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An Art Collector's Interview with Johann Hoffmann

Art Collector
Art Collector
An Art Collector's Interview with Johann Hoffmann
Johan Deckmann

Johan Deckmann

Jul 27, 2023

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. I studied Liberal Arts with a Master Degree in International Business. I’m deeply passionate about music and art. I consider myself a citizen of the world although very rooted and fond of my home country, so now I split my time between Caracas, Miami and Madrid. I have been happily married for 13 years and I have two wonderful kids who are my biggest pride and love.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What was your first experience with art?

I come from a family where art and design has always been a big thing, so let’s say I was raised surrounded by art and design from an early age. I always had a particular interest in things that made you feel something and have been very attracted to aesthetics elements. I also have an extremely meticulous personality, very towards the small details. In college, I had particular interest in all of the art related studies.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: How did it shape your interest in collecting?

My father is a classic cars enthusiast, he has been collecting for many years (air cooled Porsche mostly) so I always knew how much dedication it carries to be a collector.

I think my interest in collecting was always there, it was just a matter of having the capacity  and the eye to start doing the first acquisitions. Also, my father in law has been collecting art for decades, blue chip artists mostly. He still owns a pretty strong collection, so that particular collection was pretty inspiring to me and influenced my interest in collecting.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What inspired you to start collecting art?

When I started I was honestly just pure passion and little knowledge, I would say that I was just enjoying the pieces that I was acquiring, but when I realized the fact that I was buying the “right things” and making good investments it came to my attention that my eye was pretty tuned. I would say that was part of my inspiration to start collecting.  

After some time I began buying from a renowned art advisor in NYC, who is a very good friend of mine and that was when this collecting thing started to get really serious. I started asking, learning, reading, traveling… The rest is history, now I’m madly addicted to this. There’s no cure for this addiction! Lol

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What were the first pieces you collected?

As a Venezuelan, it is natural to grow surrounded by works from the biggest kinetic art Masters like Jesus Soto and Carlos Cruz Diez, that definitely influenced my interest about what artists I wanted to collect. So the first pieces I collected were from these amazing artists.

I also remember a fantastic Damien Hirst large print I got from this gallery in London that I loved so much. Can’t deny that after a birthday present I got from my wife I started getting addicted to KAWS figures, especially the ones from the Original Fake series. I ended up building a pretty strong art toys collection back then.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: How long have you been collecting art?

I started with my first acquisitions about ten years ago but I got really serious about it in 2017.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: How has your collection or type of work you collect evolved over time?

I think we all are constantly evolving in different aspects in life. Everything is a learning curve, the more you live the more you learn and exactly the same happens with art.

The aesthetics I feel attracted nowadays are not the same you used to like in the past so I would say the collection has evolved a lot.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Tell us a bit about your collection - What artists or types of art do you gravitate towards?

The collection is pretty much shaped by emerging and mid-career artists. I like the fact of collecting works by artists from our generation and living the growing process.

I am a huge abstract art lover but I don’t have a particular collecting style. To move forward with an acquisition I need to connect with the work, looking for something that generates emotions in me.

Obviously the market’s trend and the art cycles also influences the artists I gravitate towards, I honestly think no one can deny this.  

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Tell us a bit about a few of your favourite or recent acquisitions/additions to your collection? And the artists whose work you have collected.

I recently acquired a fantastic work by Rafa Macarron that I hung in my dining room. I am a big fan of his work and I am madly in love with that particular painting. Other recent acquisitions are Daniel Gibson, Alejandro Piñeiro Bello, Karyn Lyons, Nicole Wittenberg, Roby Dwi Antono, Oli Epp and Andrea Marie Breiling, among others.

I have collected works by Joel Mesler, Javier Calleja, Cristina de Miguel, Robert Nava, Ugo Rondinone, Tracey Emin, Kenny Scharf, Koichi Sato, Anastasia Bay, Spencer Rusell Lewis, Szabolcs Bozó, Brian Calvin, Susumu Kamijo, Robert Indiana, Chloe Wise, Angeles Agrela, Aaron Garber Maikovsa, Jordy Kerwick, Peter Uka, Eva Beresin, Milo Matthieu and Marco Pariani just to name a few.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What drives you to collect/makes you passionate about collecting art?

Collecting is a serious challenge, almost a full time job, so you definitely have to be passionate about it, otherwise you’ll end up getting very frustrated. That feeling when you're looking for this particular work, searching for that gem you really want, it's just really exciting.

Also, you connect with amazing people who share the same passion, which is something I really enjoy. I have made many good friends from the art world.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What is your criteria for selecting a work of art? What do you consider to be the most important factors when selecting or evaluating an artwork?

Rule number 1: I have to like it. I have to connect with the work, it has to give me a certain emotion. Also, you start trusting your eyes and consider other factors, like the artistic professional trajectory, the galleries he shows and partners with, if it has any institutional presence, in which collections he is, etc.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Do you collect with a theme or particular goal in mind?

My personal goal is to build up a strong collection and leave a beautiful legacy for my kids while I enjoy the process. I think life it’s a journey not a destination.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Do you work with art advisors or other art professionals to help select or source artwork? Do you think that is important?

I normally work alone but I use an art advisor friend of mine when I need a particular access to something, but most of the time I am riding solo.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Do you buy art in auctions, or follow auction results? How influential is that to your collecting, if at all?  What do you look for when attending an art fair or an auction?

These are many questions in one, I’ll try to go one by one.

Yes, I am always following the auctions very closely. I buy in auctions especially when the market is softer, you can find very good opportunities there, even below primary market prices. But I honestly would rather buy from the galleries that I like to work with and build up long-term relationships. When I find a gallery that I trust, I try to go deep in the program. I think it is better to have a few solid relationships than to be buying here and there.

Yes, I try to travel part of the fairs circuit, it is one of the things I enjoy the most about collecting. Art fairs are made to connect with people in person, not only to see art, and I think that is always a game changer for your working relationships. Putting a face behind the email or Instagram always makes a big difference.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What challenges have you faced when collecting artwork?

Being a collector is not as easy as people think. Sometimes it can be very competitive, especially when you are a young collector and you have a limited budget. For some happy trigger “collectors” this is just a money game and they are willing to buy whatever they have to buy, even if they don’t even like it just to get that particular painting. Sometimes you also have to “buy one, donate one” without getting any benefit out of it, you are only buying access. So yes, it can be very competitive and very challenging.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What has been the most rewarding experience from collecting art?

Collecting art is sort of a lifestyle and it can be very fulfilling, art is one of the most important legacies that humankind has historically given to the world, so I think it is pretty relevant being part of that cultural movement in our generation.

Also, the people you manage to meet most of the time are very nice so these relationships sometimes become friendships which is very rewarding for me.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What do you look for when viewing an artist’s portfolio?

I obviously pay particular attention to their studies, their professional career, but I also love to see how the artist has evolved with time. I think it’s very important to see the early works when everything started, who showed him first, if he has institutional presence, who influences his work, if he has been a studio assistant of a relevant artist, etc.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Are there any specific techniques or mediums that you are drawn to when collecting art?

I  pay attention to the mediums and the techniques but I look at the work as a complete element, as a mix of things, as a way of expression, as a final result…

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Who are some of the artists that you have your eye on, and looking forward to seeing more work from? Or perhaps looking to collect in the near future.

I am a huge fan of Robert Nava’s work. I will always want another Rafa Macarron, also going after Hayley Barker, Robin F. Williams, Cristina BanBan, Emily Mae Smith, Lauren Quinn… the list is long! Most of them are pretty challenging to get, so I have a lot of work to do.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting an art collection?

Trust your eye, follow your instinct. Don’t be afraid to ask, enjoy the process and don’t get obsessed with the trains that are gone.

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