The ruthless dealer masquerading as a collector lives sometimes in Zug, Switzerland, sometimes in Berlin – depending, presumably, on the business situation and tax advantage. He belongs to the category of more unpleasant people in the scene.
His collection is grandiosely plugged as one of the best in the world. Here at the gallery, we're not convinced. At first glance, it seems the collector has acquired pretty much five top pieces with fine provenance. When one considers, however, the accompanying exhibition and book publication, one begins to suspect that it's all designed to append a collection of inferior pieces. This is not an uncommon practice and, in and of itself, is nothing terrible. But anyone who needs this strategy tends not to be one of the world's best collectors, rather simply a blowhard (see: Scoffers, Careerists and Pundits, Spötter, Streber und Gelehrte)
One can, of course, argue splendidly over the quality of a piece; over other things – say, conduct – less splendidly. What Mr. Horstmann himself does not possess, he loves to dismiss loudly as worthless scrap. He shares these opinions with any and all, whether they want to hear it or not. Thusly he travels the lands, poisoning the scene. On the side, so that he also seems important, he assumes the air of a judge and hands down his judgments not only in conversation, but also in the press.
Consider, for example, the Horstmannic mudslinging against Mr. Reinhard Klimmt, former Prime Minister of the Saarland and German Transport Minister. Mr. Horstmann was the loudest mudslinger of them all, the front man of mudslingers. It is readily apparent in the unpleasant Focus article that Mr. Horstmann wasn't driven by professional expertise, but rather by viciousness and a desire to sustainably squash the competitors from whom Mr. Klimmt made his purchases. Thus objects that Mr. Klimmt acquired for formal reasons, not reasons of authenticity or age, were sensationally designated in the article as "counterfeits." My research into these allegations gives the impression that Mr. Horstmann led the reporter, Katrin Sachse, to compliant compañeros who merely confirmed his opinion. As a result, the otherwise quite good reputations of Mr. Simonis and Mr. Fröhlich, who allowed themselves to be journalistically used in service of Mr. Horstmann's interests, now suffer visible cracks.
After the Focus article ran, my phone rang for days. Der Spiegel, Die Welt, the daily Berlin presses – all of them sensed a scandalous story. Mr Klimmt, after all, is not just anyone. But when I offered my view of the facts and background to the interested journalists, they consistently declined to question the dubious allegations of Udo Horstmann, Stephan Potthoff, Enrico Kleinert and gynecologist Stephan Herkenhoff. No additional articles appeared; the lowbrow went uncontested. An apparent scandal of this magnitude with no follow-up? Ms. Sachse was clean hoodwinked by the man with unclean hands. Had she conducted her research not only among those "experts" recommended by Mr. Horstmann, but rather also with his competitors, she might have arrived at an entirely different conclusion. You, too, Ms. Sachse rate a six for your mistake.
A counterfeit, as Mr. Horstmann knows, is a piece claimed by someone to be something it is not – usually in order to derive a capital gain. So when Mr. Klimmt faithfully describes a piece as exactly that which it is, how can it be called a counterfeit? We'd more likely find a counterfeit among all the "genuine" articles in the good dealer Horstmann's collection as in Mr. Klimmt's, who, like every collector, has sometimes been taken in by ambiguous pieces. Indeed, when Mr. Klimmt began exhibiting his art to the public, I personally advised him not to present some of his favorite pieces, or at least to denote them differently. But if Mr. Klimmt's development as a collector is considered over a longer time period, it clearly shows improvement in quality from exhibition to exhibition.
Let us now consider, on the basis of an example, the practical process by which Mr. Horstmann arrives at his designation of "counterfeit." While researching bronzes online, I stumbled upon the relationship between Mr. Horstmann and the Entwistle Gallery in London, which supplies bronzes in homeopathic doses at absolute top prices to places like Sotheby's, among others. It is easy to understand that London is not amused when we in Berlin exhibit south Nigerian bronzes at far lower prices in many exhibitions.
That Galerie Peter Hermann does not – for this and other similar reasons – come off well in Mr. Horstmann's estimation is also easy to understand. We take comfort in the fact that so many other respected colleagues are considered just as bad by the self-proclaimed head Zampano. In retaliation, several collectors have given him the nickname The Arms Dealer. The name is inspired by the fact that Mr. Horstmann's connection to Africa comes through South Africa during the apartheid era, when he worked in the upper echelons of Marc Rich & Co. At the time, his interest in art was still casual – incidental to his real work, which was officially called "energy trading." Marc Rich and his business partners were rumored to have committed tax fraud into the many billions, to have virtually created so-called predatory capitalism with their dubious derivative transactions and to have circumvented economic embargos in several countries, including South Africa, where they dealt in weapons – hence The Arms Dealer.
While here in Germany, we were agitating for the release of Nelson Mandela and being denied visas for many countries because of the South Africa stamp in our passports, others were having a grand old time – rich and free of all moral qualms.
During an investigation conducted by the Land Office of Criminal Investigations (LKA) into the Galerie Peter Herrmann, Mr. Horstmann, the suspected initiator of the inquiry, strolled easily in and out of the LKA office and was permitted to contribute, uninvited, his personal "findings" to the investigation. This relationship seems plenty suspicious when one considers the close ties to the far right now maintained by the LKA, Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
It is also striking that several of Mr. Horstmann's ethnological partners make outlandish statements on certain fronts that contradict all better judgment. We'd thus very much like to pose a question to Mr. Horstmann: does the pensioner have a list of names of especially grant-worthy people in institutions and ministries, and how does he cultivate these friendships?
If they care anything for their future or about the people with whom they choose to associate, these “friends” would do well to read the article The Horstmann Collection of Southern African Art from the Galerie Ezakwantu. I've never heard of any dealer being banned from so many homes as Mr. Udo Horstmann.
Here, again, the full name so that this page can be found easily from searching engines using various key words and, by providing important information, do as much damage to Mr. Horstmann and his few remaining friends as he has done to us with all his nonsense. The Wally and Udo Horstmann Collection: no really good provenance, no star.
Peter Herrmann. January 2012
Addenda. January 2013