Felix Gonzales Torres Arena

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (for Parkett), 1994, Untitled (Arena), 1993; installation 1997/98; copyright Sammlung Hoffmann, Berlin

Erika and Rolf Hoffmann made their first discoveries in contemporary art in the sixties while attending the early Documenta exhibitions in Kassel and visiting the Rhineland’s diverse museums, exhibition spaces and Kunstvereine. The Hoffmanns felt enlivened by discussions with artists about new creative ideas and works that incorporated them. It was in this environment that they found stimulation for their personal – as well as inspiration for their professional – lives.

Despite raising a family and running their company, the couple began to sporadically buy art in the late sixties in order to maintain direct connections to the ideas and discourses of the art scene. The works they chose were by still unestablished artists whom they personally knew and with whom they associated certain engaging, utterly contemporary concepts. The great variety of artistic expression they encountered excited Erika and Rolf Hoffmann, as it struck them as an essential characteristic of contemporary art. They sought out innovation regardless of medium. Wherever their (primarily business-related) travels took them, contemporary art presented an outlet for confronting society’s most pressing questions.
With the sale of their company in 1985, the Hoffmanns were able to dedicate more time and financial resources to their passion. Still, they continued to think of their collecting as purely private, a pursuit of their own personal taste and interests that was, accordingly, anonymous.

This changed with the fall of the Berlin Wall, at which point Erika and Rolf Hoffmann wanted to actively partake in the sweeping societal and cultural changes that came with the reunification of Germany. The couple developed the idea of a public art gallery: a Kunsthalle in Dresden as a private-public partnership for which the American artist Frank Stella developed a daring architectural plan. As the initiators of the project, the Hoffmanns reached out to investors who could enable the collection to be financially self-supporting in the long term as well as other collectors to serve as lenders for a program of temporary exhibitions. When the project failed due to resistance from the State, the pair began to think about a completely private and thus independent project that might open to the public.


In 1994 the Hoffmanns purchased an empty former factory in Berlin-Mitte and renovated its spaces. Their goal was to be able to experience as many art works as possible in any given moment, and to, in turn, share this possibility with visitors. The Hoffmann family and their tenants moved into the building’s large lofts in 1997, at which point the public was first invited to visit the lived-in collection on Saturdays. Since the death of Rolf Hofmann in 2001, Erika Hoffmann continues the work they began together.


In March 2018 Erika Hoffmann donated the collection to the Dresden State Art Collections. Yet the Sammlung Hoffmann will remain open and accessible on Saturdays to the Berlin public. Parts of the collection will henceforth be shown in Dresden’s institutions as well as in rural areas of Saxony.