Co-Founders, Griffin Art Project
Location: North Vancouver
Started Collecting: early 1970s
First artwork actively acquired: Peter Alexander, December 22, 1971, 1971
Not to sound too corny, but we are very blessed to live with art—and we take it as an honour to be living with art. Every day we go through our house and we look at the pieces. Every day we look at each other and say, “You know what? We have done very well.”
In the 1970s and early ’80s, when we started collecting, there was a very good gallery in Vancouver called Ace Gallery, and the owner had a connection to Leo Castelli in New York. This allowed him to sell pieces by well-known artists like Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and so on. One of the paintings we bought early on, in 1972, was Stella’s Piaski III.
Today, we have more than 200 works in the collection, including ones by Rodney Graham, Nairy Baghramian and Julie Mehretu. Now, the main buying we do is done internationally. We tend to visit the Art Basel fair annually, and we will travel to Los
Angeles, to New York, to Berlin just to see what else is happening. British Columbia artists and California artists are two groups we focus on, as well as European artists.
“Use your own eyes. You know inside what’s right for you, what you want to live with every day.”
Seeing that the walls are full and we basically have what we want, we’re not that keen on adding too many more pieces. And yet…we just can’t stop! For one of us, Henning, it’s a disease; for the other, Brigitte, it’s a need. We will only buy what we really love, though. And we are very private with what we buy—mainly it touches our hearts before anything else. If one of us says no, it’s a no-go.
In 2015, we founded Griffin Art Projects to give back to the community. Art has given us amazing value personally—never financially. The Griffin runs independently from us, as a nonprofit gallery with its own director, team and programs, and where the basic premise is to show contemporary art that has been selected from private collections.
Right now, personally, we are more than a year into a renovation of our house; we want to add two rooms for the art. In the meantime, holes let in the rain, we have areas closed off, the dirt tracks in. But we live with the hope it will be done soon and we will have even more room to show, and to live with, art.
This post is adapted from the Canadian Art Collecting Guide, out in our Spring 2020 issue, “Influence.”