Varvara Stepanowa und Liubov Popova, Kostüme, Entwürfe 1922-23;
Olga Chernysheva, Trashman, 2010, video
Erika and Rolf Hoffmann made their first discoveries in contemporary art in the 1960s at early Documentas in Kassel and in museums, art galleries, and art institutions in the Rhineland. Discussions with artists about their concepts and the works that embodied them were an intellectual challenge in private, and also a creative inspiration in their professional endeavors.
To maintain direct access to the ideas and discourses of the art scene in spite of family and running their own company, they decided in the late 1960s to make purchases, mostly of works by artist friends. Erika and Rolf Hoffmann were inspired by the variety of artistic expressions they found and their desire to collect what they thought was essential and characteristic of the art of the time. They searched for innovation, no matter which medium. Wherever their travels led, contemporary art offered the opportunity to address the current issues in society.
After the sale of their company in 1985, the couple had more time and financial freedom for their collecting passion. As before, the Hoffmanns considered collecting as purely private, and only followed their personal taste and interest and accordingly remained anonymous.
That changed with the fall of the wall, as Erika and Rolf Hoffmann wanted to actively participate in the social and cultural changes after reunification. They developed the idea of a Kunsthalle for Dresden in public-private partnership. A bold architectural design for this was provided by the American artist Frank Stella. As initiators of the project, the Hoffmanns thought that long term the project should be self-financing, and they sought to gain powerful investors as co-founders and other collectors as lenders. When the plan failed because of public opposition, they began to think about a completely private and thus independent project.
The new project was conceived to not only allow the Hoffmanns to live and work in the midst of art, but also from time to time share their collection and experiences with others. In 1994, they found an empty factory building in Berlin-Mitte, then renovated and converted it so that they could situate themselves and their tenants in spacious lofts. Since 1997, the Hoffmann’s living and work spaces have been open every Saturday to the public.
Following the death of Rolf Hoffmann in 2001, Erika Hoffmann has continued to actively add to the collection and lead Sammlung Hoffmann alone.