"We Want to Be an Open House"
A conversation on Deutsche Bank’s new forum in Berlin

After the summer break in 2018, Deutsche Bank will open its new forum for art, culture, and sports activities in the Prinzessinnenpalais in Berlin. The historic building on Unter den Linden will also offer the Deutsche Bank Collection a new home. A talk about Prussian history, future digital visions, and much more.

Prinzessinnenpalais, Unter den Linden, Berlin

ARTMAG A construction site in the middle of Berlin's cultural heart, right next to the State Opera and within sight of the Humboldt Forum. Daily coordination with architects, technicians, and other service providers. Why are you so thrilled about this new project in the German capital?

Josephine Ackerman
Deputy Global Head Art, Culture & Sports

JOSEPHINE ACKERMAN The possibility of moving into the Prinzessinnenpalais opens up a whole new world for us. It is the ideal place for us to take a giant step, to present our cultural activities, our promotion of sports and music, and of course our commitment to art under one roof—and in doing so to primarily develop international and future-oriented formats. This includes digital and multimedia offers with which we can make all of our activities and our collection more accessible and attract new visitor groups.

ARTMAG The Deutsche Bank KunstHalle in Berlin is successful. Why is now the right time to call a new forum for culture into being?

JA It was not a spontaneous decision, but the result of a twenty-year learning process. With our cultural commitment, especially to current art, we have always wanted to venture into new territory, send signals, do something that truly inspires society and preferably even advances it. Despite our great courage to take new paths, we of course still pursue a long-term strategy and continuity. And we have long been anchored in the city's cultural landscape, not just with the KunstHalle, but also for example through our cooperation with the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Friedhelm Hütte
Artistic director Prinzessinnenpalais

FRIEDHELM HÜTTE Back in 1997, we initiated the Deutsche Guggenheim together with the Guggenheim Foundation in New York. A transatlantic format that fit in perfectly with the zeitgeist of this city, which was developing into the world’s most important and most vital art metropolis.

Fifteen years later the KunstHalle emerged, following a new, even more global concept involving international cooperation with museums such as Tate Modern in London. In addition, we wanted to give our collection a stronger presence and present its full range to the public. Then we added our “Artist of the Year” exhibitions in which we offer rising stars a widely acclaimed platform here in Berlin.

FH This program brought the house to its logistical limits. And it became apparent that we needed a place where we can show the collection to the public on a permanent basis.

JA We are doing this in the cultural center of Berlin very close to the Museum Island and the Humboldt Forum, in which we are also involved—the latter institution also embodies a completely new museum format. The city is currently undergoing an enormous cultural transformation. A transformation we want to participate in. Therefore, we are pulling our art activities out of the bank building and, as of 2018, presenting a wide spectrum of pure culture at the Prinzessinnenpalais.

FH Cultural crossover has long been a tendency in contemporary art. Artists compose, shoot films, work with orchestras, and cooperate with theater groups, high-tech experts, and scientists.

SARA BERNSHAUSEN You only have to think of William Kentridge or Steve McQueen, who even shot films in Hollywood. Or a composer like Ari Benjamin Meyers, who is currently making his international breakthrough in the visual arts.

Svenja von Reichenbach
Head Deutsche Bank KunstHalle

SVR We want to harness the interfaces between art, music, and sports.

ARTMAG What does that mean for your exhibition program?

SVR As there will be three times as much space, we will be able to show exhibitions from the collection and first-rate visiting exhibitions at the same time. In addition to our partners so far, including the Tate and the Guggenheim, we plan to cooperate with other important museums as well as private collections, to showcase them in the building.

FH Starting in 2018, the public will be able to see more international exhibitions, shows they would otherwise have to travel to London, New York, or Asia for. The collection will be presented in temporary exhibitions lasting eleven months. Works will come to Berlin that have never been shown here before. The opening exhibition will be dedicated to the main focus of the collection—works on paper. The bank has one of the premier collections of postwar works in this medium anywhere in the world. The selection of around 300 highlights—from 1960 to today—will also demonstrate both the collection’s international scope and the focus on young or as yet unknown artists that we have pursued from the start. As a consequence, well-known names like Beuys, Warhol, and Christo will share space with artists such as Koki Tanaka, Meschac Gaba, and Phoebe Washburn. Further collection presentations are planned for the future on the themes of “Photography” and “Asia.”

Sara Bernshausen
Deputy Head Deutsche Bank KunstHalle

SB We are also working on interdisciplinary exhibitions and event series for which we will collaborate even more closely with museums and cultural institutions in the city. Music will play an important role, as well as performance. The additional space gives us the opportunity to present smaller talk and event formats without having to plan them way ahead of time and to offer a forum to young, promising talent.

SVR Although we will soon have our seat in a historically impressive place, we intend to offer an open house with our bundled activities, with innovative, low-threshold offerings that appeal to very different audience groups that otherwise might not always be motivated.

ARTMAG How do sports fit together with art? Will there be, say, gymnastic events in the exhibition spaces?

JA Maybe as part of a performance (laughs). But that is not our main concern. Sports are a form of popular culture that is becoming more and more important. Athletes are the heroes of the twenty-first century. It is not only important how they play or compete, but how they live and think. Aspects of sports have long been discussed in the cultural pages of newspapers. Sports are honored like an art form and athletes viewed as complex personalities. Issues such as performance pressure, depression, outing, gender roles, health, ethics, and doping are fueling an incredible amount of discussion. Writing, talking, and thinking about sports have become more political, intellectual, and colorful. We intend to continue to stimulate such discourse. In Aachen, we developed an interesting accompanying program at the CHIO. The legendary dressage rider Isabell Werth, the composer and Grammy award winner Christian Gansch, as well as representatives from business, sports, and culture discussed the topic of leadership, of corporate and staff management, which was a truly memorable experience for all of the participants. When sports move closer to art, music, or business, this is not only entertaining, but also instructive. We are developing an event series for the new building that will surprise and impress you. The Palais should above all be a place where cultural themes as well as sports can be discussed and pondered.

FH Or exhibited! Art loves sports too. One need only think of Douglas Gordon’s Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. Conversely, many soccer stars collect art and are avid art fair-goers. And of course we will also combine art with the topic of sports.

JA We can create completely new synergies. All three areas thrill people. There is virtually no one who is interested in only one of them. How many people are there who are in a sports club and also go to concerts and museums! How many people go to sports stadiums that you would never expect to see there. We want our new house to be open, not elitist, a meeting place for different spirits that offers everyone who takes part new experiences.

ARTMAG The Prinzessinnenpalais is very familiar to many Berliners. The Operncafé was a popular meeting point for decades. How will you continue this tradition?

SVR The public will experience a new, exciting cultural forum in a historic façade that facilitates access to art and music and connects people. The Prinzessinnenpalais is often described as being stately and opulent. In fact, the historic building, in which the Hohenzollerns resided until 1918, was completely destroyed in World War II and only rebuilt between 1962 and 1964. So there is a modern reinforced-concrete skeleton inside. The Rococo banister, however, came from the palace in Berlin-Buch. After reunification, the rooms were designed historically. Now they will be converted for new use as a cultural forum. So the building is mainly a hybrid place marked by more recent history, where different influences and eras overlap. It is also a kind of crossover and thus ideal for our project. It is imposing, but has an extremely hospitable tradition. Berliners and guests from all over the world meet here. We want to carry on with this tradition. And of course there will be a cafe again, attracting people with coffee and the famous cakes.

Illustrations: Gisela Goppel