Meeting of minds puts art in the eye of the beholder

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Arts Correspondent

Those who don't know much about art, but know what they like, will have a field day in May when the Tate Gallery begins exhibiting a controversial collection loaned by a multi-millionaire Austrian industrialist.

Josef Froehlich, 61, has acquired 320 works by German and American artists - all created in the last 30 years - since retiring from the automotive industry.

Among them are early pieces by Andy Warhol, including portraits of Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy and a self-portrait, Early Self.

Also due to be exhibited over the four-year loan period are works by Carl Andre, who created the notorious "pile of bricks" - otherwise known as Equivalent VIII - which attracted outrage when bought by the Tate.

The Froehlich Foundation will also be loaning works by another radical, Joseph Beuys, who is a favourite of the Tate's director, Nicholas Serota.

Eyebrows were raised by Mr Serota's 1991 purchase of Beuys' The End of the Twentieth Century, an assortment of basalt blocks which cost almost pounds 700,000. Such purchases have been blamed for government cuts in the gallery's purchase grant.

The Froehlich collection also includes works by the US artists Cy Twombly, Bruce Nauman - who created the neon work which flashes the words "Human Nature Knows/Doesn't Know" on and off - and Richard Artschwager, including his Chair Chair.

Other German artists who feature are Blinky Palermo, Sigmar Polke, Georg Baselitz and Gerhard Richter. The first display begins in May.

Mr Froehlich began his collection in 1980 and said yesterday it had grown out of buying objects and artworks "to decorate his sitting-room". But as his purchases grew in value, many had to be kept in storage.

"This is a great opportunity for the collection to be shown to a truly international audience," he said, "although my wife is already crying, `What are we going to do when everything is on loan?' "