Auktionshaus Grisebach

The Art of Art Dealing

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Berlin has become a renowned art center since the fall of the Wall in 1989 but the industry is worried that a new law aimed at preventing art leaving the country will be damaging.

  • Facts


    • Auktionshaus Grisebach was set up in 1986, with a focus on modern classical art.
    • Under new managers Florian Illies and Micaela Kapitzky it is modernizing and exploring new revenue sources such as online marketing and 19th-century art.
    • Germany’s new Art Protection Law gives the state the right to decide which works of culture and art are of national interest and ban them from export.
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Ausstellung im Lenbachhaus
Auktionshaus Grisebach is currently hosting an exhibition of works by Günter Fruhtrunk. Source: Picture Alliance/DPA

In the elegant and affluent district of Charlottenburg, in the heart of West Berlin, stands an elegant villa where precious art works are shown and auctioned. Auktionshaus Grisebach was set up in 1986 by art-dealer Bernd Schulz. He recently retired, leaving the management of his important legacy to Florian Illies and Micaela Kapitzky.

The two art dealers are committed to exploiting the new wind of change that has been sweeping through Berlin’s cultural scene since the 1990s, turning the city into an increasingly important art hub. But change is also the stuff that art is made of and to capture new trends and interests of international collectors is crucially important for successful art dealers.

Mr. Illies – an art historian and journalist – became a partner of the auction house in 2012 and since then he has helped Villa Grisebach to restyle its image with the opening of a new auction hall and a more relevant online presence. Most importantly, Mr. Illies managed to convince his associates to expand the business by focusing on 19th-century art, rather than exclusively on modern classical art. It was a successful move that drew the attention of a new generation of collectors and currently generates €5 million of additional revenue.

But there are further innovations in the pipeline. The new management plans to attract more customers over the next five years by also offering works of contemporary art in addition to those of the classical modern period. Mr. Illies believes that potential customers interested in this type of art could be reached through social networks, by using original catalog designs and by organizing events together with auctions.

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