Ett liv med Matisse, Picasso and Christo is the first monograph on one of the most ambitious, rich and wayward private collection of 20th century art – a collection that for the most part has remained unknown until now – and its proprietor, the Swedish businessman Theodor ‘Teto’ Ahrenberg (1912-1989). The book tells the story of how Ahrenberg’s collection, estimated to be worth billions, was confiscated under controversial circumstances by the Swedish authorities and was sold for a pittance, and of how Sweden missed out on a new art museum designed by Le Corbusier.
After World War Two, Ahrenberg began to create one of the most ambitious and intriguing private collections of modern art to have ever existed. It included close to a thousand of artworks by renowned masters such as Matisse, Picasso and Chagall, as well as by pioneering younger artists like Kantor, Baertling and Tinguely. Ahrenberg’s rich and personal collection was shaped by his conviction that he was not only a collector, but also a ‘catalyst’ – someone who facilitated exhibitions, collaborations and commissions, and who used art as a way to oppose conservatism and complacency.
The collection was confiscated in 1962 by the Swedish authorities under contested circumstances, and was then dispersed. There were substantial plans for creating a new, world-class art museum designed by Le Corbusier on the water outside of Norr Mälarstrand. These plans were dispersed as well. Ahrenberg then created a new and even more progressive collection that emphasised artists from the 60s’ avant-garde, such as Christo, Arman, Lucio Fontana and Niki de Saint Phalle.
With the help of rich image material and correspondence, much of which has never been published before, this book exhaustively explores the fascinating collections and life of Theodor Ahrenberg.