I want to see how I see

Marta Gnyp for ZOO MAGAZINE # 27, 2010

34-year-old Julia Stoschek is one of the world’s most exciting collectors of time-based media. A large exhibition of her collection opened at the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg last month.

Most of Stoschek’s collection revolves around video, the medium of her generation. She says many events in her life when she was growing up – such as horse-riding competitions and school parties – were recorded on tape. Her father had always been interested in technology, and did a lot of photography and film work. Stoschek’s grandmother was also an amateur ilmmaker – producing documentaries from China and India in the 70s.

But it wasn’t until 2003, when Stoschek visited the Gagosian Gallery in New York, that her passion for video was born. It was a monumental installation by Douglas Gordon – Play Dead Real Time – that did it. The sadness of the giant work, which showed an elephant playing its own death, moved Stoschek to remain in front of the installation for three hours. “This video presented itself in a way that was so different and so new for me, compared to these little black boxes I had seen before,” she recalls. “From that moment on, art and art collecting became ever more important for me; it started to shape my life.”

Stoschek’s approach to art collecting ranges from the traditional to the highly personal. She researches video from an art history perspective, covering the entire spectrum of the medium rather than focusing on her own preferences. Tracing video’s history from the 60s to the present day is important, says Stoschek, as it serves as a point of reference and a source of inspiration for younger generations. She therefore combines historical pieces with the work of emerging artists.

One of Stoschek’s approaches to collecting involves collecting not thousands of works by different artists, but rather, following one artist over many years. She also buys complete installations. “I travel a lot and try to visit as many exhibitions as possible,” says Stoschek. “I try to improve my eyes every day with every new work I see. I try to read and discuss a lot through my great network. I have no advisors but I have my team of people who work for me; the final decision is always made by me, though.”

If a collection is a mirror of the collector, then Stoschek’s should reflect a young woman. Many pieces were made by relatively young artists, many of whom are female. Stoschek says they appeal because she can identify with them, and their art often deals with geopolitical issues relevant to her generation.

The way Stoschek has archived and preserved her collections also reveals a person who strives for perfection. And that is evident in the design of her exhibition space in Düsseldorf. Several years ago, Stoschek decided to set up her collection in a separate building, firstly because it simply outgrew her apartment, and later because she wanted to make her works available to the public. Does the judgment of the public matter for her?
“I don’t care about the judgment, but I do care about the public. Normally, video art is very badly installed: you have the black boxes; you have to sit in uncomfortable little spaces,” says Stoschek. “Video art is already very demanding because you need a lot of time to see and understand the work, so I like to find out a way to make video art accessible to the public, by setting up an interesting track and comfortable way of showing the work”.

In her influential position she could create successful artists: “I know that I have this possibility, but collecting is for me more about responsibility,” she says.
“My goal is to grow together with the artist, to follow him or her for a long time and support them. If the collection is getting better and if the artist is getting more successful, this is a great achievement but that is never the focus.”

Stoschek says art has changed her life and transformed her worldview, offering up new perspectives and opening her mind to a variety of thoughts and emotions.

So if there is one work that she could acquire above all else? “That Douglas Gordon we were talking about!” exclaims Stoschek. “The Gagosian Gallery made me an offer for 1 million dollars because they know how much I love this work, but I consider this offer as a joke. We hung [the offer] on the wall in our office!”