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A Collector’s Love Story 0

Love Story - Works from Erling Kagge's Collection
Astrup Fearnley Museet - Building 1, Oslo
May 22 - September 29, 2015 

Marina Abramovic once said the following about the Norwegian art collector Erling Kagge: “He sends you on a personal journey to the art pole.”

The exhibition “Love Story”, which will be on view at Astrup Fearnley Museet until the end of September, will feature a selection of works from artists central to Kagge's collection, including Raymond Pettibon, Franz West, Klara Lidén, Tauba Auerbach, Sergej Jensen, Trisha Donnelly, Wolfgang Tillmans and Olafur Eliasson, amongst others. We contacted the curator of the exhibition, Therese Möllenhoff, to find out more about the upcoming exhibition of the Kagge collection at the Astrup Fearnley Museum.

Manfred Pernice. Untitled, 2008. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Neu, Berlin

What should everybody know about the art collector Erling Kagge and his collection?

Erling Kagge is primarily known as one of the greatest adventurers of our time, but he is also a dedicated art collector. Kagge is a polar explorer, mountaineer, lawyer and publisher. He was the first to reach the South Pole walking alone and unsupported for 50 days — an exploit featured on the cover of Time magazine, and the first to surmount the ‘three poles’ — North, South and the summit of Mt Everest. Over the last 15 years he has been an active art collector and has gradually built a collection of international contemporary art that has yet to be presented to the public. Kagge bought his first piece of contemporary art 32 years ago, but it is mainly in the course of the past 15 years that his art collection has taken form, expanded, and become one of Norway’s most significant private collections of international contemporary art. His involvement as a collector is well known, but few people are really aware of what his collection comprises – so we’re very excited to present the exhibition “Love Story - Works from Erling Kagge's Collection” at Astrup Fearnley Museet May 22th to September 27th 2015. In conjunction with the exhibition “Love Story”, Kagge will publish a book on how to collect, entitled A Poor Collector’s Guide to Buying Great Art, in which he spills some of his secrets on how to collect on a relatively modest budget compared to the world’s mega collectors, and still be able to acquire great art works by great artists. What people should know about Kagge as a collector is his curiosity and passion for art collecting. His passion for collecting is remarkable and can be experienced both when reading his essay, as well as when seeing the exhibition which shows the way in which he collects a number of artists in great depth.

Raymond Pettibon. No Title (Palinurus, a skillful), 1999. Photo Vegard Kleven

What is the basis on which this exhibition has been built, and how was the selecting of works from the collection done?

In short, Kagge’s art collection consists of contemporary art produced by European and American artists – mainly artists that were born in the 1960s and 70s – but lately also artists born in the 1980s.  With very few exceptions, the collection comprises almost exclusively works from the 1990s and 2000s onwards, with a particularly high incidence of works from the past ten years. The collection does not have any overarching thematic fulcrum and Kagge does not focus on any historical periods or artistic movements. Although there is no running theme in the collection, one can nevertheless find many instances where the artists’ areas of interest coincide. When we carried out a survey of the contents and profile of the collection in order to determine the best way of presenting it, what emerged as one of the primary characteristics and qualities of the collection was Kagge’s great commitment to the work of a number of individual artists. With these artists, Kagge has collected in depth with regard to time span, techniques and media, as well as subject matter within their oeuvre. This is the aspect of the collection that stands out most strongly: a comprehensive focus on a number of individual artists and a thoroughgoing commitment to their artistic practice. Where Kagge’s collection has central and influential works, an in-depth collecting effort has taken place that follows the artist’s career throughout various time periods, thematic structures and media. At its best, these collections-within-the-collection hold a large number of works covering a considerable number of years, and touch on key elements of the individual artist’s production. This is why it made sense for us to present these artists and works, to illustrate this significant aspect of his collection and his way of collecting intensively and in depth, which also speaks for his passion for art.

Franz West. Rolls Royce, 2007. Photo: Vegard Kleven

What does Erling Kagge’s collection say about the time in which we live?

Kagge himself has formulated his take on collecting as: “It is important, in our privileged civilization, to make life a bit more difficult than necessary. If not, I would not walk alone to The South Pole, nor collect Trisha Donnelly.” A quote that very much illustrates his curiosity, passion and take on art. While his collection doesn’t tell a singular story, it illustrates important aspects of the role of the private collector in today’s art world. In Norway there is an ongoing debate on the role of the private collector – and the exhibition of Kagge’s collection will be the first instance in which Astrup Fearnley Museet, an institution housing the collection of Hans Rasmus Astrup, will display another private collection. Historically, patrons have always been of great importance to the arts, but there has been an increasing interest in private collections in recent years. Private collectors today add to the interesting polyphony of voices that are creating diverse micro-narratives about international contemporary art in a variety of formats, scales and structures, and telling their own story of contemporary art. Kagge’s collection tells us a story about art collecting as a passion. His first rule of collecting is “Be obsessed! If you want to build a great collection, you must be obsessed”.

Sergej Jensen. Untitled, 2007. Photo: Vegard Kleven

Could you mention a few exhibition highlights? And why do you find these works special?

Some of the exhibition highlights are the works by artists Ceal Floyer, Klara Lidén and Trisha Donnelly. Kagge’s interest in and commitment to these artists shows in how he has acquired significant collections of their works. With an artist like Ceal Floyer, Kagge’s collection includes works spanning as much as two decades, from 1995 to 2014, and representing a number of media and techniques ranging from two-dimensional wall pieces, sculptures and objects to projections and sound pieces. The collection features works that touch on such essential thematic elements in Floyer’s artistic oeuvre as perception, language and the modification of everyday objects. Kagge’s collection contains central works such as the projection Auto-Focus (2002), the sound work ’Til I Get It Right (2005) and the infamous Monochrome Till Receipt (White) – which we are very excited to present in the exhibition. This collecting strategy can also be observed in the fact that Kagge has acquired as many as 17 works, spanning a period of 11 years, by a relatively young artist such as Klara Lidén (b. 1979). The works range from the very early video Paralyzed (2003), made while Lidén was still an art student in Stockholm, to one of her newest works, shown at Galerie Neu in 2014 – an installation that includes live canaries. The collection also includes central works from her photographic series from urban spaces, her “poster paintings” and rubbish bins, as well as elements from larger installations, which tells of Kagge’s passion for her practice and how he collects across time, formats, media and thematic structures.