by Ayca OkayJan 11, 2023
Today, art collectors play a vital role in supporting artistic creation as well as developing the art market itself with the choices they make in acquiring works. For some, buying patterns of collectors may reflect something more than the economics of art, but also be viewed as a critical influence in the career of visual artists. Whether driven by passion or an investment strategy - collectors are irrevocable actors in the ecosystem.
Born out of a passion from Karen and Christian Boros, Boros Collection is a private one that has been on display since 2008 in a World War II Nazi bunker known as “Reichsbahnbunker”, located in the very heart of Berlin in the Mitte area. It consists of more than 700 pieces of contemporary art, ranging from the 1990s to our present time.
I visited the exhibition Bunker Berlin #4, delicately curated by Karen and Christian Boros, during the overwhelming heat of August. Alicja Kwade’s minimalist drawing welcomed a maximum of 10 people in one slot at the entrance. Despite the heat, the three-meter-thick concrete walls of the bunker isolated the visitors from the world outside. The architecture theory of ‘Form follows function’ comes to life within the windowless, massive iron mixed with concrete load-bearing columns building. The unseen tension inside was articulating the mix of history, architecture, and contemporary artworks of Jean-Marie Appriou, Julian Charrière, Thomas Eggerer, Cyprien Gaillard, Ximena Garrido-Lecca, Yngve Holen, Klára Hosnedlová, Anne Imhof, Alicja Kwade, Victor Man, Kris Martin, Nick Mauss, Jonathan Monk, Adrian Morris, Paulo Nazareth, Berenice Olmedo, Amalia Pica, Bunny Rogers, Michael Sailstorfer, Wilhelm Sasnal, Pieter Schoolwerth, Anna Uddenberg, Julius von Bismarck, Eric Wesley, and He Xiangyu. Almost every four years, the exhibition changes from sculpture to photography to painting to installations.
During the pandemic, Boros Collection exhibited part of their collection in the legendary techno club Berghain, to support the venue under challenging times with uncertainty, which I followed through social media with excitement, and I was curious about the upcoming show after the pandemic. It is not a surprise that the collection is a mix of the collector’s professional and personal life. As the host informed the tour group, the Boros couple’s pattern of buying art is natural. In my opinion, Karen and Christian Boros are truth seekers and good at triggering the public in uncomfortable contexts in every way, and as a result, they create public opinion. Combining this vision with expertise in public relations helps them to present an up-to-date selection of artworks, focusing on current problems with sensitivity with a minimum concern for aesthetics. The exhibition context was built upon the effects of post-Covid trauma by focusing on how vulnerable our physical bodies are, yet how we crave to be in better conditions. To reach the goal of being our better versions, it is a fact that we are attached to supplements to immunise ourselves from infections and maximise our performance by constantly upgrading.
However, these fake statements of euphoria backed by the artificial supporters, being the better version of ourselves, is never enough for a consumption-oriented society. Physical bodies turn into standard objects nowadays. Memories are stored in clouds, and social interactions are digitalised. As devices become more human-ish, our bodies gradually morph into mechanics. Bunker #4 presents this commodification process of our physical beings repeatedly and poignantly objectified. I was thrilled to see Mexican artist Berenice Olmedo’s orthopaedic braces, used to rectify distortions in our bodies, are mechanically animated using wire; such an example of human bodies enhanced to a better version backed with technology. The figures are uncomfortable enough to disrupt the tension in the Bunker. Anne Imhof presents sculptural elements that can be seen as central components of past performances and serve as departure points for the mediation team to reenact the fleeting moment of the performance verbally. Anna Uddenberg’s iconic female bodies appear in a distorted way, as always. The group of visitors immediately remembered her works from the Berghain show. The figures emerged in an anonymous expression, artificially contorted, seem almost dehumanised and, at the same time, represent the perfect embodiment of digital self-staging through selfies.
Meanwhile, our bodies were transformed into a primitive version without any signal for mobile devices in the bunker, and we ultimately became isolated. Illustrations of Yngve Holen reflect dismantled objects with near-surgical precision to express our constructed everyday reality. Bunny Rogers as a poet, author, and artist, works in multidisciplinary fields of art appeared with her understanding of becoming techno-human with the figures we recognise from digitalised ecosystems.
Boros Collection comprises concern, thrill, cure, and the cause. It reminds us that buying art is not an eager or adventurous feeling or a chance to express individuality. Observation, knowledge, interest, and sparkles trigger the collecting strategy. However, Karen and Christian’s pattern of buying art is considered natural, and one can understand that their motive is multi-layered and distinguishable. They seized the metamorphosis concept not only in the conceptual narrative of Bunker #4 but also in their personal life by living on the roof of the former bunker, now transformed into a collection space. They created their universe around their acquisitions, re-defined Collecting 101, and supported artistic creation even in challenging times.