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Private access
A guide to Europe's most exclusive painting collections

A freshly translated book opens the doors to almost 100 private painting collections in German-speaking Europe. Author Skadi Heckmüller has combined her passion for art and travel to produce a highly informative book.

By André Leslie

Heckmüller's "Private Access" is now appearing for the first time in English | privateWhen you think of the great art that can be seen in Europe, you probably think of the Louvre, the Tate Modern or maybe the Uffizi in Florence. But what about all the works that are in private collections?

Usually, even the best-informed tourists do not have these works on their radar - not only because of idiosyncratic opening times and remote locations, but also because of a lack of information. The German author Skadi Heckmüller, who lives in Australia, wants to change that.

“The big galleries: for me this is to learn about art. But to move something in myself, the small places are usually much more valuable. "

A new edition of Heckmüller's book "Privatzugang" has now been translated from German into English and includes 30 new locations. The handy-sized guide aims to make it easier to visit private painting collections in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and was inspired by the author's inexhaustible passion for art.

However, the former financial expert also kept the book practical. In addition to the artistic and historical context of the respective collections, the book also offers a wealth of tips on nearby restaurants, sights and even public transport.

“I've been to a lot of countries myself and always bought the Lonely Planet, and that's how I wanted to do it. This is the style that I have the most of. "Museum Art of the West Coast is located on the North Frisian island of Föhr | © Skadi Heckmüller

From business to art

Most private painting collections in Germany, Austria and Switzerland are owned by former business heavyweights who have either sold their companies or simply already earn enough to enjoy the finer things in life. Even if they come from very different backgrounds and industries, they all know a thing or two about art, explains Heckmüller.

“It is, of course, an amazing job. You have to be really passionate about art. Of course you also have to have money, no question about it.

“But you could do something completely different with the money. All the gallery owners I have met love to interact with the artists. "

For most of the owners of private painting collections that Heckmüller met on her travels through Germany, Switzerland and Austria, it is more important to act as custodians of the works of art than to actually own or show them off.

"In principle, art is more likely to be shared in Germany than here."

“The other problem is, the collectors don't even know where to go. Once you've started collecting, it's very difficult to stop. "

The 90 collections presented in “Private Access” are extremely diverse and the architecture of the buildings is often as impressive as the works themselves. Heckmüller explains that it can also be surprising how the owners put their collections together. While some strive to refresh their collections by regularly selling older works, others have a special interest in a certain area - such as the writer Lothar-Günther Buchheim, whose museum on Lake Starnberg in southern Germany is one of the world's largest private collections Paperweight houses.Fluentum is a private art venue in a historical setting | © Skadi Heckmüller

A mixed bag

When urged to name her favorite collections, Heckmüller has a hard time picking three favorites, but she reveals that there are a few collections she likes to visit again and again. The Berlin Feuerle Collection with its collection of Asian works of art and sculptures, which are exhibited in a former bunker from the Second World War, is at the top of the list. Then there is the collection of the Hall Art Foundation in Lower Saxony - the largest private museum in Northern Germany, which is located in the formerly fortified Derneburg Castle.

For Heckmüller, however, there is a “crown jewel” among the world's private collections in Switzerland: the Fondation Beyeler. Around 400 works are on display in an elegant building designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. From Cézanne to Picasso, from Kandinsky to Klee: all the big names are well represented here.

However, if you are looking for a book to check off famous works of art on your must-see list, you may be disappointed. Instead, “Private Access” has set itself the goal of taking its readers on a journey to unique places and experiences, often away from Europe's big cities. Heckmüller is also interested in highlighting the owners of the collections, who play a major role in their respective communities.

“Most of them do a lot for culture and very often for young people too. Especially in the smaller towns, they give a lot, and yet nobody really knows. "

The English edition of Skadi Heckmüller's book "Private Access: Private art collections from Germany, Austria and Switzerland" is available in the Dominik Mersch Gallery in Rushcutters Bay in Sydney. The new edition of the German edition "Private Access" can be ordered from Amazon.
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