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Ursula Hauser on encounters with artists and collecting

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Ursula Hauser, 1957

Ursula Hauser’s interest in art and collecting goes back to the 1950s, when she acquired her first sculpture while still a young woman in training, studying textiles. Over the ensuing decades, she has thoughtfully forged one of the world’s most important private collections of modern and contemporary art. Her passion for collecting is focused on painting and on what she calls ‘the other sculpture.’ It is not the pleasing ‘beautiful’ picture that fascinates her but rather work that may be raw, unpolished, and, on occasion, even disturbing. Hauser instinctively seeks out art that touches her emotionally, that is both personally and intellectually challenging.

The moment she acquires a work, she has it installed or mounted in a suitable place in her proximity. She is a collector who lives with her art and engages in an active exchange with those who have created it. Thus, studio visits have become a fixed ritual, an indispensable constituent of her encounters with art. They exemplify her need to become acquainted with the people behind the art, to find out more about their lives and thoughts, and to investigate the untold ways in which the human condition may acquire concrete shape in the form and material of a work. Many close friendships with artists have grown over the years, and it is telling and, indeed, extremely impressive, to hear this collector speak lovingly of ‘artist family,’ revealing how deeply she values these relationships that are of such crucial significance for her.

—Michaela Unterdörfer

‘Pipilotti belonged to the family… We spent a lot of time together. I often went to her studio and we had a lot of personal contact as well. She is a collector herself, collects clothes and secondhand things, anything in which there is life, proof of life—and then incorporates these things into her work.’

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Berlinde De Bruyckere and Ursula with ‘Courtyard tales‘ (2017–2018) © Berlinde De Bruyckere
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Pipilotti Rist, St.Gallen, 1999

‘The way Berlinde renders the material of the sculpture, the many layers and transparency of the skin, in her drawings is simply superb. She does that when she works a sculpture in wax, and she does the same thing in the drawing. And she has found a new way to present sculpture.’

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Franz West, Am 28. (On 28th), 1999, collage for Ursula’s birthday
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Ursula with Meret Oppenheim’s ‘Pelzhandschuhe (Fur Gloves with Wooden Fingers)’ (1936) and ‘Lune, Soleil et Oeuf‘ (1953)

‘I have always been deeply impressed by the way women carve a place for themselves. Meret Oppenheim once said that freedom is not given to you, you have to take it.’

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Ursula with Bharti Kher in Somerset, 2018
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Ursula with Roman Signer, 1992

‘Roman’s actions taught me that you can’t simply plan art on the drawing board. He took a different path, working with natural elements and process. You never knew how it would come out. That fascinated me!’

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Jason Rhoades on The Future Is Filled with Opportunities (Ridable Steer), 1995 in Los Angeles, 1995
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Ursula in Los Angeles, 1992

‘Jason’s work was provocative. Most people just threw their hands up, pooh-poohed it instead of asking them-selves: how did this come about? Where do we stand now? I enjoy trying to answer questions like that.’

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Paul McCarthy, Jason Rhoades, Richard Jackson, and Iwan Wirth, Lokremise, St.Gallen, 1998
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Paul McCarthy and Ursula in the artist’s studio, with a model for White Snow Dwarf, Sleepy # 1 (Midget), 2010 © Paul McCarthy

‘The artists were always involved! Nothing ever happened without getting everyone together… We didn’t want a white cube where you simply hang art. We were constantly consulting Paul or Jason: How? What? Tell us? What do you think? They were informed about everything and involved in what we wanted to do.’—Ursula Hauser

Important works from Ursula’s collection are featured in ‘Unconscious Landscape. Works from the Ursula Hauser Collection’ from 25 May – 8 September 2019.