Interview: Bettina Böhm from Outset

Portrait: Bettina Böhm

Bettina Böhm from Outset talks about the benefit auction taking place in Düsseldorf in cooperation with PHILLIPS in our latest interview

An internationally active organization that supports contemporary art, Outset has already been around in Great Britain for almost 15 years. As of the end of 2016, more than 160 artists and 80 institutions have received assistance through the help of a network of experts and carefully selected patrons. Bettina Böhm is the director of the organization responsible for Germany and Switzerland and is organizing its first charity auction in Düsseldorf in the Philara Collection.

Bettina, how did you get involved with Outset?

I had previously been a patron with Outset, one of the people that supports the institution with a yearly contribution. When my two predecessors, both of whom come from Munich, said that they wanted pursue something different, I was asked if I wouldn’t take over at Outset. I did, quite spontaneously and without thinking too much about it. I love challenges and so I am completely immersed in the work there.

What do you like most about your current position?

Being able to put the basic idea of Outset into practice. That means making it possible for museums to exhibit contemporary art, which they absolutely need in order to represent our society. Museums have an educational mission that sometimes can no longer be fulfilled because there’s no purchasing budget for contemporary art, or only a very small one. That’s exactly why Outset was founded – to counteract this.

What challenges do you face in your position?

Fundraising, in particular – it’s not easy, but it’s also not impossible. When I took on the job, I didn’t expect to be able to generate sums of money in the amount that I can collect now – not just from patrons, but also from sponsors. When it came to fundraising, I was a complete novice. Before that, I had been working at Museum Folkwang for years to increase the size of the museum’s “circle of friends” – which is of course also a kind of fundraising, because it generates money – but I hadn’t had anything directly to do with real fundraising. I also wouldn’t have expected that I could ask people directly for money. But I’m someone who likes to help and, in the end, I’m helping here by asking others for financial support. Once you start, it somehow becomes natural and you lose your inhibitions – especially when you find out that it works. Still, it remains a constant challenge.

What was a personal moment of success for you?

Seeing that you can move things forward faster than you had initially expected. Outset has been in Germany since 2007, and was founded in London in 2003. I took over the project at the start of 2016 and Outset has experienced a completely different presence in this relatively short amount of time. At least people always tell me that everyone is talking about Outset Germany. Of course, we’ll see at the auction if that’s actually true. I’ve also heard a lot of positive things now from otherwise very critical voices. That’s something to be a little proud of.

What can the patrons expect from Outset?

Well, they shouldn’t actually expect much because the philanthropic idea is absolutely in the foreground. That is laid down in our statutes. Since we are an NGO, the people who give us money and receive a donation receipt can’t expect anything in return. However, I can give them something in “return” as a private person by integrating them into my network. Likewise, I can open up possibilities for them – like organizing trips for them together with my team – for which they will pay themselves, that’s clear.

How did the idea for the benefit event come about?

The demand for our support by museums is very high and what we can do at the moment is unfortunately still just a drop in the bucket. I simply can’t generate money as fast as I would have to spend to meet the museums’ expectations. The idea for a benefit event came up while searching for a solution. The artists were almost 100% prepared to give us a work without any fuss. Sometimes works were even brought over to me that I hadn’t asked for.

What are you looking forward to most at the auction?

For a start, I’m very excited. It’s just a few more days now and I hope that a lot of people will come. And by that I don’t just mean those who will come to see what’s going on, but also those who will actually bid – and maybe even over the gallery price that we give in the catalog – because they know that 100% of the proceeds will go directly to Outset projects. The more money we generate with this auction, the more contemporary art we can place in museums next year and the year after. I really hope that works, of course also for the artists who put their trust in me and gave me their works for the auction. In the end, it gives me real pleasure to identify the right people and bring them together – be it patrons or sponsors. I think it’s great to think about who fits to who and where synergies can arise from.

As part of a benefit event on September 29th, Outset Germany_Switzerland will auction off 53 contemporary artworks at 6pm in the Philara Collection in Düsseldorf. 100% of the proceeds will go to art projects funded by Outset Germany_Switzerland. The works in the auction in cooperation with PHILLIPS (live auction) and ARTSY (silent/online auction) were donated by artists, gallerists, and collectors.

Further information can be found on Bettina Böhm’s Instagram account (@boehmbettina) here and on the Outset Instagram account (@outsetart) here.

Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.