Art that exists only when installed? Whose every iteration can be considered a different representation of the work? Employing essential equipment and technology that can fail or become obsolete? None of it fazes Julia Stoschek, a leading collector of time-based media art, who gives these pieces the space they need to unfold their magic.
Anicka Yi, The Flavor Genome, 2016, from the exhibition “Jaguars and Electric Eels” at the Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that art itself is a kind of technology. In Henry James’s 1881 novel The Portrait of a Lady, the younger characters frequently visit one of the house’s art galleries when it’s raining, as though the landscapes therein are some early version of Netflix. “Pictures are very convenient,” Ralph Touchett says.
In 2007, Julia Stoschek opened a 32,000-squarefoot space in Dusseldorf, Germany, to display her collection, having made a name for herself as a leading collector of time-based visual art—perhaps the most advanced aesthetic technology there is: video, performance, even web-based pieces. The first work she ever acquired was Aaron Young’s High Performance, in 2004, a video in which a number of humans and animals do stupid, impressive things, like motorcycle doughnuts. (It was an early marker of her taste: Another edition is owned by New York’s Museum of Modern Art.)
“My focus was, and still is, to collect the art of my generation,” Stoschek says. “I think of my collection as a time capsule. I am always looking for artistic positions which question our current political and social life and initiate a critical conversation about it.”
Imi Knoebel, Projektion X, 1972, and Klaus vom Bruch, Das Alliiertenband (Allies Tape), 1982, from the exhibition “Generation Loss” at the Julia Stoschek Collection, Dusseldorf.
She credits a talk she attended by German collector Harald Falckenberg with inspiring such a notion, but her mission has since built up its own head of steam, with her Julia Stoschek Collection now numbering some 750 pieces. Exhibiting it is logistically complicated, necessitating expansion with the opening of a Berlin branch last year.
“Time-based media art is a very bulky medium to collect. It’s a great challenge and takes commitment,” Stoschek says. “Only when installed in an appropriate environment [do] the artworks unfold their true magic. You need a lot of space and special equipment to bring the work to life.”
In an age when mere paint on canvas sometimes isn’t enough to capture the imagination anymore, her collection is undeniably important— and ahead of its time. Since she began collecting time-based art, Tate Modern has opened its performance tanks, Performa has established a performance-art biennial in NYC, and Marina Abramovic has become an international superstar. (“Her early video works were some of the first pieces I acquired for my collection,” Stoschek says. “She is a magnificent woman and groundbreaking artist. I am very lucky to know her.”) Timebased art is undoubtedly on the cutting edge.
Even art fairs are getting into the business, with the Marian Goodman Gallery bringing Tino Sehgal to Frieze in New York in 2013, although Stoschek says her process for acquiring new work goes far beyond the fairs.
“My principle is definitely ‘less is more,’” she says about choosing which fairs to attend. “That being said, I really enjoy attending art fairs. It’s a great way to get an overview of what is relevant and new in the art scene. Art Cologne, for example, has developed a strong voice for the international art market the last few years. And the Art Basel show in Switzerland is always a highlight for me. The Unlimited and Parcours sectors provide unique platforms within an art fair, especially for the art I collect.”
Stoschek also frequently visits galleries, but she says nothing can replace the experience of visiting artists’ studios. Indeed, she adds, it is the best part of being a collector. “I learn so much every day from artists and how they see the world, which in turn leads to an extension of my own horizon. It is a lifelong challenge and the best decision I have ever made.”