Hidden Collections

Besides giving you insight into private yet publicly accessible collections worldwide, we also want to provide background information on the art of collecting. This is why we included numerous Shorties, concise texts about collecting, in the BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors.

The Art Guide is all about making privately owned art accessible to the public. Nevertheless, in the course of our research, we have come across fascinating art collections that value discretion and are not opened to the public. There are divers reasons for this.

This guide presents over two hundred private collections that are open to the public. Some collections have the character of a museum, accessible only during fixed opening hours. Others exist in strictly private rooms that may be visited by appointment only. Still others place an even higher value on discretion; these spaces are not publicly accessible. The reasons for this are manifold. These collectors have acquired art as an individual passion and want to share it only with an intimate circle of friends and family. Some collectors open their homes for a select group of VIPs during the major art fairs, but others prefer to steer clear entirely from public access. Why? It is understandable that in some South American cities collectors harbor a fear of being robbed and so conceal their collections from public view. In São Paulo, for example, there are grand mansions with amazing private collections, but for security reasons they are accessible only to selected visitors. Sometimes the reasons are pragmatic: the video collection of the French collector-couple Isabelle and Jean-Conrad Lemaître takes up very little space; it actually fits in the closet, neatly stacked next to Monsieur Lemaître’s shirts. But because the collectors pay enormous attention to the technologically perfect presentation of their treasures, they only work with select art institutions. One of the most important American private collections is not public. Norman and Irma Braman of Miami Beach have the most comprehensive inventory of works by Alexander Calder outside the museum world, next to key works by Damien Hirst, Mark Rothko, and Andy Warhol. But instead of opening a museum, the elderly billionaires decided in 2011 to posthumously auction off a large part of the collection to benefit breast-cancer research. An understandable and noble gesture. 

The journalist couple Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas have been writing freelance art journalism and art criticism since 1997 for a variety of national and international art magazines and newspapers.

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