Top Collector Thomas Olbricht to Sell Works from His Collection Following Berlin Museum Closure

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August 7, 2020 3:55pm

German art collector Thomas Olbricht.ANDREAS JUNG

Several months after announcing the closure of his art collection, German scientist and art collector Thomas Olbricht is set to sell approximately 500 works from his holdings this September at Cologne-based auction house Van Ham.

Tagged “From a Universal Collector – The Olbricht Collection,” the auction will offer between 150 and 200 works of modern and contemporary art, with leading lots by blue-chip artists like Cindy Sherman and George Condo. The top lot coming up in the Cologne auction from the chemist’s holdings is George Condo’s 2005 painting Screaming Couple, which carries a pre-sale estimate of €300,000–€500,00 ($354,600–$591,000). A comparable work featuring the same screaming protagonist couple, currently held in a private collection, was shown at a traveling Condo survey at the opened at New York’s New Museum in 2011 and marked the beginning of his market’s ascent.

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Other highlights from the sale include a painting by the German artist Daniel Richter, valued at €150,000–€350,000 ($177,000–$413,700), and an early Cindy Sherman photograph that comes with a high estimate of €120,000 ($141,830).

Olbricht, who has one of the top private art collections in Germany, opened his private museum and foundation nearly a decade ago, in 2011, as public institutions began clamoring for loans from his collection. In total, his museum, titled ‘me Collectors Room Berlin,’ held 21 exhibitions featuring works by Gerhard Richter, William Eggleston, Emil Nolde, Imi Knoebel, Joseph Beuys, and Albrecht Dürer, among others. Olbricht has garnered a reputation for his eclectic tastes spanning centuries. He has stated his particular interest in memento mori and vanitas works.

The collector has also placed special emphasis on Wunderkammern, or 16th-century European “cabinets of curiosities.” The one he owns places objects dating from the Renaissance and Baroque periods alongside fauna and other organic matter. Among the highlights of Olbricht’s Wunderkammern are a brass death hourglass made around 1620 that was formerly owned by Yves Saint Laurent.

Olbricht began collecting contemporary art in the 1980s and has ranked on the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list 12 times. The first work Olbricht bought was a 1968 painting by Sigmar Polke, followed by a Cindy Sherman photograph purchased in 1996.


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