O ne of the most dynamic collectors in Germany, Ingvild Goetz is renowned worldwide for her art collection, housed in her purpose-built private museum in Munich. Spanning eras, epochs, territories and media, the 4,600-strong collection reflects Goetz’s passion for discovery and experimentation, new ideas and fresh positions, a hallmark of her collecting that has remained constant since she acquired her first artwork in 1969.
This spring, Goetz has contributed 49 works from her collection for sale at Sotheby’s, a significant number of which are included in the two-part Modern & Contemporary Auction at Sotheby’s in Cologne, with proceeds going towards helping senior citizens live fulfilling and culturally enriched lives.
‘To collect art is my great passion,’ Goetz tells Sotheby’s today. ‘Meeting artists and engaging with their work has shaped and enriched my life.’
And what a life it’s been. Ingvild Goetz was born in the east German city of Kulm in 1941. Following the end of the War, her entrepreneur father Werner Otto fled with his family from Soviet-controlled East Germany to Hamburg, where he founded Otto Versand, a mail-order shoe shop, the first mail-order retail company to flourish in Europe. Its colossal success led to his diversifying into real estate and retail across Europe, the US and Canada during the 1960s and 1970s.
Meanwhile, after studying political science, Ingvild founded a publishing house in Konstanz in 1969, the same year she acquired her first artwork - a graphic portfolio by Eduardo Paolozzi. Three years later, she launched the Art in Progress gallery in Zurich, that quickly became a hotspot for an avant-garde circle, inspired by Fluxus, that focused on happenings and performances. In fact, it became such a hotspot, that following a lively event in 1973 by the artist Wolf Vostell (the maverick pioneer of ‘Dé-coll/age’ art, famous for using chunky television sets and blocks of concrete in his art), the space became a little too hot for Zurich, and Goetz judged it time to devote her attentions to her Munich base.
The reaction in Zurich to Vostell’s work at Art in Progress, which prompted the closing of the gallery, demonstrated Goetz’s commitment to collecting and supporting artists working outside the mainstream, a characteristic which remains to the present day. As Sotheby’s specialist Bastienne Leuthe, who worked with Goetz assembling the sale, explains:
‘Her way of thinking is very open-minded and curious... she wasn't afraid to buy difficult art.'
‘Her way of thinking is very open-minded and curious. There were contemporary art collectors at the time, but not many were collecting so internationally, or with movements such as Arte Povera for example, which was not collected by many people in Germany at the time. She was also collecting women artists - such as Cindy Sherman, Rosemary Trockel, Diane Arbus and Roni Horn for example, it was always very important to her to have a good gender mix. And she wasn’t afraid to buy difficult art - a lot of her works are tough. She never collected mainstream [art]’
Goetz’s collecting flourished over the following decades, at her Munich gallery on Maximilianstraße, and subsequently another outpost opening in Dusseldorf in 1975. Her exhibitions included work by avant-garde names such as Christo, Cy Twombly, Giulio Paolini, Jannis Kounellis, Brice Marden and Mario Schifano, amongst others, aligning her with the most radical and experimental thinkers of the era.
In 1984, Goetz shifted her focus to enhancing her by-now, considerable collection of art from around the world, estimated at the time to number approximately 300 pieces. Like many collectors keen to store and display their treasures, she launched a private museum, Sammlung Goetz in 1993, in Munich-Oberföhring. But unlike the many collectors who open private museums, Goetz’s space was a thrilling, exciting, unpredictable site of discovery. Free now to focus wholly on collecting and exhibiting her acquisitions as well as hosting loans and visiting artists, Ingvild built on her strong bodies of Arte Povera and American contemporary and ramped up her activity, acquiring works from new media to contemporary German art and in the 1990s, was one of the first serious European collectors of YBA art.
'She has been in the market since the 1960s and she has seen so much - so she can see where artists today are being inspired by previous generations'
Collecting for herself, passionate about her acquisitions and delighted to share with the public, her trademark taste for the outré and sublime continues to infuse her collection to this day. ‘She is still collecting,’ says Leuthe. ‘And she is very selective about what she buys now as she feels it’s difficult to find works that really appeal to her. She has been in the market since the 1960s, she has seen so much - so she can see where artists today are being inspired by previous generations. She does love some contemporary artists though, such as Francis Alÿs - an amazing artist. She is very active, always looking for new things.’
This is evident in the selection of work she has brought to Sotheby’s, which includes powerful examples from contemporary mavericks such as German painters Jonathan Meese and Andre Butzer. Goetz has an especially soft spot for Meese, an artist renowned for his edgy, electrified style. ‘What a balanced, polite, dear person Jonathan Meese is’ said Goetz recently, ‘Even if he sometimes paints crazy pictures!’
‘We have so many collectors who are interested in Andre Butzer, so it’s nice to have a work by him in the smaller sale,’ comments Leuthe. ‘Usually his formats are quite large. We were also delighted that she decided to give us two works by Gotthard Graubner. Graubner is like Rothko, there’s something very spiritual and intense about his work, it’s like there is a light coming through the canvas, which is like a lamp is inside! The way he uses colour is quite extraordinary, when you see these works, they do something to you, you get shivers!’
Clearly, even though the works she has provided for sale with Sotheby’s will benefit charities close to her heart, Leuthe recalls Goetz’s very real emotion during their discussions, at relinquishing much-loved members of her collection.
‘When we discussed the auction selection with her, I quickly realised that she really knows every work in her collection. And she loves each work. At times, it felt difficult to put this selection together as she was still so attached to each work! It was hard for her to let some of these go, but it’s so nice she is still so passionate about the art.’
Nevertheless, for Goetz, as hard as it can be to let her artworks leave, philanthropy and having the means to effect change in the world is part of her DNA. As she explains to Sotheby’s:
'I grew up as a refugee child and know what poverty means, that is why I am particularly committed to refugee women, children and young people'
‘Besides building up my collection, I have also been personally and financially involved in various charitable projects. I grew up as a refugee child and know what poverty means, that is why I am particularly committed to refugee women, children and young people. However, there are also some other philanthropic projects that are very close to my heart, such as the fight against anorexia and the improvement of education in Africa, Asia, and Germany, in order to enhance the chances of people to lead a self-determined life.’
For her collaboration with Sotheby’s, Ingvild Goetz has submitted 49 pieces for sale, across auctions in Cologne and London, one particular charitable cause is at the forefront of her mind and the prime beneficiary of the sales. As an ardent campaigner for highlighting the plight of elderly people, who live alone and or, in, extremely straitened circumstances, Goetz makes her concern and desire to help others plain.
‘Recently, I have been intensively dealing with the topic of age poverty,’ she says to Sotheby’s. ‘It is frightening that even in a country as prosperous as Germany, so many people are affected by it - and a large proportion of them are women. Many of them live alone, forgoing the care and support, they are entitled to, out of shame. My goal is to allow people who are mobility-impaired, lonely, and mentally burdened, to age with dignity and to enable them to participate in cultural life’.
The Ingvild Goetz donations form the fertile core at the heart of the Cologne online and live auctions in the final week of March 2023. But these sales blossom around Goetz’s properties with a first-class selection of Modern and Contemporary art, assembled by Sotheby’s Germanteam. An extra dimension of excitement accompanies this sale, as it marks the first time an in-person sale of Fine Art is being held at Sotheby’s Palais Oppenheim. In a sale replete with highlights, isolating individual pieces is challenging, but especial excitement is building around a rare and powerful Gerhard Richter abstract, GREEN-BLUE-RED 789-33, from a German private collection.
The Richter is accompanied by collectables from local and internationally renowned Modern and contemporary artists such as Karel Appel, Lesser Ury, Tom Wesselmann, Emil Nolde, Jeanne Mammen, and Richard Serra, to name a few. Clearly a series selection of works, the auction heralds a new and exciting era for the Sotheby’s team in Cologne, underlining their commitment to bringing the best in regional and international art to the country’s existing - and new - art lovers. And in doing so, who knows - perhaps the next Ingvild Goetz will be at the auction, building a collection that will in turn, inspire, delight and entrance generations to come!
The Modern & Contemporary Auction Part One is on view at Sotheby's Cologne at the Palais Oppenheim, from 23 - 28 March 2023 (10am to 5pm daily)