Collecting Couples

Nothing says love as much as sharing your life’s passion – in this case – for art. On the occasion of the nearing Valentine’s Day, we are revisiting some powerful couples whose love for each other grows analog with their art collections.



The committed ones: Katrin and Dirk Liesenfeld

Collecting art is our shared passion, just like other couples are passionate about surfing or traveling together,” says Katrin Liesenfeld. Both were enthusiastic art lovers even before their marriage and gradually built up their collection together, focusing on young, up-and-coming talent. Both are guided by taste and emotions rather than looking for investment or established names: “If one of us uses his or her veto power, which rarely happens, then that carries weight. After all, we have to be enthusiastic together. Otherwise, it would just be strategic collecting, and that’s not our goal,” explain the Liesenfelds.

After a successful career in the advertising industry, the couple decided to change their lifestyle and open the art lodge, an art hotel with a residency program, and a sculpture park in the Carinthian mountains. They are currently renovating the “main house” to create an art space for temporary exhibitions and their collection while continuing to rent out vacation apartments and TinyHouses.”This change allows us to see the art we have collected – or at least parts of it – every day. Previously, the art was in the rooms, where guests could enjoy it – but we couldn’t,” the couple laughs.

On July 5, 2024, the Kunsthaus will open with a solo exhibition by Mathias Pöschl and works from the Liesenfelds’ collection.

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The eclectic ones: Michael Kaufmann & Ronald Harder

The Viennese art expert, Michael Kaufmann, and his husband, Ronald Harder, share a passion for art and have engaged in collecting together. Michael, initially studying spatial planning, discovered his interest in art while maintaining a collection during his studies. Working in a gallery unexpectedly led him to a deep love for the art industry. Their approach to collecting is impulsive, often focusing on young artists to support the community. The couple’s “Spielzimmer” project involves exhibiting young artists in their basement, fostering a network and connections within the art world.

Their collection is eclectic, driven by emotion rather than strict categories. It reflects the couple’s open-mindedness and emotional nature. Building connections with artists is crucial for them, and the collection reflects their relationships and emotions. They emphasize the importance of the emotional connection art provides, in contrast to material possessions.

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The culturally enlightened ones: Elisabeth and Bernhard Hainz

The Viennese couple Elisabeth and Bernhard Hainz have an impressive art collection of around 800 works, most of which are located in Bernhard Hainz’s law firm, CMS Vienna. The couple emphasize how much they enjoy living with their collection and do not regard art purely as a financial investment. Works of classical modernism and 19th-century art are exhibited in the private apartment, while contemporary art can be seen on 3,500 square meters in the law firm.

Having started 30 years ago with a desire for a few works of art, their collection now spans various eras, including mood impressionism, classical modernism, expressionist painting, and post-expressionist figurative painting. With the advice of the late gallery owner Georg Kargl and then Hubert Winter, the couple’s interest expanded, and they discovered contemporary art, conceptual works, photography, videos, and sculptures.

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The harmonious ones: Andrea Dénes and Árpád Balázs


Based in Budapest, the couple have amassed a remarkable collection of over 300 artworks. Complex and thought-provoking, their collection reflects a view of life in the 20th and 21st centuries, primarily centered in Hungary but extending beyond borders. “It was important that we enjoyed it together. Having a common interest with your wife – this is for me the added value,“ emphasizes Árpád.

Despite the occasional differing tastes, Andrea and Árpád emphasize their harmonious approach to collecting. They never argue, and if disagreements arise, Árpád humorously mentions his last words always being “Yes, love.” They adhere to rules that include not buying art solely for its monetary value and ensuring that at least one of them genuinely likes a piece. “Many of the key pieces in our collection – he insisted on them and I did not like them very much. And I’m very happy that he convinced me!”, admits Andrea.

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The explorative ones: Eva and Manfred Frey


The Vienna-based doctors and art collectors have cultivated a shared passion for art that has grown stronger throughout their lives. Their love of art, which they both owe to their culturally interested parents, plays a key role in their lives and their relationship. Over the past two to three decades, they have learned to experience art together and met many aspiring artists who have gone on to gain a foothold in the art world. The search for young talent is a common thread running through the Freys’ collection, driven by a desire for cross-generational understanding and an appreciation and promotion of the potential of artists at the earliest stages of their careers.

They always decide together which works to acquire – even if, strictly speaking, the couple needn’t discuss to coordinate their choices: “If my wife goes to a vernissage without me, she always knows which work will be my favorite and vice versa. It’s always obvious,” says Manfred Frey, describing their harmonious symbiosis.

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Image: © WienTourismus/Paul Bauer