BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors

Risky Business

Astrup Fearnley Museet – Oslo, Norway

Cao Fei, ’I. Mirror: A Second Life City’, 2007 (video-still)
Cao Fei, ’I. Mirror: A Second Life City’, 2007 (video-still)

In 2001, a mysterious buyer made headlines for anonymously purchasing Jeff Koons’ Michael Jackson and Bubbles for a record-setting 4 million GPB. Six months later, the acquisition was revealed to belong to the privately owned Astrup Fearnley Museet. Since then, the museum has gained worldwide notoriety, even though it had been founded nearly ten years earlier, in 1993, with an impressive array of contemporary art that pushes boundaries within the art historical cannon.

Founder Hans Rasmus Astrup began collecting French artists as a hobby in the 1960s but soon his aspirations grew and interests shifted toward German expressionism, including Anselm Kiefer, and eventually to the Young British Artists. When the Tate and Centre Pompidou both rejected Damien Hirst’s Mother and Child (Divided) (1993), Astrup took a collection-defining risk and acquired the controversial piece, which comprises the carcasses of a calf and cow, both split down the middle and suspended in formaldehyde. Since then, the Astrup Fearnley Collection has purchased more than twelve additional works by Hirst, including Adam and Eve Exposed (2004), New Religion – The Fate of Man (2005) and Eulogy (2008).

Dan Colen, ’Me, Jesus and the Children’, 2001 - 2003
Dan Colen, ’Me, Jesus and the Children’, 2001 - 2003
Cindy Sherman, ’Untitled Film Still #10’, 1978
Cindy Sherman, ’Untitled Film Still #10’, 1978

In the late 1990s, only a few years after the museum was inaugurated, however, the board of the Museet and Astrup deliberately shifted their attention to the United States, because “there was a large potential and a lot happening,” Chairman of the Museet Bjørn Rønneberg says. “The United States was in the forefront of all of us at that time, business- and culture-wise.” Some of the first American artists that the Astrup Fearnley Collection acquired were Richard Prince, Matthew Barney and Cindy Sherman, all of whom the board continues to follow and support. The Collection, for example, purchased Sherman’s early black-and-white photographs Untitled Film Still #10 (1978) and Untitled Film Still #43 (1979) as well as her large-scale regally posed Untitled #466 (2008) more than a decade later.

Cindy Sherman, ’Untitled #466’, 2008
Cindy Sherman, ’Untitled #466’, 2008

The collection is now showcased within the Museet as well as in traveling exhibitions around the world. Figurative sculptures by the likes of Duane Hanson and Maurizio Cattelan can currently be seen at the Met Breuer in New York in its groundbreaking exhibition “Like Life: Sculpture, Color and the Body (1300–Now),” while the Museet in Oslo is holding a series of miniature exhibitions featuring the collection’s most prominent artists in celebration of its 25th anniversary this year. In January, Sherman inaugurated this series, followed by Prince and Nate Lowman, whose exhibition is currently on view. Later this month, Dan Colen will take the stage until Koons comes in and then Frank Benson closes the year.

To develop exhibition programming that includes borrowed works from outside of the collection, Director of the Astrup Fearnley Museet Gunnar Kvaran often travels around the world to conduct studio visits. He and Rønneberg, among other board members and Astrup himself, also visit major art fairs and keep their eyes on the pulse. Recently, during Frieze Week in New York, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair made a strong impression and younger artists like Tschabalala Self and Michael Armitage have found themselves added to the collection’s continuously evolving index.

Damien Hirst, ’Mother and Child (Divided)’, 1993. © the artistt and Science Ltd. All Rights reserved, DACS 2011. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates
Damien Hirst, ’Mother and Child (Divided)’, 1993. © the artistt and Science Ltd. All Rights reserved, DACS 2011. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates

By having an established generation of pop icons like Koons and Prince alongside artists like Benson and Colen, it becomes clear that the board of the Museet and Astrup will never lose sight of the past. Yet by taking risks on artists who are relatively new to the market, such as Self and Armitage, one can tell that the vision of the Astrup Fearnley Museet will continue to push forward in daring ways that defy geographical or temporal categorization.

Emily Mcdermott is a writer and editor based in Berlin.
All images courtesy Astrup Fearnley Collection, Oslo, Norway

More Information on Astrup Fearnley Museet

Collections (107)

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

Stella Art Foundation

An exhibition space for contemporary Russian art

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

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

Sara Piccinini

Senior Coordinator, Collezione Maramotti - Reggio Emilia, Italy

Reflection and Speculation

Sammlung von Kelterborn – Frankfurt, Germany


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

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, 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

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

Portraiture Confronting a Land’s Traumatic Past

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

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