Concept 'Living in Art Brut'

For me, living “in” Art Brut means much more than merely living “with” Art Brut. I think of Goethe, describing his preoccupation with the Greek poet Pindar in a letter that is now very well-known: he wrote, “I now live in Pindar”.

“Living in Art Brut” means that I orient my own life and work increasingly around this world of art and also confront the clients of my coaching practice with Art Brut. It means I allow it to influence my whole identity, and invest more and more time in the project. Mostly this involves travelling, talking, publishing articles, reading. Art Brut has become a part of my personality. The richness in colour and form of these wonderful works of art brings joy, variety, and continuity into my world again and again, and astonishes me with something new every day.

My art collection serves as a kind of “micro-mirror” that reflects me as a person. When I have the courage to look into this mirror, it shows different dimensions of the reflections of my Art Brut project, and so also of my life. This perspective means that I increasingly experience a sense of “being” rather than “having”, in the way Erich Fromm defined it. I see the concept of collecting as being more a way of investing in a successful life, and less a question of consumption or asset management.

How it began

My involvement with Art Brut began 27 years ago and quickly grew in significance for me. Collecting Art Brut, and living within it, has become my great project of passion. Of course, superficially, this involves a certain degree of excess. There is a constant desire for “more and more”. There are always several works from all over the world on my “internal shopping list” which I would love to acquire. Limited financial resources keep the potential for addiction that comes with collecting in check. For me, the important factor is how my collection influences my identity and my personal development.

In keeping with the motto about “how we discover our lives through our passions”, Art Brut has also led me to art-related projects in my professional life. For example, I was from 2008 to 2018 a member of the University Council of the “Angewandte”, the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, and for a few years I curated the art collection of a banking group. The connection to contemporary art was always important to me, as my own collection is a project in a special niche of art.

Through my involvement with Art Brut, I am integrating the topic of the “outsider” into my existence – it is a theme that has always been with me, also in the historical sense. Of course, Art Brut is by definition purely about the quality of the art. I prefer not to use the term “outsider art”. Nevertheless, the concept of the outsider cannot be ignored. On the one hand, the life stories of these wonderful artists are increasingly being contextualised in new ways, mainly through international exhibitions. This shows me ever more clearly for every artist the connections between an individual mythology and a breaking soul. On the other hand, in the emotional fractures that are part of my own life story I can now see the deeper reasons why I have embraced Art Brut myself.

My Family History

Collecting Art Brut presumably has something to do with one’s own self. In my case, it is related to my family’s history in the Holocaust. My great-uncle, my grandfather’s brother, was Heinrich Rieger, a Jewish dentist who created an art collection in interwar Vienna that included works by Egon Schiele. Heinrich Rieger was murdered in Theresienstadt in 1942, and many of the works remain untraceable. His fate has motivated me to document my collection and make it accessible to the public.

There is also a deep impetus stemming from the fact that I belong to the “second generation”. So I think my collection honours not only the fates of the individual Art Brut artists it represents, but also symbolically honours the members of my family who did not survive one of the darkest periods of our history.

My openness to encountering people who exist on the margins of society, and my efforts to create connections between different worlds stem from my sense of otherness; from my experiences of exclusion and emotional fractures. The richness of the Art Brut works has helped me to emancipate myself from the burdens of the past. My Art Brut project helps me to find a sense of connection and orientation in a world that is in a constant state of flux.