BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors

Wilhelmina Jewell Strong - Sparks

Founder of BiTHOUSE Projects - BAAR Art Journey

Portrait of Wilhelmina Jewell Strong - Sparks, Photo courtesy of Publicis on behalf of Siemens Design Award
Portrait of Wilhelmina Jewell Strong - Sparks, Photo courtesy of Publicis on behalf of Siemens Design Award

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I have always positioned myself at the intersection of science, technology, and art. Professionally, I am a molecular biologist turned global innovation / transformation executive, investor, and cultural strategist. I have an MBA in Strategic Planning, Global Markets, and Corporate Communications and have studied at Christie’s (Art Business Masterclass Certificate).

Throughout my career, I have had the honor of serving on various boards (Symphonix, Encore, DeYoung, International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, Real Time Academy, Hollywood Music and Media Awards, SXSW Diversity Initiative, USF Alumni Association, WHU- Masters in Entrepreneurship, Investment Advisory Council for the US Dept of Commerce) for public/private arts, media, education, and community redevelopment initiatives focused on maintaining culture and uplifting communities and I truly consider myself a global citizen. I moved to Germany in 2013 from the San Francisco Bay Area and have been connecting the dots between Europe and the US for almost 15 years now. Ever since my country of residence has become Germany, I have had the honor of mentoring and/or advising Invest in Bavaria, TechFounders, Select USA Startup Pitch Competition, Berlin Senate, BSH Accelerator, Siemens Design Award, Axel Springer Accelerator, Roche Accelerator, Deutsche Telekom Accelerator, European Institute of Technology, and other institutional startup and innovation initiatives throughout Europe, and served as the Global Head of Innovation, Scouting and Inclusion for METRO AG (Media Markt, Saturn, METRO, Makro) in Dusseldorf from 2015-2017 prior to their demerger, while continuing to be a patron of the arts.

How did you start your career in the art world?

I studied art foundation, sculpture and painting simultaneously in pursuit of my molecular biology degree during my undergraduate studies. My family has a collection of works by artists found in the MoMA, MET, Smithsonian, and Whitney collections (José Clemente Orozco, Kenneth M. Adams, and various French and German artists). I was always encouraged to engage in activities that exercised both my left and right side of the brain. While living and working in Japan, I would paint almost daily after returning home from the lab. Upon moving to San Francisco in the early 2000’s I served on the board of the first museum supporting artworks from the African Diaspora, as well as on the young professionals board of the DeYoung. Upon the redevelopment of the Jazz District in San Francisco, I served as the VP of Strategic Development for The Jazz Heritage Center (JHC) which was an art gallery, as well as a cultural and educational complex dedicated to the long history of Jazz in San Francisco and the Fillmore District.

During the pandemic, I realized that there was an opportunity for emerging artists to become more visible to mainstream collectors independent of traditional art channels. I started a creators equity and generational wealth “art book building” program (BiTHOUSE Projects - BAAR Art Journey) for visual artists to build awareness of their practice and their works, while helping mainstream collectors diversify their collections and support the careers of living artists. This initiative has merged my passion for the arts with my expertise in building new business models for traditional industries. We currently have 28+ living artists in the program spanning across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. We have partnered with Artnet to showcase works from our contemporary artists portfolio composed of artists we have scouted from across the globe.

What’s your view on separating artworks from the artist?

This is currently a very hot topic, given what is happening in various parts of the globe where the wellbeing of citizens is being compromised in the Ukraine, Israel and other countries. Artworks by artists who create works which are controversial in nature are being excluded from exhibitions and/or not receiving funding. Both art and educational institutions are being pressured by communities to dismiss their leaders who address antisemitism topics incorrectly and/or support countries in which there is political unrest. All of these incidents have caused funding institutions, curators, and collectors to pause and think about their distribution and allocation of resources.

I think that it is difficult to separate an artist and their viewpoint from their artworks. If you google, “What is art?“ the definition is, “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

When I collect art, when I recommend works of art to others to collect, it is because I like who the artist is as a being, what they represent, and I want to support their craft. When we purchase art from galleries and/or other collectors, we typically do this because we trust the institution, we trust the seller, and nine times out of ten our values are aligned.

In what way will digitization enrich collecting (digital and physical) art?

I love this topic... Digitization IS MY THING! It’s innovative, it’s disruptive and it challenges the status quo. The utilization of technology in the arts has enabled collectors to align with galleries and institutions across the globe. One can live in Germany, and purchase a work in Hong Kong, without even traveling there, for example. Digitization has enabled collectors to make choices on a global level versus just on a local level. By streamlining the buying process, collecting digitally provides transparency. Collectors can connect with the artists and vice versa. When it comes to purchasing digital art, I am a bit old fashioned, and I like to see and hold what I pay for. Digital art has its place, and as it relates to the younger generation, there is most definitely a market. I am a real fan of all things innovative and inclusive. Digitization has made collecting art more inclusive.

What is your biggest hope for the Art World?

My biggest hope for the art world is that gallerists realize the importance of sharing the who, what, and the why of the artists they represent. I also am fed up with labels such as marginalized, etc. Art fairs should find a way to increase their diversity and inclusion activities, and art collecting should be encouraged across all socioeconomic levels. Art is like music and food, it can bring people from all walks of life together. In summary, my biggest hope is that the art industry becomes more inclusive for both artists and collectors. The current narratives are simply outdated!

Which exhibition or collection is on your “must-see” list?

This is a tough question. There are a few exhibitions that are on my “must-see” list for those who claim to be “lovers of art.”

Giants - Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys at the Brooklyn Museum. Within this collection one can see works by artist such as: Gordon Parks, Lorna Simpson, Nina Chanel Abney, Ebony G. Patterson and more. This collection represents the philosophy of “artists supporting artists,” according to the commentary. The collection on view highlights works by Black Diaspora artists and represents the couples’ efforts to expand the historical narrative of art.
The Beauty of Diversity at the Albertina Modern in Vienna. This particular exhibition highlights the museum’s contemporary collection and demonstrates the importance of exhibiting works by women, people of color, and LGBTQIA artists. These works contrast the typical gravitation towards Old Masters. Works by artists such as Cecily Brown, Amoako Boafo, Alexandre Diope, Jade Fadojutimi, Sungi Mlengeya, Marc Quinn, Kennedy Yanko, Jannis Varelas and others can be seen during this exhibition until August 18, 2024.
Mark Rothko at Fondation Louis Vuitton until April 2, 2024. What I like about this retrospective is that it features approximately 115 works from various institutional collections, private collections and even the artist’s family collection. The works in the exhibition span across the artist’s career and is inclusive of both figurative and abstract works.
Josephine Baker Icon in Motion at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. The exhibition celebrates the artist and highlights her role as not just an artist, but as a civil rights activist and cultural figure. This exhibition focuses on Josephine’s role as a cinematic pioneer but also utilizes the inclusive lens of other artists to visualize and express the inspiration that Josephine Baker sparked amongst others across the globe. Artist Kandis Williams was a co-curator alongside Klaus Biesenbach, Dr. Terri Francis, and Dr. Mona Horncastle.
The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This exhibition is comprised of over 160 works of art spanning across various curriculums. It explores how Black artists portrayed daily life in cities that took shape from the 1920s-1940s. This exhibition compares the Harlem Renaissance with new developments of modern Black subjects as central to the development of international modern art, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Works are shown in juxtaposition with portrayals of African diasporan subjects by Europeans such as: Matisse, Munch, Picasso, and others. Features artists portraying the Black Renaissance include Charles Alston, meta–Warrick Fuller, Augusta Savage, Laura Wheeler Waring, and others. Works for this exhibition come predominately from the art collections of HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery, private collections, and European lenders.

Insiders (68)


Exhibition venue with the theme ‚Living with Art‘


Collector behind the ARNDT Collection

Sandra Guimarães

Director of Museum of Contemporary Art Helga de Alvear

Grazyna Kulczyk

Founder of Muzeum Susch


Interview with Georgie Pope and Eleonora Sutter, Co-founders

Kamiar Maleki

Director at VOLTA

Gallery Weekend Berlin 2022

Tokini Peterside

Founder and Director, ART X Lagos


Founding Director of the Athens Biennale

Boris Ondreička

Artistic Director of viennacontemporary

Maribel Lopez

Director of ARCO

David Gryn

Founder and Director of Daata

Fondation Beyeler Audiovisual Broadcast

Fondation Beyeler and Nordstern Basel present Dixon x Transmoderna

Gary Yeh

Founder of ArtDrunk and Young Collector

WATCH: The Best of the BMW Art Guide

Where will you travel next to explore art?

Maike Cruse

2020 Gallery Weekend Berlin

Touria El Glaoui

Founding Director of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Johann König

Messe in St. Agnes

PArt - Producers Art Platform

A crisis initiative to help artists directly affected by the pandemic

Barbara Moore

CEO of Biennale of Sydney

Unique Collector’s Item

by Independent Collectors

Alix Dana

Fair Director at Independent

When Collectors are Able to Commission

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Juliet Kothe and Julia Rust

Initiators of Collection Night, Berlin

Marie-Anne McQuay

Curator of Wales in Venice, 58th Venice Biennale 2019

Dorothy and Herb Vogel

Two extraordinary art collectors

Heather Hubbs

Director at NADA

Every Art Collection Needs Space

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Collecting Art with François Pinault

Rudolf Stingel at Palazzo Grassi

A Common Ground

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Caroline Vos

Director at Amsterdam Art Weekend

Hidden Collections

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Nicole Berry

Executive Director of The Armory Show

Daniel Hug

Fair Director at Art Cologne

The Role of the Art Fair

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Peter Bläuer

Director at LISTE

A Brush Against Nature

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Ilaria Bonacossa

Director of Artissima

Excessiveness, the Latent Danger of Collecting Art

by Independent Collectors

Jo Stella-Sawicka

Artistic Director at Frieze

Florence Bourgeois

Director at Paris Photo

Where Artists Can Work More Playfully

by Christiane Meixner

Specifically Commissioned

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Manuela Mozo

Executive Director of UNTITLED, ART Miami and San Francisco

Important Museums and Private Collections

by Christiane Meixner

Susanna Corchia

Director of the Barcelona Gallery Weekend

Emilia van Lynden

Artistic Director at Unseen, Amsterdam

Carlos Urroz

Director at ARCOmadrid

Shoe Smudges Streaked Across the White Walls

by Christiane Meixner

Amanda Coulson

Director at VOLTA Basel

Douwe Cramer

Director at Singapore Contemporary

Art and Architecture – Attractive Allies

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Jo Baring

Curator of Sculpture Series, Masterpiece London

Bidders and Buyers

by Christiane Meixner

Anne Vierstraete

Managing Director at Art Brussels

Nanna Hjortenberg

Director at CHART

The Crucial Role of the New

by Independent Collectors

Makers and Believers

On Art History’s Most Famous Patrons

The Past is Back

And collectors are buying it up

Are Artists the Better Curators?

On the diminishing boundary between professions in the art world

The Digital Museum

On the importance of the museum’s web presence

The Man in the Middle

On the curator’s private and public engagements

A Private Matter?

On the importance of physical space for the value of art

Off the Wall

How museums contribute to the worth of artworks

Where to Go Next?

The fragmentation of Manhattan’s gallery scene

To Buy or Not to Buy

Collectors on their experiences of letting an artwork slip away

How to Pass On a Passion

On long-term challenges for new private museums