Who: Freddy Reitz – Artist Where: Berlin – Zehlendorf What…
Who: Dr. Gerald Matt, Cultural Manager
Wo: Vienna, Austria
Presumably he is one of the last Bohemians of Vienna, who celebrates the savoir vivre with Austrian grandeur. A dandy straight out of a picture book: Dr. Gerald Matt, cultural manager and art consultant, who has led the Viennese “Kunsthalle” for 16 years and has established the contemporary art there until he had a falling out with the cultural politics. Today he works for a TV-Show, writes columns for Austrian magazines, and teaches as guest lecturer at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Just a stones throw away from the Naschmarkt – in the sophisticated 6th district – I visit the art expert, who says about himself that he is a manic collector and even owns more than 4.000 neckties. The door opens, and I enter a different world, with jazz music playing quietly in the background. On record self-evidently.
MyStylery: Dr. Matt, how does one become a manic collector?
Dr. Gerald Matt: Well, if you love fine objects or as so appropriately said by British philosopher Walter Pater: “The power of being deeply moved by a beautiful object”. As a collector I learned to see things in a cultural-temporary context. I know if a necktie originates from the 30s or 40s. Those from the American 40s are much broader cut similar to the wide trouser legs of that time. A lot of fabric is a sign of the affluent society after World War II.
MS: Is there something from special value to you?
GM: I can’t really answer that. It’s probably something that’s gotten lost or that I can’t find right now. You know it from interpersonal relationships. Suddenly someone’s gone and only after you experience the loss.
MS: Does that mirror your experience with women?
GM: I fully agree with Giovanni Agnelli who once said, I’d rather speak to women than about them.
MS: How narcissistic are you? There are a striking number of photos of you in dandy attitude hanging on the walls.
GM: The term is often misinterpreted because nowadays no one knows what a dandy actually is anymore. Just because someone dresses a little better, wears a necktie, and polished shoes, he must not be a dandy. My posture only expresses a little distance, a little disinterested pleasure to recite Kant.
MS: Do people nowadays dress badly in your opinion?
GM: Yes, absolutely terrible! They chase after fashion without any quality awareness for workmanship and fabrics. It has to be the newest outfit. Only the industry profits from this mindlessness.
MS: You on the other hand look like a time traveller coming straight from another area.
GM: Well I like wide trouser legs. That’s comfortable and when I lift my leg, it gets something flighty that makes me think of Fred Astaire. Don’t mistake it for the 70s. They stand for nylon, body odor, and revolutionary attitude.
MS: Do you own a pair of jeans?
GM: Yes, two classics, which I only wear when I’m in Texas.
MS: Therefore you have neckties a fortiori. What does a man do with 4.000 ties?
GM: Why do art enthusiasts have 4.000 paintings, why do women have hundreds of pair of shoes? I like changing my necktie, even though I haven’t worn all of them yet.
MS: You also have a soft spot for 60s fashion?
GM: Right, but good fashion outweighs room and space. Even though it depends on my mood if I choose a suit from the 40s, 50s or 60s. Today I had an appointment with the tax office and my mood was quite peevish. So I went in a dark blue single-breasted suit.
MS: It appears as if you live a little bit backward looking.
GM: (astonished) Do you think so? I don’t think it’s old-fashioned when you like cultivated footwear, wear ties, and use half decent manners. I find it avant-gardist and forward-looking. The question is how the future is going to be like. But that’s up to every single one of us.
MS: And your apartment? The atmosphere is quite museum-like, isn’t it?
GM: I love quality, you know, and you just don’t get that anymore. Leather suitcases for example or steel suitcases from Halliburton … today they cost you a fortune! Besides most of them are unpleasant and poorly manufactured. And reading books is by no means out of fashion! Whether it is a first edition of Walter Serners “Letzte Lockerung” or Perry Mason crime novels from the flea market.
MS: Do you read them as well?
MS: And the revolver next to them is just to make sure. Are you a little bit paranoid?
GM (laughs): That’s only for an emergency. Not loaded of course. I rather play with these things. That’s all a mock-up. If I had a real one obviously I wouldn’t tell you. I’d get a bad reputation. And the surprise effect wouldn’t be there if the unwelcomed visitors came indeed.
MS: You used to be director of the Viennese Kunsthalle for 16 years – not anymore.
GM: That’s right. I left – after the most successful year in history with over 200.000 visitors. I was so sick of the permanent conflict with an assemblyman from the green party. Art is the extraordinary to me, the other, the ingenious, not participation and grass-roots democracy. But Vienna lives from the intrigue, it applies the more danger, the more honor. I did not disappear; on the contrary, I teach at the university and have my own TV-Show and write comments for magazines. People should see: Ah, he’s still alive.
MS: Why didn’t you leave Vienna behind?
GM: I travel a lot; spend time especially in New York and Warsaw. Vienna is my safe harbor. Besides I like to walk a lot, which doesn’t work in an oversized city like Berlin – which from the Panam Lounge to Käthchens Ballhaus, I appreciate a lot. In the city center of Vienna you can reach everything by foot. And I love the Viennese coffeehouses, kind of public living rooms. In Vienna you can dine exquisitely in the local restaurants. To get good, down to earth food in a city like Berlin, you have to go to really expensive restaurants. But fine wining and dining always stood under general suspicion for Protestants.
MS: The Protestantism in it’s alleged fallibility seems to be one of your favorite topics.
GM: I can see that you’re a Protestant. Catholics are being insinuated with hypocrisy and corruption, where in reality fantasy and forgiveness is. Look here Saint Antonius, my favorite Saint. What did I loose: From the PC at the airport-bus to the golden watch in the London tube. Saint Antonius brings back everything. Of course you have to pay, at least ten euros into the offertory.
MS: Doesn’t your cleaner get a complete break down when she comes here?
GM: She is psychological toughened and trained.
MS: You’re not afraid that she displaces or breaks something?
GM: She is acting absolutely respectful towards my things. I have to admit though, that it took some time to find the perfect cleaning lady.
MS: There is almost no free space in your refuge. Did it use to be like this all the time?
GM: At the end of the 80s I started here with a mattress and a discarded hospital bed. Everything was white, it looked like a laboratory. And I lived out of my suitcase. To this day I still have a packed suitcase here in case I have to leave spontaneously. I’m prepared. Of course there’s a smoking in it, the most important piece of clothing if you want to establish in the immigration.
MS: What about your collection?
GM: It would be very sad, naturally, if I had to leave it behind and start a new. But it would be a new task at least. BvH
Dr. Matts favorite flea markets:
New York: Between 6th Avenue and 23rd Street the garage sale in Chelsea
Mexico City: Great for silver cufflinks
Paris: Marché aux Puces for leather furniture from the saloons of officers from the 30s.