Heidi Gus Horton, art collector, dies free press

She lived side by side with a very wealthy man and wisely invested his inheritance. With the art purchase, she proved she had the right instinct. In the end, Heidi Goss-Horten was the richest Austrian.


For decades it has amassed an important art collection, but only in recent years has Heidi Gus Horton made it accessible to the public.

At the beginning of June, the private museum “The Heidi Horten Collection” was opened in Vienna. A few days later, the business collector and billionaire, the widow of former German department store King Helmut Horten (1909-1987), died unexpectedly on Sunday at the age of 81. She died in her home on Lake Wörthersee, a museum spokeswoman confirmed to dpa.

Diverse commitment to art and sports

“It is with deep regret and deep sadness that we have to report the unexpected death of our patron and founder, Heidi Goss Horten,” the museum said in a statement. She will be remembered for her diverse commitment to art and sports.

Helmut Horten met the then-secretary from Vienna in 1959 at Lake Wörthersee and became his second wife. Her husband had laid the cornerstone of his fortune during the Nazi era, when he benefited from the Nazis’ confiscation of Jews. In early 2022, a report on her husband’s past was published, commissioned by the widow. According to this, Horton was a benefactor when he took over the management of supermarkets from Jewish owners, but he did not promote “Aryan” at the time.

Helmut Horten developed his company into the fourth largest group of department stores in Germany – after Karstadt, Hertie and Kaufhof. In total, there were 50 department stores belonging to the Horten group at the beginning of the seventies. With the sale of his department store empire at just the right time – in the late 1960s and early 1970s – Horton became a billionaire and saved 250 million marks in taxes by moving to Switzerland. Under the impression of this incident, which angered the citizens, the Bundestag passed “Lex Horten” and filled a loophole in the tax code.

700 works from Klimt to Picasso to Warhol

After his death, the Austrian made collecting artworks her job. It was good timing because the art market in the 1990s offered very attractive prices to buyers. The castle-like villa on Lake Wörthersee in Austria is a first-class art museum. Works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon, Paul Klee, Gerhard Richter, Damien Hirst, and Andy Warhol decorate the daily life of Heidi Joyce Horton as wall adornments. She used her husband’s inheritance very wisely. At around three billion euros, the art collector was the richest Austrian.

Its private collection includes about 700 works, including paintings by German expressionists such as Max Bechstein, Emil Nolde, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and August Macke. One of the most famous landscape paintings of the Art Nouveau painter Klimt, “The Church at Unterach am Attersee” from 1916, is one of them, as is Egon Schiele’s “Portrait of a Lady” from 1912, immortalized by his partner Wally New Zealand.

Part of the collection was shown to the public for the first time in 2018 in a show at the Leopold Museum in Vienna. The Horten Collection is linked to the 1994 auction coup at Sotheby’s in London. At that time, an anonymous billionaire managed to sell 34 photos of the best quality at auction. Including her favorite slogan, “Les Amoureux” (1916) by Marc Chagall.

She was also a member of the board of trustees of the Horton Foundation, which her husband founded in 1971, which supports medical institutions and research. Goëss-Horten, who owned one of the largest yachts in the world, the 100-meter “Carinthia VII”, took part in ice hockey as honorary president of the Klagenfurt Athletic Club. In 2015, she married Carl Anton “Carrie” Joyce, from a former noble family. (dpa)

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