In a converted factory in one of the many courtyards near Hackescher Markt – Berlin-Mitte, is the home and art collection of Erica Hoffmann. It extends from the third to the fifth floor, round three sides of the courtyard – room after room of airy spaces, some white painted, others retaining the old worn paintwork of the factory. From the early 60s, Erica and Rolf Hoffmann were involved with many contemporary artists – leading them eventually to acquire an extensive collection of art in many different media. You can read about them here – Sammlung Hoffmann. Now that Rolf Hoffmann has died, Erica continues to add to the collection, and every July a new exhibition is mounted. Every Saturday she opens her home to the public.
It’s over a week since I returned from Berlin, but visiting Erica Hoffmann’s home was one of the highlights of my stay – as much for the experience of walking through those extensive rooms, as for the art itself. Wearing large wool slippers that slid along the wooden floors, we were led from room to room by our guide, who attempted to engage us in lively discussion about the pieces.
I recall a tiny hole in the floorboard where, looking down, we saw the video work of Pipilotti Rist – Selbstlos im Lavabad – a blonde woman surrounded by flames, reaching her flailing arms towards us, crying for help – so tiny it was oddly amusing in a comic-book way. In another room the powerful work by Chiharu Shiota – Inside Outside – a tower created by old window frames and glass – a labyrinth of windows leading towards it – inside a single chair, evoking a sense of loneliness, isolation, the world through or beyond windows. There was so much to see and to wonder about that an hour and half was scarcely time for one room alone. From the huge windows we looked down to the courtyard café, the sunlight in the shimmering trees, over a wall to a metal fire escape winding down the side of a building, the many angles of rooftop and gable.
I was struck by Erica’s library in a gallery at the top of the building – two high bookshelves running almost the length of the room, parallel and about ten feet apart – between them a chaise-long, a lamp, a table. Such simplicity and elegance, and so many art books.
Leaving the building, full of images and ideas, I felt very up-lifted. I loved the building with its sense of space and peace, was intrigued by the work, but above all inspired by the Hoffmanns’ desire to create something so beautiful, and in so doing, support many artists, both financially, and in the sharing and development of their work. It is something, if ever I had money, I would dearly love to do.
Tricia Durdey dances, writes, and teaches Pilates.