An Austrian Billionaire Whose Collection Drew Record Crowds to the Leopold Museum Is Opening a Museum of Her Own in Vienna

Heidi Horten, 2018. Courtesy of the Heidi Horten Collection.

Heidi Goëss-Horten, an Austrian billionaire regularly listed among the world’s top art collectors, is planning to open a museum to show her treasured personal collection in Vienna. 

The heiress has bought a historic 22,000-square-foot mansion with two floors and an interior courtyard in Vienna’s city center to house the collection. The building was built 155 years ago as an annex to the Albrecht Palais in Vienna. Since then it has been home to a number of cultural institutions, the most recent of which was the Austrian State Opera Museum. This fall, three architecture firms will submit proposals in a competition to renovate the venue for the Goëss-Horten collection, which is expected to open in early 2022.

A widow of Horten AG department store founder Helmut Horten, Goëss-Horten’s assets are today valued at more than $3 billion. She began collecting art with her first husband in the 1970s, but became more dedicated in her efforts in the 1990s. Since then, she has accumulated a 500-plus work collection of paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by many canonized name, including Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, and Andy Warhol. 

Francis Bacon, <i>Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes</i> (1964). © Bildrecht, Wien, 2017. Courtesy of the Heidi Horten Collection.

Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes (1964). © Bildrecht, Vienna, 2017. Courtesy of the Heidi Horten Collection.

“Art is not made to be put into storage,” Goëss-Horten told Larry’s List in 2018. “I live with my art—there is no place where I wouldn’t display it.”

Her collection made its public debut last year in the hit exhibition “WOW! The Heidi Horten Collection,” at the Leopold Museum in Vienna. The show was the most popular in the museum’s history, bringing in 360,000 visitors over its five-month run.

The success of the exhibition inspired Goëss-Horten to seek a permanent home for her treasured collection. “The first public presentation of my collection showed that there is clearly a great interest and curiosity in experiencing art,” she said in a statement. “My most important goal is to engage young people with art; therefore, I decided to preserve my collection by exhibiting it and making it tangible for future generations.”  

Edvard Munch, <i>Self-Portrait (against two-colored Background)</i> 1904. © Bildrecht, Wien, 2017. Courtesy of the Heidi Horten Collection.

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait (against two-colored Background) (1904). ©Bildrecht, Vienna, 2017. Courtesy of the Heidi Horten Collection.

Agnes Husslein-Arco, an advisor to Goëss-Horten who curated “WOW!” will serve as the museum’s inaugural director.

“In a world of collecting often dominated by men, she is the rare woman to amass such a private collection and found a museum,” Husslein-Arco said. “Furthermore, there are few such private collections in Vienna and in Austria open to the public, thus Heidi Goëss-Horten’s commitment is to be doubly lauded.” 

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