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Interview
| Florentine Maats

Q&A with Artist and Former CEO of Vodafone, Philipp Humm

Let’s kick off with the inevitable question – what was it like making the 180 transition for board room to artist? Has it been a big change?

It has been a major change and I left a lot of money behind me. But it was worth it. I am very passionate about my work as an artist and enjoy every second of it. What could be better than creating beautiful works of art? Plato once said, if there is something worth living for, it is the contemplation of beauty. Art is the purest form of beauty! What is important to understand is that I transited from business not because I was bored, I enjoyed being a CEO, but because I wanted to pursue my true and purest passion. I always told my children, whatever you do in life, you better be passionate and good at it, otherwise life is miserable. In a way, I am a classical second lifer, a model most of us will live as life expectancy is increasing.

How has your work in the corporate world influenced your art?

As an artist you process in your work your life experiences including your professional ones. Looking back on 30 years in business, half in technology, I feel that there are a lot of topics I have the credentials to articulate an opinion on. For example, when I talk about the dangers of technologies, I talk as an insider.

Are there parts of your previous career that you miss?

I don’t miss anything. Life is about making choices and the older we get the less choices we have. So far, I am happy with the choices I made. If anything, I hope I have long enough to live to create and create.

Your current exhibition combines the Faust story with broader socio-cultural references. What inspired this direction?

My current exhibition is about The Faustian Pact, where a scientist (Dr Faust) sells his soul to the devil (Mephisto) for short-term gratification like divine knowledge and lust. Johan Wolfgang von Goethe wrote Faust in the 18-19th century. It was relevant at the time and it is even more relevant today. Just think of all the short-term bets we as a society take, hoping that the long-term risks won’t materialise. Take environmental topics, AI, nuclear, DNA sequencing…

In 2015, you were ‘outed’ as artist by the Wall Street Journal. What effect has this has and has this escalated your journey to full time artist?

The Wall Street journal was indeed very excited to find out that the Tech CEO Philipp Humm and the artist Rudolf Humm were one and the same. They dedicated it in 2016 a front-page editorial. It did not impact my decision to become an artist, it only expedited me merging the businessman and artist into one again.

Will you continue to build your Faustian oeuvre or do you see entirely different themes and directions being explored in your future work?

Goethe wrote Faust over more than 30 years. It is a very rich and complex story which offers many insights into todays society. I only worked 3 years on it. So, it will continue to keep me busy for a while. So far, with the help of my wife Daniele, I created a Gesamtkunstwerk “The Last Faust” with 200 artworks, a feature film with Steven Berkoff and a novella. My next project is the synchronisation of the film into German and a theatre play.

Paula Rego and Salvador Dali have been listed as your inspiration. Why Rego and Dali? What other artists inspire you and why?

Rego and Dali are amazing artists, craftspeople and illustrators. I love illustrations. I feel also influenced by Delvaux, Macke and Michelangelo, all for different reasons.

What is next for Philipp Humm?

Next is to take a break in our home in the South of France and enjoy the last warm days of the year!

 

A quick fire Q&A!

Favourite place you have travelled to:

Venice on a sunny January weekend ticks all boxes: great culture, amazing food and wine and a deeply romantic town

Favourite museum you have visited:

Royal Academy Picasso exhibition
It was the most comprehensive Picasso exhibition I have attended. I came home all fired up and full of ideas.

Dream destination to visit next:

My wife has not been to the US West coast yet. I am looking forward to showing her the America I know and love, after having lived there for more than 10 years.

Alive or dead, 6 people you would invite to a dinner party:

Napoleon, Samuel Beckett, Confucius, Plato, Goethe and Dali. What a dinner party that would be. All of them feature in my work.

 

 

IMAGERY CREDIT: DANIELE MAH

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