

Wide-ranging collection of Korean and Western art by the country’s leading collector and gallerist

Fondazione Brodbeck

Contemporary art in a post-industrial complex—in the shadow of a volcano

Peyrassol—Parc de Sculptures

A sculpture park on a centuries-old vineyard in Provence

Alexander Tutsek-Stiftung

A location for contemporary glass and photography

Colección de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat

Argentina's wealthiest woman presents six centuries of art-treasure collecting

Museum Brandhorst

Francesca Gavin and Benjamin Jaworskyj explore a dazzling new space in Munich

Rossini Art Site (RAS)

Large-scale sculpture in a landscape park

Castello di Ama per l’Arte Contemporanea

Site-specific installations for a dual passion: art and wine

Kasteel Wijlre Estate

Art from the 1960s to the present in a modern pavilion

Fundació Vila Casas

Three buildings, three points of focus: painting, sculpture and photography

Gibbs Farm

A sculpture park in XXL format with monumental art in the grandness of nature

Kloster Schoenthal

Nature-inspired sculptures in a pristine landscape

Pinchuk Art Centre

Blue-chip contemporary in the first private museum in the former USSR

Museo James Turrell — The Hess Art Collection, Colomé

Turrell’s largest Skyspace and additional light rooms in breathtaking surroundings


An extensive private collection of Swiss contemporary art of the last fifty years

Mathaf—Arab Museum of Modern Art

A Royal Collection Spanning 200 Years of Arab Art – Doha, Qatar


DJ Cassy and Francesca Gavin meet with collectors Venke and Rolf A. Hoff in Henningsvær, Norway

Stella Art Foundation

An exhibition space for contemporary Russian art

Sara Piccinini

Senior Coordinator, Collezione Maramotti - Reggio Emilia, Italy

Reflection and Speculation

Sammlung von Kelterborn – Frankfurt, Germany

Deichtorhallen Hamburg – Sammlung Falckenberg

Positions of social criticism in German and American contemporary art – Hamburg, Germany

The Walther Collection

Inside and Outside the Frame – Neu Ulm, Germany

Peter Ibsen Collection

Minimalist Works That Hone Your Sense for Detail – Copenhagen, Denmark

Initiating Dialogues

Sammlung Hoffmann – Berlin, Germany

The Mallin Collection & Buckhorn Sculpture Park

Andrea Denver and Francesca Gavin meet with collectors Sherry and Joel Mallin in Upstate New York

The Agah Uğur Collection

One of the Largest Video Art Collections in Istanbul, Turkey

KA Modern and Contemporary Art Space

900 Square Meters Dedicated to Lebanon’s Most Significant Artists – Beirut, Lebanon

Art About Beauty and Infirmity

Collezione De Iorio – Trento & Verona, Italy

Living Collection

Gary Yeh and Francesca Gavin meet with architect and collector William Lim in Hong Kong

Early Passions

Z Collection – Hong Kong, China

Infinite Interiors

Philara Collection – Dusseldorf, Germany

Papko Art Collection

Works of Turkish Modernism at the legendary Ralli Apartment in Istanbul

Risky Business

Astrup Fearnley Museet – Oslo, Norway

Something Special, Something Sacred

The Goss-Michael Foundation – Dallas, United States of America

JAHM – Justin Art House Museum

Digital and Abstract Art — Melbourne, Australia

A More Democratic Art

MACBA – Museum of Contemporary Art of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Embracing the Accidental

Trajković Collection – Belgrade, Serbia

Galila's P.O.C.

A Collection Made up of Thematic Collections – Brussels, Belgium

Establishing Roots and Creating Links

The Ovidiu Șandor Collection – Timișoara, Romania

Instituto Figueiredo Ferraz

Abstract painting and concept art in Brazil’s interior – São Paulo

Conversation Pieces

KUNSTSAELE Berlin – Berlin, Germany

Magazzino Italian Art

Contemporary Italian Art on the Hudson River – New York

Slow Learning

de la Cruz Collection – Miami, United States of America

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

A venue for contemporary African art – Cape Town

The Elliott Eyes Collection

Engaging With the Collectors – Sydney

Foundation Francès

A French roadtrip reaching the radical reflections of artist Kader Attia

The Sublime Hyacinth Collection

Czech Art Meets Czech Design – Prague, Czech Republic

Marciano Art Foundation

Contemporary art at the Masonic temple – Los Angeles

Time Stamps

Julia Stoschek Collection – Berlin, Germany

Generative Grammars

Servais Family Collection – Brussels, Belgium

Chasing the Future

dslcollection – Paris, France

Charged Atmospheres

Transformer Station – Cleveland, United States of America

Places in, and out of, Time

Adrastus Collection – Arévalo, Spain

Eloquent Silences

The Givon Art Forum – Tel Aviv, Israel

Counting to Ten

Ten Cubed – Melbourne, Australia

Dispersing Narratives

The Wedge Collection – Toronto, Canada

Dialogues in Nature

Chatsworth – Bakewell, Great Britain

Present Pasts

The Feuerle Collection – Berlin, Germany

Space for the Future

The Vanhaerents Art Collection – Brussels, Belgium

Colección Contemporánea

A Global Collection from a Seasoned Art Collector In Mexico City

Adrastus Collection

A Collection That Shows the Diversity of Art in the Age of Globalization – Arevalo, Spain

Masters and Romantics

Collection Lambert – Avignon, France

Fondazione Rolla

A Collection of Modern and Contemporary Photography in Ticino

Finnish Rhapsody

Didrichsen Art Museum – Helsinki, Finland

Cranford Collection

One of Europe’s Most Important Collections with Renowned Contemporaries in Regent’s Park – London

Broad Minded

Artist Tomasz Kobialka on The Broad – Los Angeles, USA

Jean-Paul Najar Foundation

European-American Post-Minimalist Art in a Bauhaus-inspired building – Dubai

Treasure Hunt

The Wanås Foundation/Wanås Konst – Knislinge, Sweden

AMC Collezione Coppola

A Curious Collector Acquiring Art to Broaden his Understanding of the World

A Home for Light and Color

MALBA – Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires

Newport Street Gallery

Damien Hirst’s ‘Murderme’ Collection finds a permanent home – London

Franks Suss Collection

A Duo Investing in Artists and Not Cashing In – Hong Kong, London and Sydney

Mallin Collection & Buckhorn Sculpture Park

A Magic Sculpture Garden in Westchester County – Pound Ridge, New York

Shine On

Wurlitzer – Berlin-Pied-à-Terre Collection – Berlin, Germany

Houghton Hall – King's Lynn

Lavish 18th Century interiors juxtaposed with contemporary outdoor sculpture

Venet Foundation

An Artist’s Take on Collecting in the South of France

G2 Kunsthalle

Large-scale paintings of the New Leipzig School in dialogue

The Immaculate Collection

Igal Ahouvi Art Collection – Tel Aviv, Israel


The best of Chinese contemporary art, available 24/7/365

Thoma Foundation

Two intimate art spaces in Chicago and Santa Fe encourage dialogue between work and viewer

Lyon Housemuseum

Located near Melbourne, Australia, collector Corbett Lyon designed the Housemuseum to share it with the public

Follow The Yellow Brick Road

Inhotim – Instituto de Arte Contemporânea e Jardim Botânico

Conceptual Authenticity

Sammlung Barbara und Axel Haubrok - haubrok projects - Berlin, Germany

A Self-taught Collector

Vass Collection - Veszprém, Hungary

Roots in Rotterdam

Concordia Collection - Rotterdam, Netherlands

Louvre goes Lens – and Pinault follows

How France’s most established museum and collector are redeveloping forgotten places

History Reinvented

Insights into the influential collection of Martin Parr

A Collection Which Never Sleeps

David Roberts Art Foundation – Great Britain, London

Get Lucky

David Walsh and his MONA

An Eye into a Secret World

SIP Shpilman Institute for Photography – Tel Aviv, Israel

Gifts for Philadelphia

Private collectors with a generous heart

A New Home for Miami’s Art Scene

On the opening of the Jorge M. Pérez Museum

Prima Materia at Punta Della Dogana

François Pinault Foundation - Venice, Italy

Eric and Jean Cass Collection

A private collection goes public

Bernardo Paz’s Transformative Museum

A closer look at Inhotim in Brazil

The Open Road to Jupiter

Robert & Nicky Wilson - Jupiter Artland

Collecting with an Impact

Dakis Joannou - Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art

Menil Collection Makeover

Starting with the parking lot

White Rabbit Collection

Chinese Contemporary Art – Australia, Sydney


One of the most important venues for contemporary art in Austria