Heidi Horten: Private modernist collection goes public

How rarely is a private collection shown in a public museum? Usually collectors wish to keep their works private or if ever only lend individual pieces to institutions.

Lately the Leopold Museum, one of Vienna’s most acclaimed museums, mainly known for its huge Schiele collection, has made it possible for the public to enjoy and study a huge private collection of modern masterpieces.

The exhibition “WOW! The Heidi Horten Collection” is the first public unveiling of one of Europe’s most sensational private art collections. The exhibition fulfills the collector’s long-cherished wish to make the masterpieces she has carefully assembled since the 1990s, spanning from Gustav Klimt to Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst, available to a broad audience. The collector’s philanthropic dedication is further underscored by her support of educational programs to benefit children and adolescents, as well as weekly free admission to the museum for the general public.

The collector Heidi Goëss-Horten stated:

“The art I’ve surrounded myself and lived with has become tangible art history. Art, for me, has an element of connection. Through it, you can reach people of all ages and nationalities. The idea, then, that with this project I can help build a bridge between generations and people of different origins fills me with great joy!”

The exhibition, curated by Agnes Husslein-Arco, showcases 170 works by seventy-five artists and follows a chronological sequence of twentieth-century Western art. It also offers a unique view into the broad spectrum of art the collector has gathered over the past thirty-five years.

The Curator shared her vision:

“The mid-1990s were an exceptionally opportune time for Heidi Goëss- Horten to build her impressive collection. While the acquisition of artworks was always driven by her personal taste, she can now survey a museum-worthy collection that exemplifies how certain art movements developed over time. The exhibition at the Leopold Museum presents a unique opportunity to access an art historically significant collection, and promises an exceptionally sensual experience.”

 The history behind a unique modern art collection

Heidi Horten and her husband Helmut Horten started their art collection in the 1970s. At that time, they both focused on works of German Expressionism. Following her husband’s death in 1987, Heidi Horten decided to build her own collection based on new priorities. Disregarding prevailing trends in the art market, she concentrated on international works of Modernity, Neo-Expressionism, and American Pop Art, thereby creating a collection unique in quality and focus.

Today the Heidi Horten Collection includes some 500 paintings, graphic works, and sculptures by world-class international artists, which has resulted in a representational cross-section of art history from Modernity to the present.

Aside masterworks by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Emil Nolde, and Max Pechstein, key areas of the Heidi Horten Collection also include abstract approaches by Cy Twombly, Mark Rothko, and Ernst Wilhelm Nay, and works by prominent figures from American Pop Art like Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Roy Lichtenstein. Further strengthening its international scope are indispensable works by Marc Chagall, Georg Baselitz, Francis Bacon, Fernand Léger, Gerhard Richter, Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana, and Damien Hirst.

Click here to find out more about the exhibition at Leopold Museum, Vienna.

Open daily, except Tuesdays: 10 am – 6 pm | Thursdays: 10 am – 9 pm

Adress: Museumsplatz 1, Museumsquartier, 1070 Vienna (Austria)


Photo credit: Judith Bradlwarter. ©

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Image description: 
  1. Karl Appel, Animal et poisson, 1951
  2. Roy Lichtenstein, Forest scene, 1980
  3. Andy Warhol, Farah Diba, 1976
  4. Robert Rauschenberg, Dry Run, 1963
  5. Visitor looking at Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mr. Greedy, 1986
  6. Andy Warhol, Nine Multicolored Marilyns, 1979
  7. Two versions of Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, 1959
  8. Two visitors looking at Pablo Picasso, Femme Assise de Profile dans un Fauteuil Bleu, 1960 (left) and Pablo Picasso, Buste d’Homme, 1969 (right)
  9. Fernand Léger, L’Èquipe au Repos, 1943 (left) and Fernand Léger, Nature Morte, Fond Bleu, 1937 (right)
  10. Georg Baselitz, Tama, 2001 (left) and Georg Baselitz, Wieder eine schlechte Note, 1999 (right)
  11. Yves Klein, ANT 50, 1960
  12. Judith looking at Damien Hirst, Ammonium Biborate, 1993
  13. René Magritte, The Banquet, 1958 (left) and René Magritte, L’Empire des Lumiéres, not dated (right)
  14. Henri Matisse, Jeune Femme á la Fénetre, 1921/22
  15. Visitor looking at Emil Nolde, Flower Garden, around 1900

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