I know many people find it disgusting, but in my eyes it’s beautiful,” says London-based Austrian collector Andrea Dibelius. She’s referring to a sculpture she owns by Jake and Dinos Chapman, comprising a group of angelic-looking mannequin heads joined by an anus and sprouting 12 penises. She had originally planned to install the piece in her entrance hall, but it now resides in her private study, where it can’t offend visitors’ sensibilities.
Salzburg-born Dibelius trained in law and worked in marketing at DaimlerChrysler Bank from 2002 to ’05. Shortly after leaving the bank, she commissioned a portrait from German painter Dieter Mammel, who initiated her into the world of art. “I immediately got hooked,” she says. Since then, her collection has expanded to include a gold sculpture of Kate Moss in yogic knots by Marc Quinn, an Ai Weiwei porcelain cube, and paintings by Albert Oehlen and Michaël Borremans.
Four years ago, Dibelius launched the Emdash Foundation to promote cutting-edge initiatives in the arts and sciences. The foundation supported Frieze Projects, the experimental strand of the London art fair, from 2011 to ’13, and it funded the Emdash Award for emerging artists from outside Britain. Finnish artist Pilvi Takala won last year’s prize for her proposal to give most of the £10,000 award money to a group of schoolchildren to see how they used it.
That inspired Dibelius’s latest sponsorship project: a protest performance by 60 children from East London organized by British conceptual artist Peter Liversidge. The resulting show, which included a demonstration with songs and banners addressing issues from dog poop to aggressive behavior, was staged in May at Whitechapel Gallery. “Through this art performance, the kids learned that they have a voice and can stand up and change things and be heard,” Dibelius says.
Aside from art, Dibelius invests in startup businesses ranging from cosmetics to catering. She has homes in London, Saint-Tropez, and Munich, the latter being a reconstruction of novelist Thomas Mann’s house.
Focused primarily on the younger end of the artist spectrum, Dibelius recently acquired works by Analia Saban, Oscar Murillo, and Seth Price. However, she remains loyal to her earlier purchases. “I’ve not yet sold any piece that I’ve ever bought,” she says. “I still love all of them almost equally for different reasons.”
A version of this story originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 75 under the title “The 10.”