Get to know this foremost expert in design from the early 20th century
A visit to Vetting Committee member Ulrich Fiedler’s Berlin gallery is an invitation into his home—truly. Ulrich has transformed his apartment into his gallery where visits are by appointment and guests can not only view pieces—but in the case of chairs and sofas—take a seat on them. Visitors seem to stay longer than they would in a traditional gallery setting, Ulrich notes. But that doesn’t seem to bother him at all.
Unconventional seems to be a thread in Ulrich’s life. His passion for early-20th-century design started when he found a Mies van der Rohe chair in the trash of all places. That was the first kiss in what became a lifelong passion of objects and the stories that make them unique. Now, Ulrich is considered an expert, and his gallery is renowned for showcasing some of the most exceptional pieces of the modernist era.
What’s on your desk right now?
Next to a stack of catalogs, there are now a lot of cookbooks during the Coronavirus restrictions.
What sparked your interest in design?
My fascination for the modern movement of the early 20th century started as a student, when I found an original Mies van der Rohe Chair in the trash.
Your approach to showing and selling design pieces is different than most galleries. Your gallery is your home. Tell us more about it and why you chose this approach.
For years, we had up to three showrooms and a staff. So, concentrating on one place, where we show our collection and live amongst our pieces has such a new quality for us—it’s something we had not imagined before. Most of our visitors stay there much longer than intended. I think they like the ambiance we created between being a visitor and a guest.
You have some of the most exceptional historical works of 20th-century design. Can you share more about your selection process? What makes one piece more interesting than another?
The first consideration is the original condition of the piece, followed by the provenance. If a piece is also connected to an important person, then it is perfect as it tells the story of the modern movement.
If you were new to collecting design, where would you start?
Everybody should start by considering your own taste, so you can create a personalized collection and not follow what you see everywhere in magazines.
Favorite piece of 20th century design:
It’s always my latest acquisition.
If you could visit any designer (historic or contemporary) in their studio, who would you choose and why?
Gerrit Rietveld, so I could witness his pragmatic and easy way of working.
Notable memory from Design Miami:
Recreating Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery with two Correalistic seats by Frederick Kiesler.
Best discovery you’ve made at Design Miami:
An early Sottsass Cabinet in 2017.
Ultimate dinner guest:
Mies van der Rohe and an after-dinner cigar.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received:
Always use your eyes and your ears when deciding to buy a new object.