Art Market

How Collector Katrin Bellinger Brings Artists’ Studios into Her Home

Mollie E. Barnes
Dec 12, 2022 9:47PM

Portrait of Katrin Bellinger by Julian Anderson. Courtesy of Katrin Bellinger.

Lisa Brice, Untitled, 2019. Courtesy of the Katrin Bellinger Collection.

Collector Katrin Bellinger loves sharing her artworks with the public and promoting the artists who made them. “One of the great pleasures in collecting is sharing,” she recently told Artsy. “Not only with people who are visiting, but by lending to exhibitions, so that a wider audience can see the works. I enjoy the feedback I get when the collection is shown. We often learn from the insights that we gather when works are on public view.”

This year, Bellinger has loaned works from her phenomenal collection to the show “Absent Artists” at Charleston House in Sussex, and to the exhibition “A Century of the Artist’s Studio: 1920–2022” at Whitechapel Gallery in London. Where “Absent Artists”—which included Bellinger’s works by Annie Leibovitz, David Hockney, and Phyllida Barlow—showcased images of the artist’s studio (without the artist present), “A Century of the Artist’s Studio” includes over 100 years of artworks that focus on artists’ creative pursuits. Bellinger has, in fact, centered her approximately 1,700-piece collection on creative production and the artist’s studio.

Bellinger’s collecting “affliction,” as she calls it, began at a young age, with humble sea shells and leaves. “Anything I had more than three of had potential,” she said. Since she began seriously collecting in 1985, Bellinger’s approach has progressed naturally, growing in parallel to her career as a prominent art dealer: Bellinger has specialized in Old Master drawings and, from 2001 to 2015, ran the Old Master drawings department at the international art gallery Colnaghi.

Leonora Hamill, Painting I St Petersburg, 2012. Courtesy of the Katrin Bellinger Collection.


Bellinger began by accumulating drawings and prints, then progressed to paintings, sculptures, and photographs. A considerate caretaker of the works, she balances passion and discipline—strong, intuitive reactions to artworks and extensive research both guide her collecting practices.

Bellinger is, notably, just as seduced by unknown artists as she is by famous ones. Her collection includes works by Leonora Hamill, Louis Carrogis, Yinka Shonibare, Lisa Brice, Erling Valtyrson, Antony Gormley, Rembrandt, Parmigianino, Georges Seurat, among many others. “I often cannot resist a beautiful object,” she said.

A single motif—“the artist at work”—guides Bellinger’s collection. She owns Annie Leibovitz’s 2010 photograph of Georgia O’Keeffe’s pastels, Louis Wade’s 2017 study of his hands cleaning brushes, and Lucian Freud’s 1983 painting of his studio. Bellinger’s focus both immortalizes artists and prevents conflicts with her clients’ collections.

Antony Gormley, The Origin of Drawing VIII, 2008. Courtesy of the Katrin Bellinger Collection.

Bellinger’s excitement for the artist’s studio and creative work began with her own attempt at a career as an artist. Born in Cologne, Germany, Bellinger later attended art school in New York. She focused on graphic design and illustration before studying at Sotheby’s in London and becoming an art dealer at age 28. Her clients have included the Getty and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Bellinger’s obsession with creativity never died; she just channeled it into her collection. Her focused acquisitions examine how artists see both themselves and others, in and out of the studio. She owns artworks that depict artists’ behind-the-scenes activities—photographs of artists’ studios, paintings of working artists, or depictions of their tools, for example—which offer viewers the opportunity to look over the artist’s shoulder. These pieces, Bellinger said, confront the “urge we all have to get closer to the mystery of how a work of art comes into being.”

Following this interest, Bellinger founded the Tavolozza Foundation, a nonprofit based in Munich, Germany, in 2001 (tavolozza is Italian for “palette”). The organization has supported exhibitions such as “Fuseli and the Modern Woman: Fashion, Fantasy, Fetishism” at the Courtauld Institute of Art, “The Last of the Romanticists” at Kupferstich-Kabinett, and “Making Modernism” at the Royal Academy of Arts.

Erling Valtyrson, Self-portrait, 2017. Courtesy of the Katrin Bellinger Collection.

In 2016, Bellinger became a founding patron of the Artist’s Studio Museum Network. Based at Watts Gallery in Surrey, England, the initiative created the first-ever international network of museums based on former artists’ studios or homes. Bellinger also brings her discerning eye and interest in public service to the boards of the National Gallery, London and the Tate. In the past, she has served on the boards of Sir John Soane’s Museum and the Royal Drawing School.

Bellinger’s interests are especially evident at her multi-floor London home, where she has adorned every wall, tabletop, mantlepiece, and bookshelf with artworks from her collection. Guests can enjoy prints, photographs, paintings, sculptures, and other objects that span many eras. Drawing, however, is at the core of these works. This is Bellinger’s real specialty.

Rose-Marie Guillaume, A Woman Painter in the Studio of the Académie Julian, Paris, 1890s. Courtesy of the Katrin Bellinger Collection.

Gijsbertus Johannes van den Berg, The Drawing Lesson, 1790s. Courtesy of the Katrin Bellinger Collection.

“My home is testament to my wide-ranging passion for collecting,” Bellinger said. Sculptures, too, crop up around her rooms: One striking example is a cast bronze of the hands of artist Ernest Meissonier holding brushes, created by Meissonier’s student Vincenzo Gemito.

Bellinger often reunites preparatory sketches with final works of art, further highlighting the artistic process. Recently, she purchased French artist François Bonvin’s 1848 painting of a female painter at her easel. Long considered lost, the work is now reunited with one of its original sketches, already in the collection.

The collection has grown so large that Bellinger has recruited curator Anita Viola Sganzerla to help conserve her artworks and put them into dialogue with each other. “As well as creating groups of interconnected works, I also enjoy placing diverse objects and works of art close to each other to allow for unexpected associations,’’ Bellinger said. For example, David Hockney’s Portrait of Pierre Le Tan (1974) and Pierre Le Tan’s Portrait of David Hockney (1974) hang side by side, demonstrating the artists’ friendship and admiration. Similarly, Leonora Carrington appears in the collection via Kati Horna’s photograph of the artist, which brings the Mexican Surrealist painter into Bellinger’s home.

Esme Hodsoll, Orchids/Torso, 2021–22. Courtesy of the Katrin Bellinger Collection.

Chantal Joffe, Self-portrait with Left Arm Bent Behind, 2015. Courtesy of the Katrin Bellinger Collection.

Bellinger has, in fact, always been passionate about championing women artists. Since the beginning of her collecting journey, Bellinger has widened her collection to include significant works on paper and paintings by, and of, women artists at every stage of their career. She recently acquired Esme Hodsoll’s oil on panel Orchids/Torso (2021–22). A highly personal and intimate work, it plays with ideas of reflection and self-portraiture. “Despite the difficulties and limitations historically encountered, women are shown making art in a variety of images. This ranges vastly in date and geographical provenance,” Bellinger said.

Bellinger also shares her works in the digital sphere, via the Instagram account and her packed website. Going forward, Bellinger aims to develop the collection from a place of pleasure, she said, “not only to discover works and artists, but to share what I have collected with others.”

Mollie E. Barnes