Nicola Erni’s extensive photography collection includes works from the 1960s and 1970s, and many of those images feature pop culture icons at parties. In 2011, Erni herself penned a photobook, Zeitgeist & Glamour, exploring celebrity photography from the era, from Andy Warhol’s Factory to Studio 54 and nightclubs abroad. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Riddle Me This, Batman, from 1987, holds a sentimental place in Erni’s collection, which is based in Zug, Switzerland: it was the first artwork she installed in her private museum—which is not open to the public—just outside Zurich, in 2013. (A second windowless, multistory space for the growing collection is currently under construction in Steinhausen.) The piece last sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2010 for $6.2 million.
Though Basquiat’s prices have since skyrocketed, it was, at the time, the most ever paid at auction for a late-career work by the famed artist. Other significant works in her collection include Helmut Newton’s Sie kommen, Paris – Dressed and Naked, Vogue Studios (1981), Gian Paola Barbieri’s Jill Kellington, Port Sudan (1974), and Kate Moss (2002) by Mario Testino. In 2015, she commissioned fashion photographer Tim Walker to interpret Hieronymous Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights (1503-1515) through his own lens, and the resulting work has been exhibited at the Het Noordbrabants Museum in Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands. Erni’s collection has also been exhibited at other international venues. In 2018, the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme presented a fashion-focused photography show titled “Vive la Mode,” which included prints by Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, and Helmut Newton held in the Nicola Erni Collection.