Art collector and widow of billionaire Heidi Goëss-Horten died on Sunday 12 June 2022 at the age of 81 in her home on Lake Wörthersee. (Archival photo from 30/08/2019)
She lived alongside a super rich man and invested his legacy wisely. By buying art, she proved that she had the right instincts. After all, Heidi Goëss-Horten was recognized as the richest Austrian – now she has died unexpectedly.
It has accumulated an important art collection over the decades, but it is only in recent years that Heidi Goëss-Horten has made it available to the public. At the beginning of June, the private museum “Heidi Horten Collection” was opened in Vienna.
Just days later, the collector and billionaire widow of the former German king of department store Helmut Horten (1909-1987), died unexpectedly on Sunday at the age of 81. She died in her home on Lake Wörthersee, which was confirmed by a spokesman for the German news agency.
“It is with great regret and deep sadness that we must report the completely unexpected death of our patron and founder Heidi Goëss-Horten,” reads the museum’s statement. It will be remembered for its diverse involvement in arts and sports.
From secretary to wife
Helmut Horten met the then secretary from Vienna in 1959 on Lake Wörthersee and became his second wife. Her husband laid the cornerstone of his fortune during the Nazi era when he benefited from the expropriation of Jews by the Nazis.
At the beginning of 2022, at the request of the widow, a report on her husband’s past was published. According to this, Horten was a beneficiary when he took over department stores from Jewish owners but did not promote “Aryanization” at the time.
Helmut Horten developed his company into the fourth largest group of department stores in Germany – after Karstadt, Hertie and Kaufhof. A total of 50 department stores belonged to the Horten group at the beginning of the 1970s.
Horten inspired Switzerland to revise its tax law
By selling his department store empire in good time – in the late 1960s and early 1970s – Horten became a billionaire and saved DM 250 million in taxes by moving to Switzerland. Impressed by this incident, which outraged the citizens, the Bundestag passed the “Lex Horten” and filled a gap in the tax law.
After his death, the Austrian made art collecting her business. It was a good time, because the art market in the 90s offered buyers extremely attractive prices. Her castle-like villa on Lake Wörthersee in Austria resembled a top-class art museum.
Works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Paul Klee, Gerhard Richter, Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol embellished the everyday life of Heidi Goëss-Horten as wall decorations. She used her husband’s inheritance very wisely. With around three billion euros, the art collector was the richest Austrian.
In 2018, she showed parts of her collection for the first time
Her private collection includes around 700 works, including paintings by German expressionists such as Max Pechstein, Emil Nolde, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and August Macke. One of them is one of the most famous landscapes of the Art Nouveau painter Klimt, “The Church in Unterach am Attersee” from 1916, as is Egon Schiele’s Portrait of a Lady from 1912, in which he immortalized his partner Wally Neuzil.
She first showed a part of the collection to the public in 2018 at an exhibition at the Vienna Leopold Museum. The Horten collection is linked to the 1994 coup d’état at Sotheby’s in London. During this time, the billionaire managed to anonymously sell 34 photos of the highest quality. Including her favorite theme “Les Amoureux” (1916) by Marc Chagall.
She was also a board member of the Horten Foundation, founded by her husband in 1971, supporting medical institutions and research. Goëss-Horten, who owned one of the largest yachts in the world, the 100-meter “Carinthia VII”, was also involved in ice hockey as honorary president of the Klagenfurt athletics club. In 2015, she married Carl Anton “Kari” Goëss from a former noble family.
Matthias Röder and Stephan Maurer, dpa