To introduce, how to understand the idea of Hans Otto Nagel’s art collection, let us start with a special anecdote that tells something about the collector in person. On Monday 4th of May 1987, Hans Otto Nagel, after a significant existential cut in Germany, organised a meeting with Umberto Guida, the president of Continent/Carrefour at that time, in Athens. From today’s perspective this meeting became the key situation for his great success in international shopping mall-, real estate- and investment business. In 1987, however, the existing bridges to the future had collapsed.
What to do? - rent a beautiful Greek villa with borrowed money, and invite artist friends to exhibit their artworks, mostly sculptures, there. A temple of contemporary Greek art! “Oh, you are an art collector?!” Paul Louis Haley, owner of Continent/ Carrefour, and Umberto Guida were deeply impressed. Recognising that his host (in opposition to today) spoke limited Greek only, Haley asked Hans Otto Nagel, how he could be so convinced about his business perspective in Greece. His answer: “There is no question about that. I must. What, by God, could be a better force for becoming successful than the threat of bankrupt?” The deal was done.
What has this anecdote to do with arts? It is a short story about Otto’s change into a patron of artists and to a collector of art. Artists have always been “quiet” but natural companions of his life. Maybe, exactly because of this there has never been a need to demonstrate his engagement in arts officially.
The support by artists at this unique day in his life, concretely: their self-evident assistance can be seen as a symbol of what art means to the private person Hans Otto Nagel. It always was a personal mirror independent from business life. It was and is a rest for the soul and the proof that there is more than fighting for success in the world, the proof that there is passion, sensuality, vision, and free creativity.
Not at least, the anecdote tells us something about the artist-ness of Hans Otto Nagel himself. He is a performance artist of his own life and of his charismatic personality. And he knows what it really means to be someone who burns for his ideas. “No mediocrities!” he is quoting often. Everyone who knows the challenge of being an artist and creating art only can agree.
Hans Otto Nagel’s support of artists hand in hand with the buying of art works began in Olympia - the original place of the Olympic Games in Ancient Greece. Here, he met Apostolos Kosmopoulos, an intellectual man and owner of a small gallery in Olympia, who inspired him to support Greek sculptors. Since 1980 Hans Otto Nagel is a faithful supporter of this gallery that is a meeting place for lovers of art, literature and philosophy until today. Himself a lover of philosophy and history, Hans Otto Nagel from the beginning on felt a resonance with everything that these artists were able to communicate with their artworks - it was like an expression of something that always had been part of his life, of his thinking and feeling.
With the opening of UNIQ Istanbul in 2015 Hans Otto Nagel realised an extraordinary location for entertainment, culture and arts that owns a concert hall, a theater, outdoor space for cultural events, and a huge exhibition area for art. UNIQ Istanbul can be seen as Hans Otto Nagel’s answer to the insight that the future of shopping places lies in their working together with entertainment and arts. What makes UNIQ Istanbul so unique is that here a professional art workshop was established, that now, in October 2019, celebrates its official opening as the standpoint of international operating Art Vision Gallery with space for residence artists, exhibitions, art courses and a conference room.
In 2017 Art Studio Maria Wirth in connection with a showroom of Otto Nagel Art Collection was set up in Berlin. As his “newly discovered hometown”, so Hans Otto Nagel, he wanted to give the city of Berlin a place for contemporary artists and their creative ideas. Since their establishment, both locations in Istanbul and Berlin became places of intellectual exchange, art events and art production that follow the sense of their patron.
“Artworks are both a source for and an expression of history”, Hans Otto Nagel told me one time and I realised that he understands artworks as a kind of witnesses of times, societies and people. What the ancient sculptures had been for the Greeks, maybe our today’s artworks are for us, and what the ancient sculptures had become for us, maybe today’s artworks will be for future generations. This perspective points at one of Hans Otto Nagel’s reasons for collecting contemporary art: “I want to collect future.” This means taking part in the creation of what contemporary art will be for the next generations. And to be a valuable artwork for Hans Otto Nagel, something has not to promise a save financial investment listed at Sotheby’s but much more to be a piece that is about humans’ life’s questions and an artistic way of dealing with the philosophy of life.
Artist, Art Director
ArtStudio Maria Wirth, Berlin
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