Collectors Stories Art Cologne Magazine: Teunen family
Our meeting point is Wiesbaden’s main train station. Jan Teunen, clad all in black, has parked his black Land Rover in front of the station. We drive through the city and then along the wide Rhine.
It’s only about 15 miles to our destination. Jan Teunen has internalized this unique cultural landscape full of superlatives. He slows down to point out Romanesque architecture along the way: “The oldest stone house in Germany,” he says, “ the ancestral home of the Greiffenclau family.” Fruit trees are already blooming here at a time when spring is still far off elsewhere in Germany. It's the warmest region in the country, he explains. Whereupon Teunen, who is a management consultant and professor at Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design, quotes Dostoyevsky: “Beauty will save the world.”
Rising up in front of us is the majestic Johannisberg. The monastery vineyard, which dates back to the eighth century, bristles with grapevines. The estate’s eventful history includes its conversion into the summer residence of the Fulda prince abbot in the eighteenth century, as well as its destruction by British fighter bombers in 1942 and its reconstruction after the war.
Today the domain belongs to the Oetker Group. Jan Teunen and his wife Mieke have lived at Johannisberg Castle since 1977. They raised their two children in the east pavilion and maintained their growing art collection there until they recently moved to quarters in the west side wing.
A modern chamber of art and marvels
Mieke Teunen is already waiting there. Their clothes—both of them, they say, always wear black—contrast strongly with the profusion of color surrounding us in the interiors. The walls are bright red, dark blue, and lime green, or painted with softly colored diamond shapes. Contemporary art and vintage design, books and flowers, anatomical models, glass eyes, the shells of sea turtles, large seashells and snails, together with sculptures from Africa and the South Seas, make it seem like a modern chamber of art and marvels.
Copyright: Evelyn Dragan
You can scarcely get enough of the dialogues arranged with a great sense of style, and you get the feeling that the objects are linked with countless personal stories and relationships. The spherical vase by Michael Anastassiades? A gift from the Cypriot designer. The drawings in the kitchen? Painted by their grandchildren. The portrait of New York graphic designer Tibor Kalman looking into the library from the spine of a book? He was a good friend of the family.
Copyright: Evelyn Dragan
Mieke Teunen tells us how the Dutch couple ended up in the Rheingau, after serving hot Quiche Lorraine and cool glasses of Johannisberger Riesling. They met as neighbors when she, the daughter of an artist, was only 16. (A few months ago, they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.) Jan Teunen was slated to become a wine merchant, like his father, who died early. So he ended up at Asbach Uralt, in Rüdesheim, only a stone’s throw away from Johannisberg Castle. Connected with the brandy export trade, the young couple traveled a lot, and with the traveling the collecting began, although the two did not have much money at that time.
The Teunens grew up in loving families and had a strong sense of aesthetics early on, but they didn't, they say, inherit anything material. “A great gift,” Jan Teunen says, because as a result art dictated what furniture they purchased. “That wouldn't have happened if we’d had a trousseau.”
They have shopped at the Simonis Gallery in Düsseldorf and at Georg Laue in Munich. Again and again, encounters with artists have enriched their lives, with Max Bill and Jean Tinguely, with Helga Schmidhuber, Hilarius Hofstede, Miki Lin, and Jesse Magee.
Their careers shifted from spirits to design and consulting when their children were young. They can always part with things, be it an entire collection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century wine bottles or 1960s Italian design, which they then give to auctions. “Clearing out," is what they call this process. Do you get nostalgic when you say goodbye to things? Jan Teunen shrugs: “The caravan moves on,” he says, quoting a well-known Carnival song from the Rhineland.
Text: Lisa Zeitz