Christian Boros is one of Germany’s most successful communication designers. At present the pas-sionate art collector is attracting attention with a major project: He is in the process of transforming a Berlin bunker into a private museum. He talked
to us about his approach to pictures, Wolfgang
Tillmans, and the influence of art on advertising.
Mr. Boros, for almost 20 years now you and your agency have been building on the power of pictures. Do you actually take photographs yourself?
Yes, but only rarely – and then not with a digital camera but with my old Nikon F3.
And have you ever used your own photos for an advertising campaign?
No, I was always ashamed to do so! (laughs) There are various types of designers: Some who do everything themselves: taking photographs, illustrating and making layouts – and as such wish to be the originator of everything. I, on the other hand, have always seen myself as a curator. I think working with photographers, illustrators and other creative minds is great. In other words, forget the ego show! At the moment, for example, we have a client who works in the architectural field. So I am viewing portfolios by architecture photographers: They reveal unbelievably precise pictures without precipitating lines, for which they use large-format cameras and spend an entire day on just one picture. Wonderful! A couple of weeks ago it was photos for haircare products. The photographer for this knew exactly how to photograph hair and talk to the models. A completely different world. And as a communication designer I would always like to have this freedom, i.e., to come up with a unique, individual pictorial language for each particular client and assignment. And it’s just a lot of fun developing projects with such different minds.
A question for Christian Boros the art collector: What type of photographs are you collecting these days? In your opinion, which young photo artists have a future?
A difficult question. As a collector I became so closely involved with Wolfgang Tillmans at such an early stage that I no longer collect any other sort of photography. I have become very skeptical as far as photography as a fine art is concerned. A lot of it seems inflationary to me. There are lots of people who make it easy for themselves. I collect art that I do not understand. I find works I understand immediately boring. My lack of interest in photography as fine art reached its peak with the founding of Lumas.
How much space will be given to Wolfgang Tillmans’ photos in your Berlin museum, which is finally due to open its doors at the end of the year?
Wolfgang’s pictures will be on view in several rooms. He has a special relationship with the building: A former WW II bunker, which in the 1990s served as a club where he himself used to dance during his time in the city and where he also took his first photos of the club scene. Back then Tillmans also documented the bunker from outside.
That really is a special situation – for you as the new owner of the bunker. And for him as an artist.
True. And I am in the fortunate position that with just one exception every artist whose work I collect is still alive, and is looking forward to hanging his own work in my museum. That is important to me. But we are not that far down the road yet. We still have a whole load of work to do this year.
At present there are any number of reports about your museum bunker in the press – and about the fact that the opening is continually being put back. I almost have the impression that the longer you wait with the opening the more publicity the project attracts. The excitement is increasing.
That’s true. But you have to realize that I have to take care of the financing all on my own – I receive no support whatever from either the city or the state. And if you consider the sort of structural engineering you’re dealing with here, the thickness of the walls you have to drill through, then the time it is taking to finish also becomes plausible.
Which brings me to the theme of this special issue: Speed. If you had to visualize the theme of speed, as a communication designer what kind of picture motive would spontaneously spring to mind?
You have to be careful here. An initially abstract theme can quickly lead to visual clichés. “Sprinters in pin-stripes” etc. If I really think about it, speed is not my theme at the moment. However, what is much more important to me – is deceleration!