From 1973, Frieder Burda held various positions at the Offenburg headquarters of his parents' newspaper business, with responsibility for finances, administration and shareholdings. But Frieder Burda found his true calling in art. In 1968, when he was still in his early thirties, he bought a picture by the painter Lucio Fontana that he had seen at the documenta art festival in Kassel. It was to be the foundation stone of a prestigious collection of art that now encompasses more than 1,000 works, including masterpieces by Pablo Picasso, Max Beckmann and Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz and Sigmar Polke. Hif first acquisition awakened a great passion but also reflected a deep knowledge of contemporary art. In the process, he consciously chose to distinguish himself from his father's collecting ways, which focused on German Expressionism.
Museum Frieder Burda – Lifework and Labor of Love
To preserve his collection and make it available to the public, the Stiftung Frieder Burda was established in 1998 – after efforts to set it up in Mougins in southern France had to be abandoned. The foundation laid the groundwork for the construction of the museum building to plans by the American star architect Richard Meier. Since 2004, the Museum in Baden-Baden has been showcasing his collection Frieder Burda (Sammlung Frieder Burda) in combination with other international masterpieces. The building is a gleaming white gem by the historic and scenic Lichtentaler Allee, an is referred to by many today as the “Jewel in the Park”.
Since its inauguration, the museum has hosted numerous high-caliber exhibitions, presenting works by the likes of Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Katharina Grosse, William N. Copley, Andreas Gursky and James Turrell. It has also put on thematic exhibitions such as “There is something about these pictures. . .” or “America! America!”. The museum's art workshop is committed to offering art education and courses in a manner that benefits all members of society, an approach that was always close to Frieder Burda's heart. He was made a freeman of the city of Baden-Baden in 2005.
2014 saw the tenth anniversary of the museum, which marked the occasion with two major exhibitions entitled “40I10”. The 15th anniversary was commemorated with the exhibition “Ensemble” in 2019, which celebrated Franco-German friendship by combining its own collection with masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou in Paris. This followed a sensational Banksy exhibition earlier in the year. In the meantime, the Salon Berlin, run by Frieder Burda’s step-daughter Patricia Kamp, further widens the museum's expertise in contemporary art.
Frieder Burda was always open to new ideas and approaches. At the same time, he remained true to the idea of art's ability to transcend borders and unite people. In his piece for the catalog of the exhibition “Ensemble”, the passionate Francophile wrote “Reflecting the two collections and juxtaposing the individual works of German and French artists demonstrates how closely connected art can be and that art can complement and influence itself across all borders. This pleases me and confirms my belief in the universal bonding power of art, which always retains its validity and relevance despite all crises.”
On 14 July 2019, the French national holiday, Frieder Burda died at the age of 83 in Baden-Baden, surrounded by his close family.
His faith in the conciliatory powers of art was unbroken to the end, as was his fascination for the electrifying power of colors: With the passing of Frieder Burda, the art world has lost a great collector who wanted to share his love and passion for art with as many people as possible. He always placed greater value on humanist than material values and to him, owning art always brought with it an obligation to make it accessible to others.
Frieder Burda was also a true friend of artists and always sought direct, inspiring contact with the creators themselves, exploring with them the origins of art. As a patron of the arts and founder of a museum, he has generously gifted his fellow citizens of Baden-Baden a fine house of art that continues to attract visitors from all over the world. As chairman of his own foundation, he was always an example of modesty and humanity to his staff. And as a private person, he and his wife Elke always had a knack for bringing family and friends together under the unifying umbrella of art.