From Susan Moore’s interview with Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza in April’s Apollo
Thyssen has a passionate interest in the ancient world. It is a passion that is multifaceted, for Thyssen is not only a collector – primarily of Roman coins, silver and statuary – but also an enthusiastic supporter of archaeology and research, and an increasingly serious scholar. Next month, he will add another and rather less expected string to his bow by opening Kallos, a commercial gallery in London devoted exclusively to Greek antiquities.
Strikingly, antiquities were one of the few areas in which his industrialist grandfather and father – Heinrich and Hans-Heinrich (‘Heini’) – did not collect (it took Philip Wilson Publishers 16 volumes to catalogue the vast and various holdings of the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection). ‘No one in my family ever collected antiquities. I didn’t have a classical education at school and I certainly did not know that you could actually buy museum-quality antiquities,’ Thyssen begins, as he lights another cigarette and we settle on the terrace in the warm February sunshine to drink the first of countless espressos.
He did, however, inherit the collecting gene. He describes his mother, the former model Fiona Campbell-Walter – the source of his impeccable English – as a frustrated antiques dealer. ‘Even though my parents divorced when I was quite young, I grew up surrounded by beautiful things and it is hard to remain totally unmoved,’ he concludes. As a boy he collected stamps and coins and was a keen photographer, and he remembers taking arty black and white photographs of the gold boxes belonging to a friend of his mother’s. This was his first exposure to an art form that was to become the initial focus of his collecting. When his father asked all his children to choose which parts of his collection that they would like to keep, he chose the gold boxes as well as the Islamic carpets currently on loan to Berlin’s Staatliche Museen. He also nabbed four of the paintings not selected as part of the cache ultimately sold to the Spanish government and now housed in the Palacio de Villahermosa in Madrid. He is especially fond of Cézanne’s Fruit Garden of 1885–86.
[…] As for his new venture, the idea of opening a gallery had been ‘rattling around at the back of my mind for the last seven or eight years’. Although he argues that ‘everyone would accuse me of cherry-picking if I dealt in what I also collect’, it is tempting to see this foray into Greek art, at least in part, as an opportunity to indulge further his collecting impulse. ‘It is hard not to fall in love with Greek art,’ Thyssen concedes, ‘and if I did collect it, these would be the pieces.’
Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza was interviewed by Susan Moore in Apollo’s April issue.
Kallos Gallery, 14–16 Davies St, London, is due to open on 15 May 2014.