News from the collection

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Udomsak Krisanamis has been a prominent figure in the Thai contemporary art scene for over the past three decades, and is best known for his distinct collage technique experimenting with everyday objects and found materials including but not limited to newsprints, cartons, noodles, maps, and paint, offering a unique imagery that is both formal and conceptual. His journey has been volatile, with great recognition, e.g., through shows in Sydney Biennnale (1998), Museum of Modern Art (1998), Kunsthalle Basel (2003), Museum of Tokyo (2012) or the Mori Art Museum Tokyo (2017). After a quieter period it is wonderful to see Udomsak Krisanamis regain recognition, e.g., in the recent SEA Focus show during Singapore Art Week. Tim Neuger and Burkhard Riemschneider have been great advisors for our collection and we are grateful we could get to know Udomsak Krisanamis through them. And we are thrilled to welcome one of his major works in our collection.

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Kim Yun Shin’s story is quite unique. A committed, inspiring female Korean artist, born in North Korea, a true now in her 80s. She is a pioneering figure in the post-war South Korean art scene, overcoming societal norms to carve out a space for herself as a first-generation woman sculptor. Her journey from turbulent beginnings during the Japanese colonial period and Korean War to becoming a trailblazer in Korean contemporary art reflects the artist’s personal resilience and commitment to artistic innovation. Still, till recently, Kim Yun Shin was hardly known in the international art scene, and not represented internationally. This turned dramatically over the past 2 years, with representation by Lehmann Maupin and Kukje Gallery, and solo shows in South Korea in the Park Soo Keun Museum and the Nam-Seoul Museum of Art, as well as in the 60th Venice Biennale. When Lehmann Maupin’s Shasha Tittmann introduced Kim Yun Shin to us, we were immediately inspired by her craft and spirit. We are delighted to welcome an inspiring sculpture from Kim Yun Shin in our collection.

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The modern art scene is still an emerging domain in Singapore. And hence the Art Week in January is an exciting highlight for us and an important stepping stone to bring Singapore onto the global modern art map. The fair this year we felt was smaller but stronger compared to last year, with some interesting young artists and aspiring new galleries present, as well as of course some of the “global gallery champions”. Two highlights for us in that week: first and foremost, a wonderful dinner hosted by Shasha Tittmann and the Lehmann Maupin team bringing together artists, curators, art lovers in a unique Singapore setting to have chili crab; secondly the show SEA Focus hosted by Singapore gallery STPI and few others which truly showed exceptional artists like Udomsak Krisanamis. It is great to see the commitment Singapore makes to develop itself into an art hub.

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If we could travel times, one of the periods and places we would love to experience is indeed Vienna around 1900. The reinvigorated exhibition in the Vienna Leopold Museum which we visited over the Christmas break frames a wonderful, holistic picture of Vienna around 1900: when geniuses across all domains came together in this city, back then one of the largest cities in the world, a cultural and ethnical melting pot and one of the most liberal places: literature, medicine, sciences, politics, psychology, philosophy, architecture, music, and of course the arts with Klimt, Schiele and many others.

When visiting Vienna, we highly recommend exploring the exhibition and imagine yourself back into that unique moment in time.

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German expressionism, and specifically the “Blaue Reiter” group, has been one of the first periods in art that I was shown when I was a child by my mother in the Lenbachhaus in Munich and at other exhibitions. One person that I had wrongly memorized mainly as Kandinsky’s wife – but who actually – was a formidable, inspiring artist and a leader at the heart of the group, is Gabriele Muenter. When visiting family in Vienna I had the pleasure to explore her works in a dedicated exhibition in the Albertina. What a joy of color, emotion and technique. I am grateful this exhibition has reset my understanding of the group and the critical role of Gabriele Muenter, not finally receiving the acclaim she deserves.

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After some difficult years Art Basel HK is back in full swing! The creative energy and buzz were just fascinating. It is wonderful to see that Asia’s most relevant art gathering has come back!

This year we were specifically intrigued by the leading Singaporean artist Suzann Victor who we had not known before. Her work uses optics and glass in combination with traditional canvas to create unlimited visual effects. Maybe we will soon have a work from her in our collection 😉

Special thanks to galleries 10 Chancery Lane, Lehman Maupin, neugerriemschneider, STPI and Take Ninagawa for hosting us at various events. It was wonderful to reconnect with the Hong Kong and Asia art scene.

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Nara has created an iconic image: the child face, sometimes grumpy, sometimes charming, always with a subtle touch in the way the children grasp your look.

It was deeply inspiring to see the comprehensive exhibition of Yoshimoto Nara’s journey in Albertina modern in Vienna. What made this exhibition special was the strict chronological order which allowed to follow Nara’s journey and how he found and evolved these iconic images.

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Singapore aspires to become a new hub for contemporary art. And the Art Singapore 2023, after several mixed attempts of such fairs in the past, expressed a strong statement on this journey. While it is not the vibe of Art Basel Hong Kong, and many visitors still felt a bit restrained, the fair was an exciting highlight for the still humble, yet growing art scene in Singapore.

For us, it was wonderful to see friends from across Asia and explore some of the local galleries more thoroughly. And we ever again feel inspired when seeing the dreamy works of Izumi Kato, as depicted here, one of our favorite artists.

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Hong Kong has become a special place for us, yet we also deeply value our roots in Austria and Germany respectively. When Tim Neuger introduced us to this work of German artist Tobias Rehberger from 2017 during Art Singapore we were immediately excited: the neon lights remind of the good old Hong Kong, the irony of the freedom for the fish, underpinned by the Chinese characters for „freedom“, and the smiling Chinese fisherman.

Tobias Rehberger, a renowned German artist, sends strong, ironic political messages through his installations. We are excited that this work will complement our collection of Asian art with social and political messages, this time also connecting with our home in Europe. Thank you to gallery neugerriemschneider for the support in this purchase.

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6-4 marks a very special combination of numbers in China and beyond. It is not only representing the date of the Tian’anmen crack-down, but also important in Chinese philosophy and mythology.

When a friend of ours referred us to this sculpture work of Huang Rui we were immediately excited. Its steel and wood express raw energy and the combination of Chinese characters gives pause to reflect on these numbers, the date and its history.

Huang Rui is known as a leader of the Star Group, the first contemporary art movement in China, and his work expresses strong social and cultural challenge. Huang Rui’s work has been widely exhibited, both in China and abroad, over the last three decades, and he is represented in many of the world’s leading collections, including M+ and The Guggenheim Collection.

We are thrilled to have this 2nd work of Huang Rui in The Kotanko Collection.

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10 Chancery Lane is one of our favorite galleries and Katie de Tilly is a true sponsor of the art scene in Hong Kong, and a dear friend. The autumn exhibition „Spacious“ brought together intriguing sculptures from a variety of leading Asian artists, among them also Vietnamese Bui Cong Khanh.

In the spirit of our collection’s focus on political and social themes in Asia, and also based on our deep affection for Vietnam and interest in its troubling history, we could not resist to purchase „North and South“, a pairing of two vases, done in traditional techniques and depicting the symbols of the opposing armies in the Vietnam war in an elegant yet disturbing manner. As a side note, these are our first vases in our collection.

Bui Cong Khanh is one of Vietnam’s most intriguing young artists. His work explores historical and contemporary issues in Vietnam. As one of the first local artist to gain international recognition during the 1990s, Khanh embraces painting and sculpture to express his fascination with the complex history of Vietnam.

See more at

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It is unique to see such an impressive collection of works from impressive yet tragic artist Jean Michel Basquiat. Virtually no other artist comes anywhere close to being as representative of the 1980s and that decade’s pulsating New York art scene as does the brilliantly exceptional artistic phenomenon that was Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat’s meteoric career can seem something like fast-forwarding through a movie filled with sequences where the principal character interacts with his era’s most significant artists, including David Bowie and Madonna. Moreover, Basquiat also maintained an inspiring friendship with Andy Warhol. His paintings were soon in extremely high demand, appreciating rapidly in value—and by 1982, he had become both the youngest-ever participant in documenta 7 and the first world-famous artist with Afro-American-Caribbean roots. Basquiat was unable to withstand the challenge posed by this quick success for long, however, and he died of a drug overdose in 1988.

We visited the Basquiat retrospective as a 3-generation team with Bernhard’s parents and our children. And it was unique to see how the works inspired, touched, energized, provoked all of us instantaneously.

The show also epitomized the quality of Albertina as one of the world’s premier art museums. See more at


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Albertina Modern becomes more and more a place for truly outstanding exhibitions! For the fall/winter season, the focus is on abstract expressionism of the New York School, combining iconic works from Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko with Austrian leading representatives including Arnulf Rainer and Maria Lassnig, as well as a suite of mainly US artists we were less familiar with, notably Helen Frankenthaler, Barnett Newman and Robert Motherwell. The energy from all these works is truly special and we can only recommend visiting before the exhibition closes 23 Jan.

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Over the holidays I had the pleasure to explore Vienna’s art exhibitions, including my first visit to the new Heidi Horten Collection. The current exhibition „Look“ celebrates women and is a truly impressive show, tackling the “look” of women and looking at women. The show takes us through a journey on how women have been depicted in art and shaped art. And it showcases Ms. Horten’s passion for fashion including great designs from YSL and others. My favorite work in the show is an Anselm Kiefer sculpture of a white dress and big books on top. I also loved the Andy Warhol works and greats portrait done by Francis Bacon and Gerhard Richter, respectively. Overall, the new collection and museum are a great addition to the Vienna art scene!

See more at


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John Silvis is not only a renowned international art advisor, he is for us foremost a friend who inspires us  in our joy and interest for art. Ever since the first meeting in New York many years back we have enjoyed the exploration of artists and their work, the debate about commercialization of the art industry and the search for the true essence in art. We are pleased to share notes from a recent conversation with John about art. Please also look at for more!


John, what brought you to contemporary art?

My passion for art began in high school, where I was opened up to the world of ideas. I also had several family friends who were passionate art collectors and presented art as viable enterprise. I first began as maker, then academic and eventually realized that I enjoyed being in integral part of the dialogue between artists, collectors, galleries and museums.


You advise clients on their collections. What defines good art for you?

The kind of art that draws me in has a strong autographical component. I am also interested in artists that have a strong cultural grounding and yet discover something new within those parameters. Artists who have a generosity of vision by investing in their respective communities and contributing to those less established in the art world are of particular interest to me. I guess I would characterize that as a wholistic vision for art.


You look at art globally. Our collection focuses on Asia and Austria. How different is art across regions? And what are commonalities you see?

As an advisor I have the privilege of viewing art all over the world; I think it is important for me to see art in its created context and the culture to truly appreciate the full scope of the work. One of my favorite aspects of being an advisor is to talk to with artists in their studios and see the creative process in motion.

The common theme for most artists is to find exposure for their work and have a strong community to work in. The artists that do best in every culture have a strong critique and support system. Of course each culture presents different challenges; however the advent of the internet and Instagram has allowed much greater cross-pollination globally–both for the makers, as well as galleries and collectors. I see so many more opportunities for artists to present their work than in any other time in history.

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We are excited to welcome a Nepalese artist Tsherin Sherpa in The Kotanko Collection.

Tsherin Sherpa has just represented Nepal at the 59th Venice Biennale with a solo exhibition, marking the first time that Nepal is participating in this preeminent art event. Sherpa began studying traditional Tibetian painting at the age of 12, with his father Master Urgen Dorje Sherpa who was a renowned traditional thangka painter. Now living between California and Kathmandu, Sherpa then developed his very own unique style, reimagining traditional motifs resolutely placed in contemporary compositions of great social relevance.

The work we selected together with Fabio Rossi at Rossi & Rossi gallery in Hong Kong features school children on their way crossing a valley, which is based on a real situation, framed with traditional Nepalese motifs.

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When Shasha Tittmann from Lehman Maupin gallery showed us Erwin Wurm’s sculpture „Trip“ we immediately felt connected as it ironically plays with our intense travel life. Erwin Wurm is important for us, not only as one of the most globally recognized Austrian artist. Foremost we love his humorous approach which yet goes deep into truths about society and challenges us in an ironic way with a big smile, which we actually feel is quite typical for Austria.

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Herbert Boeckl’s work „Haeuser und Baeume in Wien“ (houses and trees in Vienna) is the oldest work in our collection, dating from 1929, and may not fully fit our collection’s core scope of Austrian Modern Art. Yet, Herbert Boeckl (1894-1966) is not only a preeminent representative of Austrian 20th century art, but also, on a more personal note, one of our favorite artists because of his expressive, yet sensitive use of color. Living through tragic periods in Austria he was central to bringing Austrian modern art back onto the international stage,  notably at the Venice Biennale 1949. We would like to thank Galerie Magnet for support in this acquisition.

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Eli Klein is a true specialist for modern Chinese art and has become a prime partner for our collection. Thanks to Eli and his team, we had the privilege to get to know some of our favorite artists from Greater  China – notably Zheng Guogu, Shen Fan, Chow Chun Fai and Ho Kan. Whenever we are in New York we enjoy Eli’s passion and expertise for modern Chinese art.

For those interested find out more at

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Who would have believed that the small town of Engelhartszell, along the river Danube in Upper Austria, is home to an impressive collection of modern Chinese art, combined with Austrian art of the early 20th century! Museum Schuetz exhibits the Schuetz family’s private collection and is worth the trip into the countryside! I was specifically impressed by two Chinese artists: Wu Shaoxing and Jiang Shuo, as well as an Austrian artist I had not known, Ernst Nepo.

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While in Munich I visited together with my parents the Hubert Scheibl exhibition in Galerie Wolfgang Jahn. Hubert is a dear friend of ours and we are excited to have 3 of his impressive, energizing works in our collection. The show „In den Schnee geschrieben“ featured new works and also new techniques. The most powerful in my view is the image of ice – a celebration of the power of water and ice, yet also a stark warning of climate change.

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This summer I had the chance to visit the Whitney Biennal 2022, this year titled“ Quiet as it’s kept“. The show provides an diverse survey of the American art scene as it processes the grief of the last two years. Among the many intriguing works I was most touched by Rebecca Belmore’s work „Ishkode“ which means fire. It shows a figure surrounded by bullets and expresses for so many of today’s problems: solitude, fear, violence. I wish the next Biennal will return to predominantly positive signatures rather than the many serious, sad and concerning works of this year…

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Lee Bul is an iconic artist and is known in particular for her modern metal sculptures. We decided to acquire a work from her Perdu series, which we appreciate for its strong feminist message, yet points to a greater harmony. The blend of biomorphic and cybertronic forms, as well as the combination of acrylic paint and Mother of Pearl, had great appeal for us.

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When Leo Xu (David Zwirner, Hong Kong) introduced us to Li Qing’s works of old Shanghainese windows, which are carefully painted to connect the old and new of Shanghai, we were immediately intrigued by his work. Shanghai is our favorite city in China, a beautiful display of China’s history that now has a bold presence in the contemporary context. Li Qing’s window paintings connect us with the iconic stories and great histories of the city. It has become one of our favorite works in the collection and receives great recognition from our visitors.

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Nitsch’s oeuvre represents pure energy and reminds me of the spiritual genesis of life. We arereally happy we have one of his large-scale works from the 1980s in our collection, which is one of the intense and poignant periods of his creation. Looking at the intense red and the shirt on the canvas, embodies a raw and bold/mystical and spiritual energy. We appreciate the support from Galerie Krinzinger in this purchase.

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The Kotanko Collection has a strong focus on Asian political art. And who if not Ai Weiwei would be the best artist to represent some of the political struggles in China. In that spirit we are delighted to purchase an iconic work from Ai Weiwei, the Free Speech Puzzle. It epitomizes outstanding traditional Chinese handcraft and technique, as well as being a powerful and humble statement to advocate freedom of speech. We also thank the gallery Neugerriemschneider for the partnership in this purchase, and our art advisor John Silvis. For those interested in Ai Weiwei’s work we also strongly recommend his solo retrospective at the Albertina Modern museum in Vienna, which is on view until 4.September, 2022.

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Art Basel (Basel) is the preeminent global art fair and it was great to experience  the 2022 edition. Art Basel was as strong as usual and never disappoints! It was especially meaningful to share this time with my mother, who is also an art lover and nurtured my passion for art since my childhood, as well as with my friend and art expert John Silvis. After 2 difficult COVID years Art Basel 2022 felt “back to normal” with the crowds of global art aficionados strolling the hallways along galleries from all over the world. Reflecting on my fair visit 3 highlights stand out for me: First, the expansive, powerful works in the “Unlimited” show, most notably Leonardo Drew’s Number 341, which is a wild explosion reminding us of the destructive forces in the world. Second, the variety of woven art works, including a notable tapestry work by Shannon Bool. Third, and foremost, the wonderful spirit of the art community and the energy I get from meeting old friends and making new art friends. In this spirit I would like to especially thank galleries neugerriemschneider, Krinzinger and Lehman Maupin for hosting me.

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John Silvis (JS): How would you describe The Kotanko Collection?

Cordula Kotanko (CK): Our collection is foremost a personal passion. We enjoy how art stimulates our mind and our soul. We collect a wide variety of art yet the common pattern is that it needs to touch, sometimes challenge us. That has been true from the very beginning of us collecting and is even more important for us today. Our collection has evolved over time, just as we have grown. We specifically seek to immerse ourselves in the art around us that has a personal connection.

Bernhard Kotanko (BK):

Bernhard Kotanko (BK):We started collecting emerging artists, typically works that attracted us visually and artists that expressed a strong passion for new ideas. Examples of these artists would include Lorella Paleni or Paula Baader. Living in Vienna we immersed ourselves in the Austrian contemporary art culture, especially the powerful abstract artists like Hubert Scheibl, Hans Staudacher or Hermann Nitsch. Moving to Asia exposed us all to an entirely new culture. And art became a way for us to engage with the social and political dynamics in this broad, heterogeneous region. We deliberately sought artists with strong messaging, like Liu Chuang’s works about Chinese migrant workers or Din Q Le’s works on the Cambodia and Vietnam atrocities. We also have been fascinated by the Star Group in China, the first real modern art movement after Mao and are excited to have works from Huang Rui and Ma Desheng in our collection.

JS: How do you shape and curate your collection?

BK: First and foremost, we are curious and explore a lot of different kinds of art. We enjoy walking through galleries, museums, art fairs and also discover wonderful art on the internet; We immerse ourselves in the local art scene and learn about new artists. It is inspiring to meet artists and friends who are excited about art! And we discuss how we feel about the art works, what we like and how the works impact us. We are not particularly concerned about public recognition or market success of an artist.    

CK: Bernhard and I originally focused on collecting paintings but over the past few years expanded into first photography, e.g., a major work on the Human Rights convention from Lukas Hueller or recently an intriguing work from Yang Yongliang, and then added sculptures and installations, e.g., from Izumi Kato and Michael Joo, or a major light work from Brigitte Kowanz. Another strong light piece is The Irony of Worship by Tuan Andrew Nguyen, which turns an old Asian cart into an altar to celebrate the pangolin and criticize how humans quest in Asia for mystic energy has made some animal species almost extinct. So our collection on one hand has quite a clear scope, but within this scope the Kotanko Collection is broad and diverse.

JS: Where do you see your collection in a few years?

CK: I hope we will further move into a wider variety of media in our collection. We recently acquired our first video work – Florence Lee’s Elephant in a Castle; a young artist who reflects on the Hong Kong protests which we experienced first-hand. The work received wide attention in global film festivals and competitions. For us it importantly expresses the deep emotions about Hong Kong. I hope we will have more videos and different media in our collection. We are also discussing the advent of NFTs—but we see them mainly as a new technique, just like photography or video in the past.

BK: The overall aspiration and philosophy for our collection is certainly here to stay; especially the connection between Europe and Asia and the interest in artists that touch on the big questions in society. We hope that also through this digital platform of The Kotanko Collection, we will be able to connect with more viewers who are excited about art—especially other collectors, curators and of course artists! 

JS: What would you like visitors to experience with your collection?

CK: Maybe it is the diversity of ideas that I just described. Art expands our minds and souls, it gives us new perspectives on what we sometimes cannot see in our daily lives. And we wish that any visitors to our collection will experience and feel the diversity and richness of art.   

BK: Our collection and our passion for art is very personal. But as first our friends and then other people became interested in learning about the art works in our collection and our commitment to art, we decided that having a public presence would be a suitable way to share what art can give. For us, being with art sparks ideas, can energize or relax, can challenge us—and it is a big part of our lives. We hope that some of our passion transmits to more people around us.

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Content: John Silvis
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