You don’t have to be an art expert to know what you like — what pulls you in or lights you up. Even with his depth and breadth of knowledge and experience in the art world, Danish curator, collector and publisher Jens-Peter Brask says what he ultimately looks for is art that gives him “a punch in the stomach.” And because he’s what you might call an art evangelist, what really excites him is the fact that this kind of visceral, personal experience with art is something that’s open to anyone — no degree or pedigree required. “I think there is a widespread misconception of art as being something elitist,” explains Brask. “This saddens me, because I fear it deters some to engage with art. I think anyone who is interested should allow themselves to explore art, and not think of it as an exclusive field.”
Passionate about making art accessible, he pours a lot of energy into publishing art books and organizing public mural projects. For his book series Brask Studio Visits, which will release its seventh edition this fall, the Copenhagen-based curator visits artists from all over the world in their studios, documenting each individual’s underlying process, from ideation to production. As this rare behind-the-scenes content is both fascinating and humanizing, the reader — whether art novice or expert — comes away feeling more connected to the creativity and vulnerability inherent in the life of an artist.
“Art is for me one of the ultimate joys in life. I am so fascinated by art’s ability to bring people together, but also how art invites us to engage in conversations with each other. Art is a mediator that can generate discussions and expand our world perspectives, and most importantly, it can change people’s minds.”
The purpose of Brask’s mural projects — featuring work by artists such as Mason Saltarrelli, AIKO, Boy Kong, Anton Munar, Dabs Myla, Retna, Kenny Scharf, Henrik Soten and many more — is to bring art into people’s everyday lives. But his personal enthusiasm for presenting art in public spaces also hints at details of his own introduction to the world of art. Growing up in Roskilde (about 30 minutes outside of Copenhagen), Brask became fascinated with the raw aesthetic of graffiti, tried his hand at it and became immersed in its intoxicating subculture. In the early 90s he co-founded the magazine Sneaktip with the Danish graffiti artist Rens. Writing about art became a part of his life, and collecting as a hobby was a logical next step that eventually snowballed into something bigger.
Even as he worked as a restaurateur for many years, Brask’s collection grew, and he began to feel his energy being pulled more and more toward art. In 2015, he sold his restaurant and started working full time as a curator. Grateful everyday to be able to pursue his passion as a profession, Brask works with homeowners, galleries, organizations and museums, selecting and staging art to suit and elevate each individual space. Through it all, he remains in ongoing awe of the way a single work of art can have completely different meanings depending on who’s looking at it. “The beauty of art lies in the fact that we all have our own interpretation and perception of it,” says Brask. “You are therefore the missing piece to complete the work, and I think this interaction is beautiful and powerful. Art wouldn’t be interesting if it didn’t initiate discussions.”
What advice would you give new collectors?
“Any potential collectors should know that the time and money invested in art is the best investment one can ever make. It doesn’t matter if you visit a bad or good exhibition, the effect will be the same because you will somehow have extended your own perspective. I have always made an effort to invest as much time as possible in art, visiting exhibitions, doing studio visits, going to openings, etc. For me the time you give is nothing compared to what you get in return, and I would encourage all who are interested in collecting art, or art in general, to get out there and explore art in person.”
Any artists on your radar right now?
“I am always interested to see what Michael Kvium and Eddie Martinez are working on. I have been following them both for years, and they are both well represented in The Brask Collection. In the younger generation I think Nicholas Koshkosh and Bjørn Magnussen are extremely interesting. They are both very young but have already managed to create their own unique style. Koshkosh lives and works in Moscow and his works are so filled with energy! It is refreshing to see a young talent who is expressing himself in such a raw, yet very poetic manner. Magnussen is based in Copenhagen very close to my office, and I think his works are brilliant!"
Tell us about your collecting style.
“Always buy from the heart! The most hyped or Instagrammed artists are not necessarily the best, so it is important to take the time to get to know the market and find what speaks to you. The art world is filled with market speculations, but I have never found this part of collecting interesting. And although I am aware that some of the acquisitions I have made are much more valuable today than when I acquired them, my perception of the works remains the same. I don’t see the reason in collecting works from an economic perspective. I am much older fashioned in the sense that I like to have my works hanging to look at, and not standing as bags of money in an empty warehouse.”
As a collector, what kind of art do you gravitate toward?
“I always try to expand my horizons and find works of art that somehow fascinate me. I like to look for art that stands out and gives me a punch in the stomach. I think it’s important to be bold and acquire a work that speaks to you, even though it is not the most hyped or popular artist.”
Photography by Mads Guldager