Buying works of art doesn’t particularly interest Francesca von Habsburg; she prefers commissioning them directly through artists or concocting creations with her protégés.
Francesca seems to have inherited a passion for art as the daughter of industrialist Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza – whose extensive art collection moved from the Villa Favorita in Lugano, Switzerland to a museum named after him in Madrid in 1992 – but she’s chosen her own path.
Collecting is not only about material commitment, but about a passion in sharing knowledge and experience, explains Francesca. To this end, the bustling art patron often spends time in Vienna; her Kunststiftung TBA21 art foundation (also called Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary), established in 2002, is headquartered there. Since 2012, Vienna’s Augarten public park also hosted an exhibition space, which makes the TBA21 foundation’s art available to a broader audience.
The focus of the TBA21 collection is on works that evade traditional categorisation and aren’t generally aimed at the mainstream art market – and that’s similar to the intention of Francesca’s own art. For her interdisciplinary productions (as she calls her projects), what she needs is space – lots of space.
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It’s a fairly unconventional approach for an internationally active collector. Unconventional also characterises her Vienna home – an airy, bright penthouse that discloses her penchant for a mixture of styles, where colours and eras are cheerfully overlaid. I follow all my instincts with the furnishings, she says. Vertical and horizontal elements are balanced, forming a spatial structure that’s full of excitement and surprise. The upper floor is like a spacious loft, which she also uses for family gatherings.
Precisely because Francesca travels a lot, her Vienna home is also a haven of tranquillity – one that always welcomes visitors. The lower-level rooms are ideal for retreat, including her bedroom, where she loves to lounge. I have to have morning light in the bedroom, she explains. I like reading my emails in bed before I enter the hustle and bustle of the outside world. For me, it isn’t a place to sleep – but a place to be.
Another area of projects Francesca deals with involves the Anthropocene age – a relatively new term, coinciding with the start of the Industrial Revolution, and centred on the notion that humans have become a geological and ecological factor impacting the planet.
What sounds like the natural sciences is also about art, because it can serve as a language to translate these complex topics into clear pictures. As early as the Renaissance, science and art have formed an inextricable entity – one which is still applicable today. Combining disciplines and breaking boundaries is a major focus for Francesca. So it’s hardly surprising that when asked where she feels most at home, she answers: The ocean. The oceans are the beginning and the end of our climate.
This article originally appeared in our June 2017 issue.
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