Carlos Esteve: Free spirit, Swiss banker and collector

Private Sammlung  

Carlos Esteve: Free spirit, Swiss banker and collector

Portrait of Carlos Esteve and his extensive art collection in Geneva.

Art collection

Carlos Esteve: A bank filled with art 

The building of Banque Heritage in Geneva is a special one. Carlos Esteve found it, loved it and then asked an art historian to find out everything you can possibly know about its story and impact on the city’s history. He then filled it with art from his extensive collection, covered every wall with a different shape and shade of grey artisanal painting and asked his friend and artist Daniel Ybarra to create a piece for the bank’s entrance that would open the space towards light. As this meant to let break down walls and ceilings to fulfill the artist’s vision of a VERY open space crowned with a Barcelona skylight piece, he just did – although it took two years to build it.

I am telling you this because this is exactly how Carlos Esteve started buying art and how he leads his life. If you want to nail it down you have to break with your stereotypes that will pop up in your mind if I give you this: A Swiss banker who holds more business lunches then days and owns an extensive art collection with artists such as Barry Flanagan, Frederic Clot, Stephen Conroy, Susanne Roewer, Scheibitz, Lozano Hemmer, Ernest Pignon, Carmen Calvo, Darina Karpov, Richard Galpin and Leo Zogmayer.

Just follow us into an evening that will be filled with art, beauty, free spirit, friendship and hearty food in a stormy summer night.

Carlos Esteve

Collecting rather extraordinary

Carlos Esteve is the offspring of a family of Spanish merchants who have spread across the world since the 19th century. Their nomadic blood is also flushing Carlos’ veins and as a true world citizen, he holds three passports and travels the (art) world constantly. Besides this he works on the family line by being the father of four bright daughters.

When, in the late 80ies, he started to collect art, he was humble enough to ask an art expert and Daniel, for guidance and lessons in art history. They would meet in Carlos kitchen and spend hours on discussion how art did evolve during the last centuries and how contemporary art was and is influenced by it.

This was the theoretical part. And an important one considering the fact that Carlos is also well known among his friends for being emotional, intuitive and fast to turn both into actions.

The praxis of buying art revealed itself right after.

I view myself as an “art amateur” rather than as an art collector.

Within the next months he and Daniel Ybarra travelled to art fairs in the quest for artists and pieces they would connect to. The plan was simple but effective. Daniel and Carlos would separate in order to pick the art they felt drawn to by themselves. Some hours later they would meet again and present each other their favorites – what they called “the top 5”. To their surprise usually three of the works would match. So they would make their way back to the art dealers and buy at least the first choice. Until the point when they experienced that the favorite piece was sold out. From now on they would send each other pictures on their phones as soon as they found an art piece they fell in love with.

At the artist studios Susanne Roewer

The Abanico foundation

One of the life patterns of Carlos is definitively to think big – and invest in friendship and support for the arts. Together with Daniel Ybarra, he founded the Abanico Foundation, an organization that brings multidisciplinary and intercultural exchange projects into life. So far the foundation invited over 1000 artists, writers, musicians, modern dancers and El Bulli’s chef cook Ferran Adrià to create performances and exhibitions that have enriched Geneva’s cultural scene. The future of Abanico holds workshop studios for artists and collaborations with artists in residencies.

Carlos EsteveSusanne Roewer

A home created by artists

Carlos’ home is a single homage to art and their creators. When the with natural light filled villa was build, twelve artists (Susanne Roewer, Carmen Perrin, Daniel Orson Ybarra, Laurent de Pury, Christian Bonnefoi, Roger Ackling, Federico Guzmàn, Arman, Takesada Matsutani and Fabiana de Barros) were asked to create elements of the house among them walls, shutters, windows and the garage doors.

At the dinner we are enjoying during this evening, we meet the artists Susanne Roewer and Stéphane Ducret, collectors, gallery owners, among them Alfred Kornfeld and Mamuka Bliadze from Galerie Kornfeld and Carlos’ beautiful daughters over a huge pan of paella and an incredible chocolate cake at 2 am in the morning. It feels like an imprint of Carlos’ way to approach life. 

When, at the next morning our rather unglamorous easy jet plane is taking us back to Berlin– we will have learnt that the inner motor behind the external shape of a massive art collection is a mix of passion, dedication and friendship.