Daniel Hug, director of Art Cologne, and his gallerist wife Natalia share their home with their twenty-month-old son Nikolai and a collection of art and design that reflects four generations of creativity.
When he moved to Cologne eight years ago, the glass-walled space reminded Hug of the architecture of Richard Neutra and felt like a connection to his former home city of LA. ‘I had to do very little other than paint and hang lamps,’ he confesses. ‘The apartment was occupied before by the artist Lothar Hempel and the designer Petra Hollenbach, so I benefitted from their good taste.’
Constructed in 1967 – the inaugural year of Art Cologne fair – the building stands within the city’s medieval walls and was first designed as a spa. Prior to conversion in the 1970s, the space that is now the couple’s bedroom was a swimming pool and the living room, an open terrace with a fire pit.
The early Marcel Breuer designs collected by the couple have personal significance for Hug. ‘He was a very good friend of my grandfather László Moholy-Nagy, and like him, a fellow Hungarian at the Bauhaus.’
A photogram self portrait by Moholy-Nagy looks out from the wall of the master bedroom, beside a Hellenic votive head inherited from Hug’s father (and passed down from his grandfather). The snowy landscape in the twins’ bedroom is the work of Hug’s German great-granduncle, the artist Richard Pietzsch.
Natalia and Daniel’s close involvement in the contemporary artworld is evident through editions and works inventively displayed throughout the living spaces. The Eileen-Gray-inspired curtains in the living room are a piece by Glasgow-based artist Corin Sworn, who is represented by Natalia, while the multi-panel work behind the dining table is an unfolded artist book by Henning Bohl and Will Benedict.
Other purchases – such as a large print by Christopher Williams – reflect personal friendships or passions. ‘The painting above the couch I bought at Art Cologne,’ says Hug. ‘It’s by the Australian artist Andy Boot – one of my favourite artists of the last decade. He dipped cooked pieces of spaghetti in coloured ink and randomly threw them at the canvas, leaving these marks.’
Ahead of the opening of Art Cologne (14 – 17 April), we spoke to Hug about what his home says about him – and about life as a ‘packrat’.
What does a home mean to you?
Escape, nest, hideout, cooking, sleeping, love.
What do you like best about the space?
The light and airflow – in summer, we open the doors to both balconies and enjoy a constant breeze.
How much do the contents of your living space reflect your professional life?
The apartment definitely reflects our interests, much like the offerings at Art Cologne, or Natalia’s gallery: an interest in ‘progressive’ art. Contemporary art editions and Breuer furniture are not particularly luxurious or for that matter outrageously expensive. Natalia likes an austere, reduced sort of living space, the same as her gallery: a plain white cube. I am concerned with functionalism, purpose, and am drawn to the aesthetics that naturally evolve from this.
Would you consider yourself a collector? If so, of what?
I’m more like a packrat. If it weren’t for my wife Natalia, the place would be filled with stuff. Last year she rented a storage space for me to clean out and make more room in the apartment, forcing me to really select what I absolutely needed to live with. I suspect she’s not finished yet.
What three objects would you save in a fire?
Passports, photo albums, the photogram!
If you could inhabit any space in any building across the world besides your own, what would it be?
Casa Malaparte, Capri.
See more from our ‘How I live‘ series.