Ferdinand Wolfgang Neess, a German art dealer and collector who amassed a world-class collection of Art Nouveau painting, sculpture, and design, has died at the age of 90, according to the German-language Monopol magazine. “A great man has left us,” Prime Minister Volker Bouffier and Minister of Art Angela Dorn of Hesse said in tribute to the German state’s most generous art patron.
Over the course of four decades, Neess acquired over 500 works by leading German, French, and Austrian Art Nouveau artists for his private collection housed within his Wiesbaden Villa, which is itself an important example of the movement’s architectural style. His collection includes works by Heinrich Vogeler and Gustave Moreau, as well as entire furniture ensembles by late 19th-century designers like Hector Guimard.
In spring 2017, he bequeathed the entirety of the Neess Collection to the state government, which has valued the gift at €42 million (around $46 million). Since June 2019, the full collection has been on permanent view in the state-owned Museum Wiesbaden. The exhibition includes more than 90 paintings, pastels and watercolors, among them works by Moreau and his student Edgar Maxine. Sculpture by Alphonse Mucha and glassware by quintessential decorative artists Louis Comfort Tiffany and Emile Gallé are also on view for the first time. At the exhibition’s opening, Wiesbaden Museum director Alex Karr described the display as something to behold.
In October 2019, Neess was awarded the country’s Georg August Zinn Medal in honor of his patronage. “Ferdinand Neess gave the Hessians and everyone who visits Wiesbaden a great gift with his collection,” Bouffier and Dorn told Monopol. “We will all always be grateful to him.”