Brendan Becht is a Milan-based restaurant owner and art collector who we met at his natural habitat - "Zazà Ramen" to talk about art collecting, the multicultural influences, passion for art, supporting emerging artists and the importance of "having a good eye".
"Unsold Paintings (a contemporary picture gallery)”, Jacqueline Peeters at Zazà Ramen Milan (October 2020 - September 2021), photo by Stefano Mascolo
What drove you into art collecting?
I have been born in a family of art collectors and immersed in the art scene from a very young age. At first, when you are a small child, you do not realise the meaning or purpose of all the objects you see in the house. Later, I started to realise that the way our house looked was different from my peers, and from there on, I passed to learn more about the art I was surrounded by. My parents have started collecting art in the 1960s and have the luck to be the early collectors of multiple artists, who then got world-famous: Christo, Yayoi Kusama, Arman, Mimmo Rotella, Lucio Fontana, to list a few names. So, naturally, I followed in their footsteps, taking care of and managing the vast collection while also developing its contemporary art branch along the way.
Brendan Becht, Woody van Amen, Mimmo Rotella & Jan Donia (Hilversum, the Netherlands, 1967)
Did the Becht collection ever have a theme or a specific focus?
The focus was always on the contemporary and living artists; my parents preferred to buy art directly from the studio, or the galleries, rarely art fairs or auctions. Therefore, the Becht collection represents various artistic movements that emerged and "caught the eye" of my parents over the years. So, I believe it is essential to have a "good eye" both as an art collector and as a curator: to see beyond the superficial and recognise the idea and the concept behind an artwork.
Has the collection ever been exhibited to the public?
Yes, it has been included in numerous museum exhibitions all over Europe; I am the one to take care of the logistics and the temporary loans, which is sometimes quite challenging. The most recent show is the one in the Kunst Museum Winterthur in Switzerland. However, it is still best to have artworks accessible to the public fruition despite all the challenges and share the artworks and their legacy with the communities.
“Living with Art- Dialogues with the Agnes & Frits Becht Collection”, Kunst Museum Winterthur, 28.11.2020-11.4.2021 (works by David Tremlett and Richard Long)
Here at Zazà Ramen, there are quite a few artworks around. Is it an exhibition space?
At Zazà, we have been hosting numerous exhibitions from international artists, who have at their disposal the vast wall space: some go in with the wall painting, while others, like the current exhibition of the work by Jacqueline Peeters - with the "modern quadreria" painting installation. Growing up surrounded by art, I have learned to appreciate it and enjoy it in various contexts. In most cases, art in a restaurant may be considered reductive or decorative; we strive to develop a curated and thought-through model, highlighting the artist's practice's conceptual value.
"Unsold Paintings (a contemporary picture gallery)" Jacqueline Peeters at Zazà Ramen Milan (October 2020 - September 2021), photo by Stefano Mascolo
How would you describe the experience you have had at the ReA! Art Fair?
When I learned about the event, I was immediately intrigued by the approach you adopted, exhibiting emerging and independent artists. The exhibition itself had various selection, among which the sculpture of Mengyuan Wu instantly attracted me and my partner's attention, which we later acquired. The marble sculpture, which is usually reserved for classical themes, was used to create a fascinating contemporary artwork. We are still following the artist and her most recent work on social media; it is exciting to see how her research unfolds and grows over time — looking forward to seeing the 100 new artists you will be presenting in 2021 at the II Edition.
“Human Sprout”, Mengyuan Wu (2019, statuary marble from Carrara, 23 x 17 cm)