The Art in the Towers
In their combination of sustainable architecture and overarching aesthetic concept, the Deutsche Bank Towers are up to date in every sense-and so is the presentation of the Deutsche Bank Collection. Friedhelm Hütte, Global Head of Art, Deutsche Bank, introduces the new art concept.
||"The only reason for this text to be written here is that there is a documentary crew filming it right now."
With this hand-written passage, Nedko Solakov vividly and ironically shows how situation-and time-related art, and particularly drawing, can be, and how quickly art can react. The Bulgarian artist’s figure- and text-enhanced wallpaper wall is one of 1 500 artworks on view in the modernized Deutsche Bank Group Head Office in Frankfurt. At its renovated headquarters, Deutsche Bank picks up on the concept of "art at the workplace" developed in 1985 for the opening of the "old" Towers, employing the concept "Art works" in a contemporary form. Twenty-five years ago, the idea of hanging artworks of the highest quality not only on the executive floors but in all work areas was a revolutionary idea. At the same time, new paths in art education were taken in the building at Taunusanlage. From Joseph Beuys to the Neue Wilde, art from German-speaking countries after 1945 could be experienced from floor to floor like a journey through time.
Today the Deutsche Bank Collection is one of the world’s largest corporate art collections and one of the most important collections of post-1945 drawings and photographs. All of the important art movements since that time are represented, including Joseph Beuys and his followers, Heftige Malerei, Pop Art and the Young British Artists in London, Minimal Art in the USA, the Neue Leipziger Schule as well as Japanese and Chinese photography. Far from the Group Head Office in Frankfurt, art is on view in business rooms in the world’s most important financial centers, including London, New York, and Hong Kong. Important parts of the collection are also on exhibit in Barcelona, Berlin, Milan, Mumbai, Singapore, Sydney, and Tokyo.
In recent years, the bank has expanded its art collection to prove its own motto: "Art works". While the focus is still on works on paper by younger artists, the geographic framework has been extended from the German-speaking world to the global art scene, particularly Asia, Latin America, and Africa. A committee of renowned international art curators consisting of Okwui Enwezor, Hou Hanru, Udo Kittelmann, and Nancy Spector advises the bank’s art team.
The possibility of renewing the art as well as the Towers themselves was a special challenge and an opportunity. This "draft character" of art provides an impetus to the collection. Works on paper document the process of art production. Notes, experiments, initial ideas, as well as autonomous visual works are incorporated in this medium.
Here at the Group Head Office in Frankfurt, we sought to build on what already existed and tell the story of the more recent part of the collection. We focused on vibrant art scenes that have emerged worldwide in the new business and financial centers—each with their distinct form of expression. A collection like Deutsche Bank’s cannot be viewed as a selfcontained, homogenous construct. Rather, it is akin to an imaginary museum. The ecological refurbishment of the Deutsche Bank Towers has supplied an opportunity to the art department which goes way beyond simple stocktaking: it has revealed new perspectives. It has allowed a similar process in the evolution of the art concept. The predominantly young artists, who have supplied the art for the Towers, are provocative, their art touches people, by entering a dialogue transcending cultural and historical differences.
Deutsche Bank had to vacate the Towers, so that they could be completely modernized. Many of the artworks that had been on view in the Towers were moved to a temporary head office on Theodor-Heuss-Allee in Frankfurt, to the bank’s buildings on Junghofstraße, and to the newly acquired Berliner Bank. After the renovation work was completed, it did not seem sensible to return these works to the Group Head Office. While the older works givean excellent overview of the development of German art in the second half of the twentieth century, they do not reflect the bank’s global orientation.
Some of the artists, including Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke, who were at the beginning of their careers when a floor was devoted to them, are now among the most illustrious international artists. Due to the growing importance of their works for museums in general and to the Frankfurt Städel Museum’s intention to build an extension, the decision was made to place more than 600 works—predominantly paintings and prints—owned by Deutsche Bank, including many works from the Towers, on permanent loan to the museum. As a result, the "Deutsche Bank Collection in the Städel Museum" is now continually accessible to the public.
Most of the drawings, which constitute the focus of the collection, by the established artists continue to be on view, together with classical modernist works on paper that are very challenging from a restoration standpoint, on the executive floors in the Group Head Office. From the building plans of the Milan-based architect Mario Bellini and preparatory talks, it quickly became apparent that the "floor concept" should be modified, allowing larger bodies of work by individual artists to be shown on each floor. In the modernized Towers, these small solo exhibitions now extend to the floors’ conference rooms. In addition, more works by other artists are on view in the 17 conference rooms of floors B37 and B38, in the expansive connecting floors E2 and E3, and in the staff restaurant.
In accordance with the main focuses—globalization and rejuvenation—we initially made suggestions about which artists should be chosen in cooperation with the international advisory committee. Everyone involved agreed that it would be best to structure the presentation based on the bank’s five business regions: Asia / Pacific, America, Middle East / Africa, Europe, and Germany. It was agreed that the artists could be born no earlier than 1957, the year of birth of the youngest artist on view in the "old" Towers. The youngest artist in the renovated building is Mohamed Camara, who was born in 1985.
A committee consisting of Hermann-Josef Lamberti, the Management Board member responsible for the reconstruction, Pierre de Weck, member of the Group Executive Committee and the person in the executive management responsible for art, and Stefan Baron, Deutsche Bank’s Head of Communications, decided which works would be acquired and added to the collection. Prior to the first acquisition meeting in November 2009 in Cologne, we approached galleries worldwide. In cooperation with artists and the bank’s curators, they proposed specific works to the committee.
At the acquisition meeting, 411 works by 37 artists were selected, which in the period before the reopening would be supplemented by works already in the collection. Nedko Solakov and Pablo Bronstein were commissioned to create works for their floors. Today a total of 1 500 works by 100 artists from 44 countries are on display in the Towers.
In close cooperation with the architects and the bank’s building team, the curators of the collection developed interior design concepts and technical solutions—from UV radiationabsorbing lighting to specially constructed hanging systems—to enable the works to be presented optimally in the redesigned building. From November 2010 to February 2011, all of the works were placed on the different floors parallel to the reoccupation of the building, and staff members were introduced to the art in tours.
In the entrance area, visitors are given an overview and detailed information about the Deutsche Bank Collection in the Towers. An "ArtWall" shows all of the floors and their artists on 60 monitors. Visitors merely have to press a button and they are given detailed information about each work. When employees or visitors exit the elevator, they see a portrait of and a short text about the artist to whom the respective floor is devoted. As opposed to traditional exhibition and labeling overviews, we sought a way, together with Heiner Blum, a professor at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Offenbach, to present each artist personally. We selected self-portraits with a private, Facebook-style, snapshot look. These photos are supplemented by the artist’s signature, biographical and geographical information, as well as a color code explaining the geographic scheme.
Further information is available on the Internet and in a catalog. This publication not only presents the artists and selected works, but also gives an overview of current art developments in the five regions selected. In addition to discussing this regional organization, the essay "Competing Stories" focuses on thematic structures. Furthermore, it illustrates that many of the artists presented, though they come from different nations, devote themselves to the same issues, which influence art around the globe—for example, engagement with the consequences of globalization and migration, with traditional gender roles, and with the legacy of modernism.
With the art in the modernized Towers, the Deutsche Bank Collection has not only advanced, but also has a new center. In Frankfurt, the site of the Group Head Office, the result of the bank’s activities of the last 20 years and its promising perspectives for employees, customers, and guests can be experienced immediately and in a focused way. Presenting a wide variety of art in a clearly structured manner, the Towers offer access to a world of art which, particularly in the twenty-first century, reflects global thinking, creativity, and courage for the new—values which have decisively influenced Deutsche Bank’s self-image and will continue to do so in the future.