They curate museums, run galleries, collect with great passion and have their work in the world of art. The series INSIGHTS! grants access to collections, sites of culture and portrays personalities of the international art business.
Interview with Hubert Neubacher.
BY ANDRÉ CHAHIL | Photo © Stephan Bestmann Article in german.
Mr. Neubacher, can you remember the first work of art you acquired yourself that belongs to your collection?
I still remember it very well. About 10 years ago, a pop artwork by artist Nico Vogel via the Millerntor Gallery in Hamburg, Germany. It was a charity event for Viva Con Agua. I belong to the early generation of buyers at this address. According to the owners, even the first buyer. That was an event that stalled at first. I was then awarded the contract for the artwork with a clear announcement, to the delight of all involved.
Is there a key, a special artwork that inspired you to turn a hobby into a collection?
Real collecting began at a time when the necessary budget for higher-priced art was available. Works by James Rizzi or Romeo Britto have always been in my focus … and at some point, I was able to purchase them for my collection. In the beginning, I was reserved towards the medium photography, because I am focused on unique pieces. And for the collected works, which were simply stored, space was finally created. A private space that does justice to the works.
The genre of your collection? Is there a specialization or a recognition value … a red thread?
It started with pop art and moves subcategorically in different directions of this genre. I’m particularly interested in younger, contemporary artists from Germany. Koons interests me. You can like him or not. I like it!
I agree with your point. When I have a closer look at your collection, I discover neither Italian Renaissance painting nor works of French classicism. The latest addition to your collection is?
A work by Mr. Brainwash.
The contemporary art world, especially in the street art scene, was enriched with „Banksy“ essentially after the release of the documentary „Exit Through the Gift Shop“ from 2010. It is a story about petty crime and the incompetence of Thierry Guetta, alias Mr. Brainwash. Banksy helped him to fame with this production. To list a Mr. Brainwash in a pop art collection is a smart move. It is pop art culture within a medium that has been quoted several times in terms of content.
I have acquired it in London, in a renowned gallery that deals with Pop Art and especially with this artist.
New addition to the Collection Neubacher, from the series „Chaplin“. A work by street- and pop art artist Mr. Brainwash, in reference to Banksy. | Photo © Chahil Art Consulting
If we dare an excursion into classical art history, in what topics, genres are you personally interested?
Frankly speaking, I have to inform you that I am not (yet) interested in so many genres. I concentrate on the contemporary and what appeals to me. A consumer, a collector in the absolute, direct present.
For a collector, it can be very liberating to strive toward the art world unbiasedly, without quotations – and thus sometimes also opinion-forming references. Your collection, which is still quite young, is in the process of being created and thus still open to impulses that could point the way for the future.
Yes, that’s how it is today, in the present. My collection is currently of a purely private nature. What will happen to it and where the journey will go, that is still written in the stars. Nevertheless, I am very open minded for the further course.
Allow me to quote: „The Native Land is not the Land, it is the Community of Feelings.“ Embedded in capital letters, this sentence is written in four languages in the plateau between the Ungers Bau, the Galerie der Gegenwart and the old building of the Hamburger Kunsthalle. An art project by I. H. Finlay from 1996, based on a brief by the politician Antoine des Saint-Just from the time of the French Revolution. In a few simple words, this expresses a feeling that artists, among others, have always sought. A place to be understood, a place of (artistic) freedom, of peace. Furthermore, one of acceptance. Mr. Neubacher, you come originally from Austria and have had to assert yourself in the roughness of Hamburg’s port operations and are now established beyond all city gates. With your company „Barkassen-Meyer“ which exists since 1919 and whose inheritance you have assumed, you are economically active. Particularly in a very creative way. You take care of social projects, are represented in various associations and support foundations. You are committed to artists and have your fleet of ships painted. In a reference to a quote of Seneca: how was this rocky road to the stars? Do you feel, as expressed in this quote, at home and understood?
La patrie n’est pas le sol, elle est la communaute des affections.
Louis Antoine Saint-Just (1767-1794)
It dragged me out into the wide world, away from home. In Lech am Arlberg, Austria, I started my training as a restaurant specialist in a 5* hotel, via the german island Norderney to the city Bremen and then professionally to Hamburg. This all happened in the time, then I was 19 years old. The Hamburg address where I worked supplied Barkassen-Meyer with goods that were looking for more workers and at the same time I was in a phase of professional reorientation. I then became the assistant to the management and my apprenticeship years took their course. There have been people in the port business who were not able to deal with me as a young Austrian. Sometimes the „personally you“ was categorically rejected. They wanted to see how that would develop with me. Once you have understood the loving „village at the landing stages“, you become part of it. And many belong to it. From the old-established, the tourists, the shops, from the postman to trainee. An infrastructure of their own and all of them working together. If you meet the individuals at eye level, show them respect and listen, you gain access. An approach that I live every day and that shapes me. A basic attitude of myself. I have always focused on doing a good job and subordinating myself to the older „sea bears“ of the port business. I wanted to learn from them, looked up at those who had already achieved a lifetime achievement. Even if it wasn’t always easy in retrospect, I still consider it a valuable time. At a certain point in time, the succession of the company was not clear. The opportunity presented itself for me and today I am in the process of giving this business a new, more modern face. Because for the people of Hamburg the local harbor boats/ships have been always there, an old-fashioned, greyish „Hamburgensie“. Now it’s time to create something innovative in this industry. After this career, I am now unfolding in my task, feeling accepted. As in this beautiful quotation from you, I must say … Hamburg is definitely my new home.
„Koons interests me. You can like him or not, I like him!“ (H. Neubacher). Sculpture „Radial Champs“ by Jeff Koons, based on the life’s work of Muhammad Ali. Book with Objects/GOAT Champ´s Edition 1.000 | Photo © TASCHEN VERLAG
Mr. Neubacher, what can and should art do with or move in us?
First and foremost, to give pleasure and stimulate. To return to my position, I would like to tell you that I am not a pure portfolio collector. When there is an increase in value, it is always desirable. But no criterion for me. Collecting names and values is not my main goal. I buy what I like. For me, dealing with art is a refreshment for my mind. My mental performance is regenerated and new ideas arise.
In order to transfer it to a meta-level, the arising of impulses for the creative and trend-setting handling of your company?
Exactly. And I am always open-minded to the new. You have to understand that I have been working in the entrepreneurial field for over 20 years, surrounded permanently by staff and have to deal with business management issues. In everyday life, this sometimes leads to a loss of lightness. I feel that my occupation with art, especially music, feels like relaxation. People from this creative environment often have a completely different approach to life. I like to be a part of this environment because it has a positive effect on me like a stimulus.
Furthermore, and this is also truly cultivated, the confrontation with cultural questions is an important part of my company philosophy. My employees appreciate this! It has a positive effect on the working atmosphere. For example, they can see how much planning and implementation is required before a ship is artistically designed. This requires openness and my employees become part of the whole. Formulated appropriately: My employees are always on board.
Integration of creative impulses into the forward-looking business concept of Barkassen-Meyer.
Art collector Neubacher in front of a work by Berlin artist JULIA BENZ, who designed the „Lütte Deern“ in 2014. Other art barges are an integral part of the company’s fleet of ships, which was founded in 1919. | Photos © Chahil Art Consulting | Barkassen-Meyer
You are a celebrity guest at vernissages and exhibitions. You have been perceived as an art collector. If you had something to criticize about the art market, what would it be?
If anything bothers me, it’s the crowd. Over the years there has been an immense increase in artistic output. I’m talking about my own perception and Hamburg as a location. Put simply, it’s often too much for me! Too much art on a few square meters. This affects both the enjoyment of art and fine selection. For example, when I visit the annual Affordable Art Fair, which basically is a great concept, I am already exhausted by the second turn. It is an overload to my senses. The same applies to the galleries at times.
Your top 3 museums are?
The Tate Modern in London, which I recently visited. The Deichtorhallen with the „Haus der Photographie“ in Hamburg and of course, one of my favorites, the Hamburger Kunsthalle.
Your top 3 galleries?
At the moment, without ranking them, the Affenfaust Galerie in Hamburg, Art Galerie Richter Berlin and Galerie Walentowski Hamburg.
Suppose a school class visits a public „Collection Neubacher“ in 100 years and will be guided through the halls. What kind of feelings, emotions will these young people be confronted with? We will leave behind traces of our life and work, which ones would you wish for yourself?
I would wish that openness and tolerance towards life would be internalized, that everyone could live his own dream without letting others dictate anything to them. Wishing that it is worthwhile to work on removing personal insecurities. That can arise from differences of opinion or disputes, also a constructive discourse. A discourse similar to the one experienced in the confrontation with art.
Mr. Neubacher, thank you for the emotional insight into your world of art.
Thank you very much. I feel honored to have had a conversation of this form, about my feelings with art.