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'Heart and soul' collectors

VIVIANE Berko is charismatic and loves talking about art. For more than 40 years, Berko and her husband Patrick have shared the same appreciation for painters of the 19th century. The couple owns the Berko Gallery and their clients include Prince Albert of Monaco, Elton John and Rod Stewart. They also publish art books and dictionaries such as "Dictionary of Belgian and Dutch Animal Painters born between 1750 and 1880" and "Berko." Viviane and Patrick Berko will be in Shanghai soon to publish their latest book: "The 19th Century European Virtuoso Painters." Viviane says she spent two years preparing the book, which has been translated into Chinese.

Q: Why are you publishing a book on 19th century European paintings here in China?

A: The people of China really appreciate these 19th century paintings and it has been our specialty for almost 40 years. The Chinese people, very familiar with paintings, are true collectors. For several decades they have bought all our books regarding 19th century paintings.

Q: What's your advantage in writing this book, as many readers may consider art professors more qualified to write such a book?

A: Studies are important but we do believe that experience is the true key element. When you have the opportunity to visualize and to analyze more than 1,000 paintings you actually will become an expert in the domain.

Q: Do you think the art market in China has great potential in this area?

A: Yes, it's like I have said before, the Chinese really appreciate paintings of 19th century virtuoso painters and as they are collectors in heart and soul, they buy a lot. The problem will be for us to find more paintings as they are becoming very rare.

Q: Do you remember the first 19th century European painting you purchased? When?

A: Yes I do. I was with my future husband more than 35 years ago and it was a painting by Jacques Crabain.

Q: Currently how many pieces does your family have?

A: If you are referring to our personal collection, we must own around 50 paintings, but we won't sell any of them as every painting refers to a special moment or story in our family life.

Q: Do you believe that art can really change how a woman dresses as I heard that your colleagues admire your elegant sense of style?

A: Art and culture in general open the mind and gives you another glance at the world. I have always been a perfectionist in my way of getting dressed. This comes from my mother who, at the age of 86, is still very elegant and neat.


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