In partnership with BMW Group Culture and the Independent Collectors.
On the occasion of the latest edition of BMW art guide, ART news spoke with Christian Kaspar Schwarm, founder of the Independent Collectors digital platform, and Hedwig Solis Weinstein, head of BMW Brand Cooperations, Arts & Design, to learn more about what readers can find in the updated guide, which lists 270 private art collections that are accessible to the public in 45 countries and 196 cities around the world. (You can download a free copy of the BMW art guide here or access it via website.)
ARTnews: BMW has been involved in this collaboration for a long time, this is the fifth edition of the BMW art guide. Can you explain what the Art Guide is, why BMW partners with independent collectors, and how it relates to your broader involvement in other art projects?
Hedwig Solis Weinstein: It starts with BMW’s passion for creativity, which is expressed through our almost 50 years of involvement in cultural projects in various genres and in major creative initiatives around the world. Creativity is the key to our company, our engineers and designers. It’s in our DNA. Engaging with artists, galleries and passionate collectors through our long-term partnerships with art fairs, digital art platforms and independent collectors is one way to convey this.
We aim for long-term collaborations and the most important: to create with our partners something that did not exist before and which can only exist thanks to the different sets of experiences and shared intelligence.
the BMW art guide is a unique collection – I personally call it the “Lonely Planet of Private Collections”. It fits perfectly into the convergence between travel and art. We obviously have the cars to travel; Christian has collectors and it’s all about art.
Christian, tell us about Independent Collectors. How did you end up creating this guide and why is BMW your partner?
Christian Kaspar Schwarm: I started collecting art around 2005. After a few years, I was interested in finding a resource that would help me connect with like-minded art collectors from whom to learn, be inspired, exchange opinions, tips, advice, etc. of those things that you think of, it must already exist. So I went looking for it and found it didn’t exist. In 2008, with two friends, I founded Les Collectionneurs Indépendants.
We started as a closed community for collectors who could join for free. As social media became a larger phenomenon, bringing more accessibility to art and the art world, we gradually opened up and eventually became a fully public and accessible platform.
Today, Independent Collectors is an online chronicle of contemporary art collecting. Thanks to our global partnership with BMW that began in 2009, our platform is still completely non-commercial and operates ad-free. We also do not sell artwork or our members’ data. In collaboration with BMW, we have also developed content, the most visible result of which is certainly the BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors.
Christian, how did you gather all this information about private art collectors? They are, after all, by definition private.
Schwarm: Mindsets have definitely changed, and social media may have played a part in that change. In the early years, many collectors were still reluctant to make their collections available to the public. When we introduced a public aspect of independent collectors, our members eventually used it more than the private one, so we finally went 100% public a few years ago. This means that everyone can now view all content and exhibits online without borders or limits. In what some may consider a sea change, these private collectors love to open up to the public, share their collections and stories, and receive feedback from people passionate about contemporary art. It has been gratifying to be part of this change.
the BMW art guide sums up the 7,000 members of independent collectors to 270 art collections in 45 countries and 196 cities accessible to the public, right?
Schwarm: Yes, but it is important to know how much the artistic guide and our online platform complement each other. Our book (whether in print or digital form) is the ideal tool for those wishing to travel and visit a collection in one of 196 cities in 45 countries. We know many people who watch BMW art guide at the beginning of each trip to identify an interesting collection to visit, information which, to my knowledge, is not available anywhere else. This is complemented by content on our website that features rotating exhibits in all of these collections, including those not open to the public. Together, this creates a truly comprehensive picture of the global contemporary art collecting ecosystem.
The site is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Hedwige, how to get your hands on the “Lonely Planet of private collections”?
Solis Weinstein (smiling): Looks like you liked this one! Since the print edition of BMW art guide is published in close collaboration with the famous publishing house Hatje Cantz, you can order a copy from your local bookseller. And good news for your readers: we have a limited cache of eBooks available. here.
To complete the book and underline the link between travel and art, you have created a film series where curator Francesca Gavin and a rotating cast of tastemakers visit some of the collectors featured in the BMW art guide. Collectors range from Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin, Italy, and William Lim in Hong Kong, to even Venke and Rolf Hoff, who live in remote Lofoten, Norway. Can you tell us more about your inspiration?
Solis Weinstein: Our vision for the film series is to make art more accessible and relatable, and we can “get you there” in a BMW. Thus, the viewer somehow has the driver’s seat, as a metaphor, to visit these great collectors. We spice this up by pairing someone deeply immersed in art, like a curator, with a creative from a related field who is inspired by art and seeks to learn more about it. Tastemakers, restaurateurs, travel photographers, DJs and art lovers have joined the series; with the curator, they get behind the wheel and go to visit a collection, discovering a sense of place and learning about art through their conversation. The viewer can listen to this very dynamic conversation, and it becomes a fun and organic way to explore art.
I had the pleasure of visiting KaviarFactory, a wonderful collection founded by Venke and Rolf Hoff in Lofoten, Norway. It was lovely to see how they received us with open arms, sharing their passion for art, nature and their fascinating collection. The stories behind their collection are so personal and inspiring – a collection that can only exist in this place, imagined by these passionate collectors. Hoff’s love for art and how it can open boundaries between people of different cultures and enable connections is remarkable.
Schwarm: An evident aspect in each of our artistic guide films is this incredible individuality of the collections represented as well as the sense of place, and this is what continues to motivate me, even after 12 years of sharing this dynamic content on our platform. When you spend time with our content, you quickly realize that each individual collection represents a creative universe of its own. This is also an essential difference between these more personal collections and the world of public art institutions. Museums do fantastic work, but they need to focus on the kind of art that is already socially relevant and, therefore, recognised. A private collector, on the other hand, can shape and define their collection according to unique criteria of relevance and beauty. It is our mission to show and share this diversity and this personal vision.
Francesca Gavin also says at one point that she’s passionate about getting people who aren’t very interested in art to engage in art. How do you feel about that?
Solis Weinstein: It is exciting to observe these interactions, to hear the exchanges, to watch the body language and to see bridges being built between different cultural fields: arts and music, arts and gastronomy, arts and lifestyle. It shows how easily creative minds can relate to and share that they are driven by openness, curiosity and wonder.
Schwarm: I am with you, Hedwig; it is indeed an important source of inspiration for us – opening the doors of the art world to anyone who is curious enough to enter it. In one of BMW art guide movies, we hear Max Senges, a former Google executive. Max is not a collector at all, but he is very interested and curious about art. Captured in our film with Max visiting a collection in France, it tells the story of our first meeting. Quite by chance, he discovered that I was part of the team behind the BMW art guide. He was completely amazed. He told me that whenever he and his family traveled around the world, they looked at the artistic guide plan trips to local collections. Max says the book is his whole family’s “personal travel bible.”
What is the next step ?
Solis Weinstein: Hmm…it’s a secret. But I will make an exception and share it with you. For the next episode, a new curator teams up with a street artist to visit a very special collection in Miami. Stay tuned for more on @bmwgroupculture.