Design & Decoration S01 ep13: Konrad Bernheimer, Bernheimer Antiques, [Munich]
Interview with Konrad Bernheimer
It's a very complex relationship which you build up with a painting. I try to have every painting I buy for the first few days or weeks in my office. If a picture really is as good as you hoped that is should be it has to grow. Every time you look at it it becomes even better.
KM: What is Konrad Bernheimer?
I am a fourth generation Art Dealers, but having said that I am the first picture
dealer - my great grandfather started his first business here in Munich in1864
but this was more of a general antiques and interior decorator.
KM: Why did he do it?
I guess because there was a long tradition in the family, I mean even long
before my great grandfather, of dealing in fabrics. They started very early, as
early as the 1870's to travel to Istanbul to buy antiques.
KM: Ah, even oriental pieces?
Yes, my great grandfather was the first importer of Antique Turkish carpets
into Germany and in the 19th century they had that tradition of cabinet making
and of furniture making was still very much a German thing and my great
grandfather had fantastic workshops.
I think the secret, a very simple secret is to have very good visual memory.
That is it.
Yes, I almost know exactly when I see a painting. Oh I have seen this it was in
a book, on the right hand side, top. When my grandfather for instance who
went with me very often to different museums here in Munich. He was more
interested in the depiction of fabrics in the paintings. He would point out look at
the fabric, look at this, look at that detail and I looked at it but then I discovered
What I really love is to see in a piece, different cultures.
KM: In what respect?
For instance in my dinning room I have one of those very rare English
tapestries made in the late 17th century with a wonderful mixture of Chinese,
Indian and African figures, people. - Exotic.
KM: Ah, in other words, so the people weaving were smoking marijuana at that
Something, something weird, right.
Or a Venetian blackenmoore, or you know - things, which have been done in a
different culture, depicting another people's culture.
KM: Their interpretation of another way of thinking.
Exactly - Chinoisery right but seen with the eye of a French man.
The concept of art today is different - it has much more to do with the
personality of the artist. So if I want to be convinced about a contemporary
artist and his work I have to be convinced by his personality. He has to
convince me of what he wants to say with what he is doing.
KM: But how does he do that?
It is not just the workmanship - in the old masters it was very often first of all
And sometimes, for the great geniuses of course, it was the fantastic
workmanship and the very strong personality at the same time - take Leonardo
and Michelangelo. For many lesser-known artists of the 17th and 18th century it
was the workmanship and sometimes not so much their personality. You even
don't know even their personality. Today it is different, it is not so much the
KM: But is that ..
It is the idea, it is the concept and this is why the personality of the artist has to
be so strong.
KM: What makes a fashion designer successful?
It is exactly that combination of good workmanship and his personality behind
The first very major discovery was a big disappointment at the same time.
.. and taught me a lot of things. I was still a student and I saw in a small
auction here in Munich it looked very dirty, didn't look very important but I
looked at it and I was convinced that this was a masterpiece. I was convinced
that it was a Baltazar Fantastique, so I bought it for very little money and I had
if for some time and then when I took over the family firm I put it in the…… no
I still had it in my office I think, until a dealer came and asked what I had there.
I believe it is a Baltazar Fantastique! He said in a very shrewd much older art
dealer voice, Oh no I mean this is pure fantasy but it is a nice picture, how
much is it. Well I said, I believe it is a Baltazar Fantastique, but to make a long
story short I sold it for some profit, but I mean for the price of a copy. Until a
very short time later this painting came up or was shown at an Art Fair at this
man's stand for a huge price. Of course it was a Baltazar Fantastique.
KM: You are kidding me!
So I learnt a lot then.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Konrad Bernheimer, Bernheimer Antiques, Munich