Anne and Wolfgang Titze’s love story began in May 1989, when the French journalist and Austrian economist were invited to speak at the Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco. “Meeting Wolfgang was totally unexpected and magic,” Anne recalled recently in an email. Their chance encounter sparked the beginning, not only of a great love, but of the masterful art collection, consisting primarily of minimalist, conceptual, and feminist art, that they built together over the next four decades.
Now the couple is selling a portion of their art collection at Christie’s Paris in an auction, aptly titled “Love Stories,” on October 19.
Prior to meeting, neither Anne nor Wolfgang possessed a deep enthusiasm for collecting art, although Wolfgang had previously purchased works by Arnulf Rainer and Hermann Nitsch—but only “because I’m Austrian,” he said. “This was not collecting. This was rather decoration.”
That changed in the early 1990s, when they acquired one of the first pieces they purchased together: a smashed cello encased in resin by Nouveau Realist artist Arman. Wolfgang, a classical music devotee, was fascinated by the broken instrument, and the question of why the artist would destroy a cello. “We bought it and that raised our curiosity,” Wolfgang recalled recently.
A few short years later, Anne and Wolfgang had just landed in New York when the artist Bernar Venet, a friend, urged them to visit the Dia Art Foundation to view a Fred Sandback installation there. The two were deeply moved by the thin wires that lined a seemingly empty space. Recalled Anne recently, “It was like walking into the palace of the Chinese emperor without clothes. I was mesmerized by the pristine simplicity and the radicality of Sandback’s artistic gesture. I was totally overwhelmed and even knocked out! It was hard that day to recover from digging into Sandback’s world.”
Wolfgang was equally struck. “Space, time, and feelings was really coming together so strong that I was staring and said, ‘I don’t believe it.’ This was a shock,” he said. “And there I learned, art is so close to your heart.”
That moment was when their passion for art truly started. Collecting, they found, was a way two individuals from different worlds could find common ground in their blossoming relationship. “Wolfgang and I started to look at art together and found out that it was a wonderful way to nourish a very unusual and thrilling dialogue/conversation together,” said Anne. Together, they assembled a vast collection of works by minimalists like Agnes Martin and Donald Judd, conceptualists such as Sol LeWitt, Christian Marclay, and Joseph Beuys, and female artists including Lisa Yuskavage, Julie Mehretu, and Paola Pivi. The only rule to building their collection was that they both had to like the piece to acquire it.
The sale at Christie’s Paris will go towards establishing the Titze Foundation, which will organize exhibitions by artists in their collection in public spaces. “For example, we take one Austrian artist where we have 15 to 20 pieces that will then create a room in a museum of this artist in a museum in Austria,” explained Wolfgang. He was quick to note, however, that the projects will not be nation-specific: they could include, say, a show of Yayoi Kusama in Italy, or Gerhard Richter in Spain. “There is a point when the time has come to talk about the future ‘homes’ of our collection, to organize our legacy,” Anne added. “We both felt that building a foundation would respond best to this quest.”
The Titzes were strategic in selecting 39 works for the Christie’s Paris sale. “We chose important pieces,” said Wolfgang, “but we only had pieces from artists where we have more than three, four, or five.”
Female artists dominate the higher-end works, including a 2008 Yayoi Kusama Infinity Nets painting, estimated at €2 million to €3 million ($2.17 million–$3.17 million); Agnes Martin’s 1959 The Lamp, composed of 24 beige dots against a black background, estimated at €1 million to €1.5 million ($1.17 million–$1.58 million); and Julie Mehrehtu’s abstract Blue Magic, which carries an estimate of €2.5 million to €3.5 million ($2.58 million–$3.58 million). Other highlights include an Adrian Ghenie painting, estimated at €2 million to €3 million ($2.17 million–$3.17 million), a 1970 copper Donald Judd sculpture with an estimate of €600,000 to €1 million ($635,000–$1.17 million), and a Sean Scully abstract work for up to €1.2 million ($1.27 million). Topping the offerings is Gerhard Richter’s seminal 1969 landscape abstraction, Waldstuck (Okinawa), with an estimate on request. Coming up from the lower end are a Wolfgang Tillmans photo estimated at €15,000 to €20,000 ($15,750–$21,000), a white Paola Pivi polar bear at €30,000 to €50,000 ($31,500–$52,500), and a cheeky Yuskavage painting titled Pie Face, also estimated at €30,000 to €50,000 ($31,500–$52,500).
The one Anne says she’ll miss the most? Anselm Kiefer’s massive Voyage au bout de la nuit (Journey to the Edge of Night). “It’s such an amazing painting,” she said. Estimated between €500,000 and €700,000 ($525,000–$735,000), the work also has sentimental value. “[The title] is one of my cult books of Celine, a very controversial French writer,” she explained.
But in some ways, all the works will remain close to the Titzes long after the sale has ended: Anne is already planning a documentary about the collection with which the couple has so long and so lovingly shared their lives.