What I Buy & Why: Düsseldorf Collector Gil Bronner on the Wolfgang Tillmans That Got Away, and What He’s Coveting Now

The Düsseldorf collector takes us through the highlights of his eclectic art collection.

Gil Bronner. Photo: Susanne Diesner.

Gil Bronner’s private collection is nestled in a quiet courtyard in Düsseldorf, but the works the German collector often has on view at his private museum there are anything but quiet or quaint. Since opening his own space in 2014, Bronner has shown both emerging and established artists, and has gained a reputation for rather daring installations.

On permanent display is Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe’s series of rooms that include a functioning printing press and a Punjabi kitchen, titled Artichoke Underground, which debuted at Art Basel Unlimited in 2013. Most recently, the towering sans serif letters of rising star Nora Turato’s text-based mural emblazon the front gallery.

Since the mid-1990s, Bronner’s 1,000-work collection has sought to support emerging artists, especially those who graduate from the Dusseldorf Art Academy. He has supported young artists like painter Alex Wissel, while also buying up established Dusseldorf talents, like Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky, and Hans-Peter Feldmann.

We caught up with Bronner about what artworks he is currently on the hunt for, and where he shops these days.

Gil Bronner’s collection Philara in Dusseldorf. Photo: Paul Schöpfer. Courtesy Sammlung Philara.

What was your first purchase (and how much did you pay for it)?

What I really consider the start of my collection was a Neo Rauch canvas in 1997. It cost 14,000 deutsche marks (approximately €7,000 or $8,300). Investment-wise, it’s been going downhill ever since.

What was your most recent purchase?

A bronze by Isa Genzken. 

Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year?

Perhaps a work by Mohamed Bourouissa. Or a canvas by Ambera Wellman. Or a swimming pool by Elmgreen & Dragset. The world has so much good art to offer.

Installation view of Nora Turato’s What Did You Make of This Did You Make This Up (2020) Photo: Paul Schöpfer. Courtesy of Sammlung Philara.

What is the most expensive work of art that you own?

I’d rather not say.

Where do you buy art most frequently?

At local galleries, ideally. But of course Berlin is close and auction houses are omnipresent.

Is there a work you regret purchasing?

Quite a number, but it would be highly unfair to the artists to say which.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa? What about in your bathroom?

Above the sofa there is a beautiful William Copley and in the bathroom a pair of snakes by Camille Henrot.

William Copley’s Untitled (Ship of Fools) (1989) installed at Gil Bronner’s home. Courtesy Gil Bronner.

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

It is a sculptural installation by the French artist Julien Berthier called Para Site. It looks a little like a Popemobile and works electrically, but it can only drive 65 feet because that is the length of its extension cable. But then, of course, it’s meant to be unpractical.

What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?

Definitely Wolfgang Tillmans, but I was young and stupid.

If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?

Probably something classical like The Kiss by Gustav Klimt (how often can it be stolen?) or Le Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe by Manet. But stealing has never occurred to me.

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