Image: What I Buy and Why
Installation view, Yan Pei-Ming, Against the Light, 2020. © Yan Pei-Ming. Photo: Ulrich Ghezzi
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What I Buy and Why

November 9, 2020

What I Buy and Why: Manufacturing Tycoon Heiner Wemhöner on the Emotional Value of Collecting and Why He’s Unafraid of Impractical Art

Kate Brown

German art collector Heiner Wemhöner follows his instincts and sense of curiosity when it comes to buying art.

The storied businessman runs the family-owned Wemhöner Surface Technologies, which specializes in machine production. He is perhaps equally well known for his art collection, which consists of more than 1,300 works and has been growing steadily since the 1980s. His ever-evolving taste spans paintings, sculpture, and video art. More recently, he has pivoted to focus on Chinese contemporary art.

In 2014, Wemhöner, who was born and is currently based in the western town of Herford, made waves when he installed parts of his collection at a disused lightbulb factory in Berlin, including works by Tony Cragg, Alfredo Jaar, and Isaac Julien, among others.

What was your most recent purchase?

A work by the Chinese artist Yan Pei-Ming from the current exhibition at Thaddaeus Ropac. It is a tondo—an oval-shaped canvas showing an eagle landing to attack. Actually, I always want to see art live before I decide to purchase it. But since traveling is almost impossible at the moment, I have only seen the work as a photograph so far. But what I saw enthused me so much that I just couldn’t resist.

Installation view, Yan Pei-Ming, Against the Light, 2020. © Yan Pei-Ming. Photo: Ulrich Ghezzi

Installation view, Yan Pei-Ming, Against the Light, 2020. © Yan Pei-Ming. Photo: Ulrich Ghezzi

Heiner Wemhöner. Courtesy Artnet and Wemhœner Collection

Heiner Wemhöner. Courtesy Artnet and Wemhœner Collection

Installation view of Yan Pei-Ming's Against the Light at Thaddaeus Ropac Salzburg Villa Kast Installation view of Yan Pei-Ming's Against the Light at Thaddaeus Ropac Salzburg Villa Kast
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