Interview: Art Collector Mikaela Bruhn Aschim

Artists: Marthe Bleu, Tor Olav Wærnes. Photo: Artland

“When the first work was up on the wall, there was no turning back”

Mikaela Bruhn Aschim, art collector and gallery manager at QB Gallery, may not have a $100 million bank account, yet she doesn’t see this as a hindrance for creating an ambitious art collection. For Mikaela, collecting art comes down to a question of prioritization and most importantly, the feeling of a need to do it. This became clear when the first work was put up on her wall; there was no turning back. We had a talk with Mikaela about the joy of giving back to artists and the wish to confront the idea of art collecting as being only for the elite.

Name: Mikaela Bruhn Aschim
Location: Oslo
Started collecting in year: 2014
Number of artworks in collection: 15

What is your earliest memory of art, and what led you to start collecting it?
My first art memory is me drawing a little girl at the top of one of my father’s artworks. Not a very appreciated act at the time, but I can clearly recall the situation. I started collecting art after I finished university. I felt like a grown up and wanted to buy something that in some way represented that. When the first work was up on the wall, there was no turning back. It really is an investment in my quality of life.  

How would you describe yourself as an art collector?
Quite eclectic, I buy what intrigues me. Some of my favourite works are the ones that some days really annoy me (like – why is this up on my wall?), and other days I think they are amazing. A bit like your family. Works that are more than just ‘pretty’ can give you more in the long run I think. Like friends.

What is the main motivation behind your collecting?
I buy what fascinates me. I think it is great that I, with a smaller budget than many of my friends, can spend money on something that lasts. I also like to know that a lot of the money spent on art goes back to the artists – so that they can continue being artists.

Artists: Yngve Benum, Sebastian Helling, Marthe Bleu, Yngve Benum, Jon Benjamin Tallerås. Photo: Studio Oslo AS

Describe your collection in three words.
Eclectic, colourful, and young. Eccentric women are the ones that react most positively to what I have.

Is there any particular type of art that appeals to you or anything that unites all the works in your collection?
Abstract painting, perhaps. However, I think what unites it is me. It shows different sides of what I like and respond to.

How important is it for you to meet the artist behind the artwork?
It adds an extra layer, but it is not essential.

What is the most recent piece of art you added to your collection and why?
I like buying art from younger artists, as I am fairly young myself. My most recent piece is a photograph by Jon Benjamin Tallerås that I bought in June. I saw the work on Instagram from an exhibition that he had at the Munch Museum in Oslo, and I was 100% sure that it was sold. I saved the Instagram post, and thought it was out of reach. However, I contacted him a few months later and it was not sold! As it felt too good to be true, I had to purchase it. I basically used all of my art budget this year before the summer, as I got a bit ahead of myself moving into a new flat with more wall space and bought seven works over a couple of months. However, I am sure I would not have had any of that money now anyways, since I am not the best at saving. But now I can see it on my walls.

Artist: Yngve Benum. Photo: Artland

Has digitalization changed the way you collect art?
Well, it has not changed it, as I started collecting in a digital age. However, it is very digital, yes.

What or who has influenced you as a collector?
My father. He is the one that introduced me to art – going to museums in Oslo and abroad. He collects photography and paintings from his generation, and I collect mostly from my own generation. I do not think I would have started my interest in art in the same way if it wasn’t for him. I think most people have a person that has been their ‘portal’ into the art world. I try to be what he has been for me to my friends and people who buy their first artwork at QB Gallery, where I work as a manager. It is always really exciting to sell art to people who are just starting their collections!

“I definitely do not want it to be an elite-thing to buy and collect art”

Is there any specific place you always return to when you need an art fix?
My saved images on Instagram.

The art market has a reputation of being a playground for the elite. What is your experience of this?
I think about this a lot in my job at QB Gallery, as I definitely do not want it to be an elite-thing to buy and collect art. I think it is increasingly less and less so, but obviously you need to have food on the table before you buy art. In that sense, I guess it is an ’elite’ thing. However, I think many people would be surprised to see what wonderful things you can have if you prioritize your money a bit differently!

Where do you think the future of the art market is headed?
It is absolutely online. I see this in the gallery as well as in the way I find new art and artists myself. Online is key for me – it really broadens my horizons.

Artists: Dag Skedsmo, Sverre Koren Bjertnæs. Photo: Studio Oslo AS

Top three pieces of advice for new collectors
1. Do not buy the new sofa. Buy your first artwork instead. (And then you can buy the new sofa!)
2. Do not be afraid to ask artists, galleries, and friends.
3. Follow galleries and artists online.

Top three art destinations
1. The internet, Instagram, and Artland
2. Copenhagen
3. Oslo

Three inspiring artists to watch
1. Yngve Benum
2. Constance Tenvik
3. Chloe Wise