Who am I?
According to Finnish popular mythology, when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made an official visit to Helsinki, Foreign Minister Karjalainen, wanted to inquire about his well-being. The word-shy Karjalainen asked: “Who are you?” It is not easy to grasp the differences between the pronunciation and spelling of the words “who” and “how”…
If you have been a passionate art collector of thirty years, however, it might be worth asking yourself both questions, and preferably at the same time: (W)ho(w) are you?” Of course, I never get an unambiguous answer to such a question. And yet, on odd occasions, surrounded by my artworks, I can experience on an abstract level an existential sense of nowness in relation to art and the world. And that is no small matter.
My interest in art was sparked off in the mid-sixties through my friendship and dialogue with the Lund artists Barbro and Holger Backstrom. They taught me that the ability to take in art was more a matter of sensitivity, receptiveness, magic and suggestion than of straight ‘understanding’. Soon after, I purchased a sculpture by Barbro and a painting by Holger, these two works were to be the beginning of my collecting.
The dream of having my own gallery was realized in 1970, when Galerie Prisma IV opened in Lund, in collaboration with the Stockholm art dealer Leif Nielsen. The gallery became mine along in the autumn of 1973. It provided me with a fantastic basis for my collecting. Up until the middle of the seventies, the art shown there was primarily Swedish and Nordic. Then, in 1975, I acquired a work by Robert Rauschenberg, which was to trigger an almost fervid interest in the American art scene. Over the next four years I hosted solo exhibitions by artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg, Jasper Johns, Christo, Susan Weil and Cy Twombly.
The spring of 1978 brought an exhibition that was to have a major influence on my own collecting, and on the future direction of my gallery. This was: Pay Attention! I was given an opportunity to browse freely through the inventory of the American print publishers, Gemini, and put together an exhibition of large prints by Nancy Graves, Michael Heizer, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Motherwell, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra and Frank Stella. For most of these artists, this was the first time their work had been shown in Sweden. For me, the exhibition marked a greater openness to minimal and conceptual forms of expression.
At approximately the same time, Joseph Beuys was appearing in a transfigured and attractively enigmatic light. Beuys had set up a system for producing a stream of multiples of the most varied and everyday kind: pieces of felt, plaster, cans of fat, toy trains, newspapers, signboards, slates, banknotes, packs of sugar, tinned food, and so on.
Most of Beuys’ multiples were highly thought provoking and stimulating to my powers of imagination; and apart from that, they were also modestly priced. My first Beuys work
Was the imprint of a fingernail in hardened butter! Through Beuys’ art, my interest in the European scene received an important boost.
My collection comprises works by about 150 artists. It contains paintings, drawings, watercolours, gouaches, collages, prints, objects and sculptures from the mid-sixties up to the present, the main emphasis being on the eighties. The format is mostly small, and if we were to look for a common denominator we might perhaps find a marked intimacy in the artistic expression. My collection has, as far as possible, been done intuitively: I have sought to follow my own vision, and tried to avoid trends and ‘hot’ artists. Approximately half the works are by artists who have had shows in my gallery. The rest I cam across on my trips to New York, Los Angeles, Cologne, Kassel, Berlin, Amsterdam, Madrid, Venice, Naples, and so on.
I have noticed with interest and sympathy the pluralism that has been a hallmark of the artworld during the last twenty years. This is also reflected in my highly eclectic collecting. On five occasions I have mounted thematic exhibitions in the gallery with their starting points in my own works:
Face it! (1986) – the human face in paintings, drawings and sculpture.
Object of Thought (1989) – the object as artistic medium.
About Round Round About (1990) – round, spherical and circular artworks have proved to be a recurrent feature of my intuitive purchases.
All Words Suck (1992) – an exhibition with a conceptual premise: all the works contained or represented text, words or individual letters.
Floor Show (1993) – over forty sculptures and objects, all placed straight on the floor.
The exhibition here in Helsinki comprises three ‘stations’: the Face (paintings and drawings), the Figure (sculptures) and the Artefact (objects and sculptures). It is thus about looking for an identity. Who are you? How are you? Who am I? Who is he? How is she? WHO ARE WE???
These questions have been asked by the artists. As a collector, I try to come up with an answer that might shed light on my own situation. And through this exhibition I also want-with or without Karjalainen’s consent-to ask the question of you the viewer : “(W)ho(w) are you?”
from the catalogue Galerie Anhava, Helsinki, Finland, 1995
Artists Exhibited by Anders Tornberg 1973-1997
Juan Navarro Balderweg
Zigi ben Haim
Saint Clair Cemin
Tullio de Gennaro
Brett de Palma
Jir Georg Dokoupil
Marie Louise Ekman
Pinchas Cohen Gan
Olav Christopher Jensson
Lars Olof Loeld
Paola Lune Nova
Ferran Garcia Sevilla