After Closing His Berlin Museum, Renowned Collector Thomas Olbricht Is Selling More Than 500 Works From His Collection

A large portion of his cabinet of curiosities is going up for sale, alongside notable works by George Condo and Cindy Sherman.

Art collector Thomas Olbricht. Photo: Caroline Seidel/picture alliance via Getty Images.

German collector Thomas Olbricht has been doing some housekeeping. After announcing the closure of his Berlin museum earlier this summer, the Essen-based scientist and doctor has announced plans to unload some 500 works of art this fall, including many pieces from his eccentric cabinet of curiosities.

Reflecting Olbricht’s eclectic taste, the sale titled “From a Universal Collector – The Olbricht Collection” will include contemporary works by Cindy Sherman and George Condo but also a rare Rhinoceros bone Chinese cup, and precious taxidermy birds and other fauna. Interestingly for such an esteemed collection, the sale will take place in Germany, and is slated for September 26 at Van Ham Auctions in Cologne.

“Such a famous collection has never been auctioned in Germany before,” the auction house said in a statement.

Olbricht surprised the German art world when he announced he would be closing his me Collectors Room this May. The Berlin private museum was about to turn ten years old when the announcement was made, having mounted 21 varied exhibitions of art pieces from his collection, which includes work by Gerhard Richter, Emil Nolde, Imi Knoebel, and Joseph Beuys.

A key permanent fixture of Olbricht’s private showcase was his Wunderkammer, a cabinet of curiosities that consisted of over 300 pieces from the Renaissance and Baroque periods including a unicorn “horn,” and other surreal items and rare religious paraphernalia. A key thread for the collector was also a hoard of curiosities from scientific and medical worlds, such as an incredibly small but detailed anatomical figure of a pregnant woman.

The auction house is selling nearly everything from Olbricht’s cabinet of curiosities, around 300 items. A spokesperson tells Artnet News that highlights include highly sought-after models of plants from the Victorian era as well as a cabinet full of rare taxidermy butterflies.

There will also be around 150 to 200 lots of works of modern and contemporary art. Notable lots include a painting by the German artist Daniel Richter, which has a presale estimate of between €150,000 ($177,000) and €350,000 ($413,680) and an early Cindy Sherman with a high estimate of €120,000 ($141,830). The top lot is George Condo’s 2005 work Screaming Couple that is estimated to sell for between €300,000 ($354,590) and €500,000 ($591,000).

The collector recently retired to his hometown of Essen with his wife, Claudia Olbricht, where he plans to focus his energy on youth mediation.


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