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Vodafone CEO turned artist reveals incredible art collection he keeps at his home


Philipp Humm switched the corporate world for the art world

Have you ever sold your soul to the devil?’

As an opener to what is essentially an interiors interview, it might seem like a fairly robust first question. But Philipp Humm, the one-time CEO of Vodafone and T-Mobile and MD with Amazon, has been searching souls for a while now.

The 61-year-old began sketching in the boardroom before he traded in decades of corporate successes for the art studio.

Since then he has created more than 200 works – including paintings, pencil drawings, bronze sculpture, fine art photography – and is preparing to showcase his latest oil paintings and bronze sculptures at the Saatchi Gallery next month.

The artist will be showing his works at the Saatchi Gallery next month

Philipp not only wrote and directed The Last Faust, a 2019 feature art film, but the Goethe novel is the backdrop for his new exhibition. His modern version of the man who sells his soul to the devil is a tech titan modelled on the likes of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, but also an extreme version of ourselves, living in the pleasures of the moment.

‘Well as a human being I would say yes, more than once,’ says Philipp in reply to the question. ‘We, and I include myself in that, have aspirations in life and do trade offs, we say “yes it will be good” and if it’s not we will manage it – we are going for the dream and we neglect the fact that the dream can have consequences.’

Being reborn as an artist is something of a second life for Philipp then, free from the constraints of the boardroom. We are in an era of living long enough to have two lives anyway, he suggests.

‘I don’t think in modern times we should look at living one life, we live long enough for average people to be looking at their lives as a multitude of lives. Our kids can look at three or four lives but we can realistically look at two lives. So it’s a great opportunity to be born now, we can live different passions and live them fully.’

One of the first things Philipp did when he made the transition into life number two was to buy this Victorian property in Hampstead with his wife, photographer Daniele Mah.

The entire first floor ahs been turned into Philipp’s studio
The couple have carefully curated quirky details and pieces

Originally a four-bed, the first floor has been turned into a studio – filled with sculptures, sketches and artworks, it is a place to work spontaneously.

With this new career came a new outlook on life and the more vibrant living spaces that you see here. ‘I am opening my eyes more to my surroundings,’ he says.

‘In corporate life, you see life in a tunnel, not the richness of colours and shadows and light. Before, my home was an extension of my corporate life.’

Philipp’s works and pictures by Daniele soon started filling the walls in the knocked-through downstairs living space, which now runs from front to back.

Pieces include a rubber mask of Phillip being held out of the wall by a static hand – a take on the traditional death mask, reimagined as a Life Mask – and Bartholomew’s Skin, inspired by Michelangelo’s Last Judgment.

The marble dining table contrasts with the dark kitchen
The mirrored splashback reflects the artwork on the other side of the room

In the middle of the centre room is an Asian mahogany table that was once used as an altar, now worshipped by a number of sculptures that stand above.

‘It is a pity that so many homes are without art because art changes a home. When you see a naked wall you think, pretty dull. Fill it with art you like and it’s really interesting. It’s something we need to do more of, it makes us happy.’

The front room is just as surrealistic – it’s no surprise that one of Philipp’s influences is Salvador Dali – with a set of giant lips in the form of a Studio 65 Marilyn sofa. These are matched, or perhaps mismatched, to a Verner Panton globe. ‘I think it’s boring if you stay in one style,’ Philipp says.

‘When you find different styles and bring them together it values them all. If it is all baroque each piece is reduced but like this each piece stands alone. We typically get one anchor piece and the rest follow.’

Daniele adds: ‘My mantra is if you don’t fall in love with something at first sight then don’t buy it.’

The dark kitchen at the back of the house was Daniele’s idea, contrasting with the floor and the marble dining table, which the couple chose themselves from a marble yard. There is a mirror splashback, which catches some of the artworks, as well as allowing anyone cooking to stay connected to the room. ‘Black kitchens look sexy,’ laughs Daniele.

Caught in the mirror is a marionette of Philipp – a smiling look back at his previous life as a manager.

‘You are the marionette of someone, even as CEO you are marionette of shareholders. Most of my wires have been cut in this world but even the art market is a market where you don’t need to market your art in some way, you need to speak to collectors, so even as an artist you need to live in reality, which makes you a little bit of a puppet – but there is not a puppet master.’

Pucker up: There’s even a Studio 65 Marilyn sofa
The Baroque-style headboard was imported from France

Upstairs, the studio expands across the first floor. It is filled with Philipp’s artworks, including a series of studies for his Life Mask piece, which are now a row of heads on the mantelpiece.

Furniture here is anything but utilitarian. The cabinet is a German 19th century hunting item and the tulip chair designed by Jørgen Kastholm is as comfortable as it looks. ‘The table is from somewhere in Asia,’ Philipp says.

‘I bought it in America when I lived there, as a kitchen table, but it’s so heavy duty I kept it as my studio table – I have sawed on it, made sculptures on it… it is indestructible.’

The space has given Philipp a new peace in life. ‘There is a therapy in life, it is painting. I feel at ease, sometimes I listen to nothing, but it’s very relaxing. I like to have the studio in my house, it is integrated, I can walk in at any time, it should be part of normal life.’

On the second floor is the master bedroom. The bed, complete with baroque headboard, comes from France, and the lamp is a Bakalowits brass globe chandelier from the 1970s. The rest of the furniture is from London’s best antique shops.

With his second life in full swing, critical acclaim and a big exhibition in place, does Philipp have designs on a third life – as an interior designer perhaps?

‘Well I’m reading about whether these billionaires are successful in financing the life elongation project. If they are successful I will start thinking about the third life.

‘But for now I’ll focus on the second one and hopefully it will be long and healthy, that would be quite amazing.’

START Art Fair October 13-17, Saatchi Gallery, London.

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