The Berlin art dealer Torsten Bröhan is admired in expert circles for the spectacular sale of his so-called Bauhaus Collection (according to Chinese officials and media) to China. Because unlike paintings and fine art in general, the sale of design objects rarely fetches high sums.
Who exactly is this Torsten Bröhan? „As a young boy of 14 or 15, I was already interested in Bauhaus,“ Bröhan says and shows how well he can combine great feelings with great business deals.
Torsten Bröhan is primarily a friendly elderly gentleman who lives in Berlin and has written numerous reference books: “Glasskunst der Moderne [Glass art of the modern age]“, Munich 1992; “Avantgarde Design 1880-1930“, Cologne 2001; “Glass of the Avant-Garde“, Munich 2001.
The father of the design-crazy businessman was a famous art collector: Karl H. Bröhan (1921 – 2000), a Hamburg medical entrepreneur who sold his company in the middle of the 1960s, moved to West Berlin and from then on dedicated himself to his passion: art. Bröhan senior built up an impressive collection of 16,000 works from the Art Noveau, Art Deco and Functionalism movements, which he donated to the city of Berlin in 1981. This exhibits Bröhan’s treasures in a museum named after him.
Father Karl H. Bröhan already started hording animal pictures and cigarette inserts at the age of eight. Son Torsten tried to build on the legend. And the way it looks, he actually managed to do so. However not in Germany but in China.
Retrospection: 1983 Torsten Bröhan opened a gallery for design classics and became the pioneer for dealing in decorative art. In 1992, however, he had to close again and sell his stock.
Bröhan switched to consulting and made his expert knowledge available to important institutes such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert in London, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin.
Bröhan, however, did not lose his business sense. In 1997 he was involved in the establishment of the Global Art Fund of the German DZ-Bank in Luxemburg as fund manager, where investors could participate in a top-class collection in order to profit from its appreciation. Quite astonishing gains were actually achieved: almost 40% within a short period of time! 2000 however the fund was closed.
On the occasion of the third auction of a design Collection by Sotheby’s in 2005, the New York Times wrote an enthusiastic profile to the German dealer, which paints a picture of a friendly expert in his field with a well developed business sense who keeps on building up collections in order to unload them at a profit.
The auction was meant to finance his Bröhan Design Foundation. There he wanted „to establish an online archive of 20th and 21st century design and promote innovation in contemporary design“, said Bröhan.
In 2008 the next homage to Torsten Bröhan appeared, this time in the Financial Times where he was allowed to advertise his next sale. Once again a Bröhan Collection was to be unloaded. This time, however, to a buyer who would have to build a museum specifically for it. Bröhan: “It should be in a large city, somewhere with enough of a cultural infrastructure to guarantee the largest possible flow of visitors.” To a large extent, this is obviously the collection that created such a furor in China a few years later as the so-called Bauhaus Collection (according to Chinese officials and media).
There Bröhan found a buyer matching his taste in 2010 – the rich Chinese city of Hangzhou. A design museum is built, that in parts is dedicated to the name Bröhan as reported by the weekly magazine Nanbu Zhoukan. And Bröhan is supposed be awarded an honorary professorship at the China Academy of Art, it says there. (Source: Nanbu Zhoukan, verification not possible)..
His father Karl H. Bröhan would certainly have liked this.
*We have asked Torsten Bröhan for a comment on this issues. So far, no such comment has been received.
(picture: Jan Frommel)