Starting in the 1980s, Ursula Hauser quietly began building what has become one of the world’s most impressive private collections of modern and contemporary art. ‘My journey as a collector started at a young age and the motivation has remained constant,’ says Hauser. ‘The starting point is always a direct and personal engagement with the work of art.’
Ursula Hauser built her collection through an instinctive process, seeking out artists that she feels an affinity with, acquiring works by visionary figures from the 20th and 21st Centuries including Eva Hesse, Maria Lassnig, Carol Rama, Franz West and many others. More often than not, Hauser has gone on to build close friendships with artists—from Jason Rhoades and Paul McCarthy to Louise Bourgeois and Roni Horn—in a process of active exchange.
In 1992, together with son-in-law Iwan Wirth and daughter Manuela, Ursula Hauser founded the gallery Hauser & Wirth, whose quarterly art magazine ‘Ursula’ takes its name from the art world materfamilias. The Hauser & Wirth Collection has developed in parallel with the gallery, comprising the personal collections of Ursula Hauser, and Iwan and Manuela Wirth. Located near St. Gallen, Switzerland, where it presents annual exhibitions, the collection was previously shown publicly in the former locomotive depot ‘Lokremise’ in St. Gallen from 1999 – 2004.
‘The role of the collector or patron is that of a custodian, to look after the work and keep the artists’ legacy alive.’—Ursula Hauser
For over four decades, Ursula Hauser has collected the work of female artists, long before equality in the visual arts became a talking point. ‘In the past,’ says Hauser, ‘these artists did not have a platform but I’m encouraged to see that is changing.’ Last year’s landmark exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, ‘Unconscious Landscape. Works from the Ursula Hauser Collection,’ presented 65 works by female artists including Louise Bourgeois, Heidi Bucher, Sonia Gomes, Eva Hesse, Sheila Hicks, Maria Lassnig, Lee Lozano, Meret Oppenheim, Carol Rama, Sylvia Sleigh and Alina Szapocznikow.
Rinascimento+ is founded on the grounds of the Renaissance, a history that is inseparable from names such as Medici, Sassetti, Tornabuoni, Gondi, Rucellai and Strozzi. ‘It was from the passions of enlightened individuals, their tastes, their refined thinking, that modern museums were born, starting with the Uffizi,’ explains Sergio Risaliti, artistic director of the Museo Novecento. ‘The private dimension extended to the public one, and a privilege originally experienced in the private sphere was shared with a wider audience.’
Today, Ursula Hauser is focused primarily on her collection and is dedicated to sharing this with the public, actively lending to exhibitions worldwide. In the last two decades, exhibitions dedicated to the Ursula Hauser Collection have been held at institutions in Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. For Hauser, ‘the role of the collector or patron is that of a custodian, to look after the work and keep the artists’ legacy alive.’ Her dynamic engagement with artists and collecting of their work in depth has made her collection a unique resource for scholars and arts professionals alike. ‘It is very important to me that the works in my collection continue to be exhibited and can continue to be seen and experienced by wide audiences,’ says Hauser, ‘because I feel that art has the relevance to connect to all humankind.’
Learn more about Ursula Hauser’s encounters with artists and collecting in the Hauser & Wirth Publishers title ‘The Inner Mirror: Conversations with Ursula Hauser, Art Collector’ available in both English and German.
Presented on Sunday 23 February 2020 by Museo Novecento in collaboration with MUS.E., recipients of the first edition of Rinascimento+ are Laurent Asscher, Paolo Fresco, Rosella Nesi and Ursula Hauser.