For love, art or money. A documentary about a special art-collector
In 2004, when we were filming the opening of the Thyssen Museum in Madrid we met the Baroness and we saw a story: ‘A woman is a slave to her biography and wants to escape’. In fact, she is now a different woman from the one people wanted to believe she was. We know she is rich, we know she is smart and ambitious, and that she has achieved all that she has by exploiting her beauty. But is this all? At sixty something, Carmen is no longer the social climber who succeeded in becoming Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. The wealth and the noble title were bestowed upon her, but becoming the important art collector that she is today is something she has achieved by herself. And this makes her a very interesting character, whom we wanted to reveal in making this film.
The story of Carmen Thyssen’s life is very much in the ‘public domain’, a product of the tabloid press. After the dead of her first husband –the American actor Lex Barker– Carmen met at the end of the seventies Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, a well-known businessman and art collector. It was his birthday present of a painting of Gauguin, which sparked Carmen’s enthusiasm for paintings and art collecting. Baroness Thyssen shared with the Baron the desire for the collection to be seen by the general public.
Carmen has become a connoisseur of fine art and has committed herself with passion and intelligence to collecting art. Since his death in 2002, Carmen has been the owner of the world’s largest private art-collection, with more than 600 paintings representing the best works of the past four centuries. This includes works of Old Masters like Zurbaran, Jan Brueghel the Old, Salomon Ruysdael, Jan van Goyen, Canaletto and Guardi. However, her paintings of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century represent, without exception, the most important ones of artists with an international allure like Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Renoir, Degas, Gauguin, Rodin, Bonnard, Vuillard, Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Gris, Léger, Molde, Kirchner, Kandinsky and Delaunay.
As a collector, Baroness Thyssen great desire is that her private collection should be accessible to the public and her ambition is to create the ‘Thyssen Galaxy’, a triangle of museums in Madrid, Malaga and Sant Feliu de Guíxols, each with its won strong personality. The baroness already has since 1992 the Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid housing her collection of International Paintings, has just opened her Museum in Malaga with her Spanish paintings and is determined to work hard to set up the Museum in Sant Feliu. But it is not easy for society to accept this gift from the Baroness: the economy is in crisis, the politicians cannot agree with one another… and to cap it all, the public is unaware of the artistic value of this collection and of the outstanding figure Carmen has become: a great Art collector and a patron of our times.
In these times of financial cut-backs the presence of Mecenas liker her is crucial for preserving our cultural heritage and for developing the future generation of artists. We therefore believe that a film about the Baroness and her project will be a timely tribute and a good contribution to the discussion about the Arts and its endangered future.
Our team has been given unprecedented, behind the scenes access to the Baroness, and her team, and to her extensive personal film archive, in order for the definitive documentary to be made about this exciting struggle, which will shed a new light on the Baroness, on the creation of Museums, the international art business, the cultural aspects of private art collections and on the nature of the paintings and art itself.