Karl & Faber – The Art of Collecting over the Course of History

Nearly 100 years ago, in 1923, the art historian Georg Karl and der German philologist Curt von Faber du Faur founded the auction house in Munich. Active in the art and antiquarian book trade, they initially focused on the selling and auctioning of books in the Gärtnerplatz quarter, and later at Karolinenplatz Square.

The first auction took place in 1927: The top lot, Grimmelshausen’s “Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus (Simplicius Simplicissmus)” from the collection of Victor Manheimer, achieved what was for that time a very impressive result of 1750 Goldmarks. Only two years later, Curt von Faber du Faur left the company. After a long sojourn in Florence, he emigrated to the USA in 1939.  There, he was offered a professorship at Yale University in 1944, where he taught and researched from that time onwards.

From then on, Georg Karl ran the business on his own: in the following years, important auctions took place, such as the auction of bibliophilic treasures from the library of the Augsburg patrician Marcus Fugger (1529-1597) or of works from the collection of the Princes Oettingen-Wallerstein. The 25th auction, the last one to take place during World War II, had to be moved to Murnau for safety reasons in 1944. During the post-war years, at the house’s 30th auction, fine art was auctioned off in a separate auction for the first time.

Louis Karl, Georg Karl’s son, who was 19 years old at the time he joined the company as an auctioneer in 1961. Ten years later, he became its sole proprietor. Gradually, he was to shift the auctioneering emphasis from books to art, and it was he who initiated the breakthrough to Modernism. A time ensued of intensive collaboration with US-American collectors, who ranked among the most important clients of the auction house for many decades. In addition, Louis Karl launched exhibitions and successfully auctioned off important collections. For example, in 1981, the collection of Reinhard Piper came under the hammer at the Munich auction house. The publisher had been a close friend of the artists Barlach, Beckmann and Kubin. Likewise, the 150th auction in 1979 attracted a great deal of attention – as it marked the sale of paper works dating from the era of Romanticism that had belonged to the Haniel family.

In 2003, Dr. Rupert Keim and his family acquired the company. The main managing partner was Rupert Keim’s sister-in-law Nicola Keim. As a member of a German business family committed to promoting culture, art was a matter very close to her heart. The new management broadened the scope of the auctions with Contemporary Art and expanded the business network. Auction house representations were established at several other locations in Germany, as well as in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Great Britain and the USA. At the same time, Dr. Rupert Keim carried on with the house tradition, conducting important auctions with great success.

Thus, in 2007, KARL & FABER auctioned off the collection of Walter Bareiss. Likewise, in 2010, a portion of the collection of Marvin and Janet Fishman marked the most successful German auctioning of an individual collection of German art from the 1920s and 1930s. This was followed in 2015 by a sale of important “German Expressionist Prints” from the Ahlers Collection. When auctioning off selected works from the collection of Gunter Sachs in 2014, KARL & FABER auction house was able to bring nearly all of the lots under the hammer owing to the great demand and strong international participation. Equally successful was the auction of the Hamburg Preuss collection in 2018, with the special catalogue “Reiz der Linie (Attraction of the Line)” that featured contemporary works on paper from Lucebert to Tuttle. The sales quota was almost 170 percent above the estimate. The same year, a collection containing paper works by Gugging artists (Art Brut) achieved a sensational sales quota of 100 percent in terms of the lots sold.

Thanks to an innovative digital strategy and the collaboration with leading online auction portals, KARL & FABER continues to expand its reach. Today, the sales at Karl & Faber attract bidders from over 90 countries. In 2020, the Munich auctioneers defied the year of the Pandemic with a record annual turnover of nearly 20 million Euros. The highlight of this memorable year was the special auction “Tendencies of Abstraction”. Here, museum-quality works were auctioned from a private collection in Ulm – the art ranging from Kandinsky via Uecker to Christo. With more than two million Euros, the proceeds from this auction exceeded the estimates by 150 percent!

Today, KARL & FABER counts as one of the most dynamic auction houses in the entire D-A-CH-Region that encompasses Germany, Austria and Switzerland.