The Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin Issue 31 (2010) features an interview with Archduchess Francesca of Austria. This is a translation of parts of the interview, which is rather long.
Francesca, 52, checks her Blackberry and says, Oh shit! You have to settle back and just do what Francesca does. She talks about her "fairly dysfunctional family."
"My father was rather difficult with me. I think he felt threatened because we were so much alive. He knew no other strong man in his environment. "
On age, she says: "The older I get, the more worried I get about losing contact with young, innovative people."
Francesca is married to Archduke Karl of Austria. She says "We are happily married, but it is every man for himself."
In normal people, such talk is shocking, but for Francesca, who was born Francesca Anne Dolores Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza, the daughter of billionaire art collector Hans Heinrich "Heini" von Thyssen-Bornemisza. She is described as the Peggy Guggenheim of the 21st century, one of the most important patrons of contemporary art.
She is more a midwife than a collector of contemporary art. A good example of her work is on the Eminonu Square, one of the busiest places in Istanbul, overlooking the Golden Horn. A 17 ton 20 meter sculpture, The Morning Line, is a crystalline structure, which was especially commissioned by the archduchess. Thirty different artists took part in its creation.
She heads the Vienna-based Thyssen-Bornemiza Contemporary Art foundation. She is able to bring people together in collaborations of modern contemporary art.
Although she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, she was not happy as a child. Her father and mother, a Scottish model who was Heini's third wife, were divorce when Francesca was seven. She was soon sent off to boarding school/
"I was incredibly insecure as a child."
She moved to London, where she studied "a bit, modeled a bit, took acting lessons and dabbled as a background singer.
She was also the It girl of the 1980s with fashionable and spectacular parties took place at her carriage house in Kensington. Guests included Michael Douglas, Iggy Pop, Grace Jones, politicians, fashion students, football players and even one or two Lords.
She was photographed topless and one famous shot showed Francesca at a soiree with a naked butt.
Francesca was introduced to the Dalai Lama, who congratulated her on her wealth. Great karma, girl! So she put her money to work by organizing a Tibetan art exhibit dedicated to the reconstruction of the war-torn countries of the former Yugoslavia. It was in Croatia where she met her future husband, Archduke Karl, heir to the former ruling dynasty in Austria.
They were married in 1993. She carried a Bible and a bridal bouquet in her hands ... and then the mandatory three children including the heir Ferdinand Zvonimir. The marriage caused a scandal within the Habsburg family: marriage to a commoner and a punk brat!
Francesca admits to loving tradition. She lives in Viennese apartment, one floor of a palace. The home is filled with art and "creative chaos." The works on display include three walls of Olafur Eliasson, a photo of David Bowie, the Lucien Freud portrait of her father, and in the salon next roo, the drums belonging to her twelve-year-old son.
Francesca said the Habsburg were "great innovators. I tink you have a better view into the future, if you have a clear understanding of the past." She hesitated: "My father always said that the privilege of wealth is freedom. There are an unbelievable number of people who are trapped by their money and lifestyle."
Francesca and Karl have lived apart since 2003, but they remain good friends. She does not think about another marriage.
After her father's death, Francesca inherited 33 American impressionist paintings, which she auctioned and she reinvested the money back into contemporary art.
"I do not like it when people are impressed with who I am. Conversely, I am not impressed with who they are.... Experiments never fail. Each experiment is part of a learning process. This has taken my fear in front of failure."
At last, Francesca has made sense of everything: money, the name is finally useful instead of just damn enjoyable. She has a talent for bringing people together, which is essential for the succession and independence of the Foundation.
"I am a chameleon. I fit in everywhere."
She has plans to move the foundation from the the Palais Fürstenberg to a 3000 square feet former bread factory on the outskirts of Vienna, where she wants to set up a creative think tank and exhibits.