The Essl Collection which is one of Europe’s finest collections of contemporary art is to be liquidated. The 7,000 works will be sold off in London, this October after Karlheinz Essl the owner of the BauMax hardware store chain suffered near-insolvency. The collection was organised as a non-profit private foundation and is an important part of Austrian cultural heritage and of great international cultural value. Agnes and Karlheinz Essl’s passion for art has given the collection its unique signature.
The main focus of the collection was Austrian Art from 1945 with works by artists like Maria Lassnig, VALIE EXPORT, Arnulf Rainer, Max Weiler, Markus Prachensky, the artist of the Viennese Actionism like Hermann Nitsch and Günter Brus, new painting of the 1980s to the younger generation of Austrian artists such as Elke Krystufek and Clemens Wolff. A particular characteristic is the in-depth approach to collecting large bodies of work by single artists, such as Arnulf Rainer, who is represented with over 200 works from different work periods.
Over the course of 40 years of collecting art, the focus has shifted to integrate more and more international art. Since 1989, with political changes happening all over Europe, Agnes and Karlheinz Essl started to add contemporary art from Europe, the USA, Asia and Australia to their collection.
An important aspect of the collection is the representation of international trends and the younger art scene. While media such as photography, sculpture, objects and installations are important parts of the collection, the collectors have a special appreciation for painting. The collection has an estimated value of €100- 200 million.