Tania Asbæk is a Danish art dealer, art advisor and owner of COLLABORATIONS, an art consultancy with a twist and a contemporary art space in Copenhagen, which she opened with husband Thomas Asbæk.
Thomas is the son of Jacob and Patricia Asbæk, who once opened Galerie Asbæk in Copenhagen, the gallery which in many ways helped to revolutionize the Danish art scene at the time with art salons, talks and happenings. They opened up the art to conversation and made it accessible to a wider audience.
In many ways, it is the same thing that Tania and Thomas today strive to do. In addition to being consultants for both private clients, companies and larger public institutions, they also run the exhibition space Collaborations on Store Kongensgade, where they show works in their physical form and tell stories to anyone who wants to stop by and listen. This isn’t the typical advisory model but it provides a fresh feel to the dynamic between advisers and galleries. Art begs for a certain level of storytelling to draw in new collectors and that is exactly what Collaborations do well, a rotating exhibition in their space. Through their consultancy work they have established international collaborations with galleries and artists and together they advise private companies and institutions on which art to embark on.
How did you become affiliated with the art world? What was your experience entering the industry?
Contemporary art has always been my biggest hobby. Already from when I was 16, I traveled around Europe to experience fantastic and inspiring art shows. Most of my friends thought I was kind of weird, but I couldn’t care less. I have always found art rather magical and a place where your mind could go crazy and see things clearly. Before I met Thomas, I never thought it could be a professional way of living. Thomas comes from an art family – they were more or less the people who made the first international gallery in Copenhagen. So for him, it was a natural choice.
But both Thomas and I share an enormous curiosity and deep respect for the sincere and genuine. And we are both obsessed with communication. We quickly found out how we complement each other. Thomas is super creative, and I have more of a business perspective. I come from advertising, working as an account manager, and Thomas was a copywriter. Together that makes a pretty good team! We are very much aware that it takes both a “creator” (the genius) and a recipient to manifest a potential. And maybe something in between… that could be us.
What has been one of the biggest challenges for you in your path to success?
Our strength is also our weakness; when you work in the same company, you need to get the wheels rolling since there is no “alternate income”. So we share the ups and downs entirely together. But I think my biggest challenge personally is convincing people that I do what I do because of my deep, profound interest in art – not because of Thomas and his family. Actually right now, our biggest challenge is to make people in Copenhagen aware of what we do. We collaborate primarily with galleries from New York and LA, and even though art is global, there are differences. Sometimes we have to start from the beginning when we introduce artists to a Scandinavia audience. But that is also the fun part.
What was the inspiration behind Collaborations?
We wanted to create something unique. We wanted to make an untraditional gallery. Originally we were art advisors. But it is not satisfying when you work with something so tactile, just presenting it on a pdf and then get it shipped from some wall somewhere in the world and directly to another (private) wall here in Scandinavia. We wanted to tell the stories far and wide – and we also wanted to create a space where we could break our own limits.
What does your curatorial process look like when creating shows in-house? Is it done with the collector in mind?
A collector is just another person. And good art is relevant to everybody. We want to curate a better future or to dissect a dominant culture or misconception. We curate what we think is needed – this can be fun and tragic or political and whatever. Collectors have needs too.
Tell us about your current show ‘Women Painting Women.’
There is so much gender bias – even in the art world. Especially in the art world. This is not only ironic; it is potentially degenerating us as a species. That’s a long, serious talk. We show a lot of artists, many of them women. No biggie. But still, we have earmarked March 8 with a female focus event in some way. Naturally, this tends to be a little bit loud and angry because there is a lot to be mad about. But this year we took a different approach. We just showed the most excellent painters (female) telling stories from their everyday life in so many different classical styles. They kicked ass painting abstract expressive, surreal, figurative… All around – just brilliant painters. This was not a riot – it was a perspective.
Why was doing an all female show at Collaborations a priority to you?
We all have to take responsibility for this cultural mess we have “refined” for thousands of years. If we keep relying on our default setting, we will become instinctive. If we do not act now, we deserve what we get.
How would you describe the current art scene in Copenhagen?
It’s not fair to generalize. But overall I think we tend to rely a little too much on former merits.
Do you have female collector clients as well? What do they typically buy?
Many female collectors come here. They buy intelligent international art. (It’s mostly the men who are afraid of getting something too feminine – whatever that means…)
Who are some emerging female artists you have your eye on at the moment?
There are so many. I think that democratic digital distribution has made the talent of so many female artists visible. Creating a following on IG and the galleries have been forced to recognize and include them in their program. We are talking about the major galleries. The innovative and scene-driving galleries have been on board for some time. There are literally hundreds. But if you force me to name some, it would be Eva Helene Pade, Danielle McKinney, Kathleen Ryan, oh there are so many…
What’s on the books for 2021?
Right now, we are showing Evren Tekinoktay, an extremely talented and brilliant Danish artist. We have many things going on – we are planning to make a show in New York in May 2022 and besides that there is so much exciting stuff going on right now about gender that it will definitely also be on the radar.