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Art On Every Floor

Here, not only a vital coexistence, but also contradictions and experimental reinterpretations merge: throughout 29 floors of the Deutsche Bank New York, European and American post-war and contemporary art enter into a creative dialogue. Thomas Girst visited the collection and the building’s own Lobby Gallery in Midtown Manhattan.


Deutsche Bank New York, corridor

Just as in the world of film, we refer to "blockbusters" in the art world, as well – exhibitions with an extremely high number of visitors. New York's Museum of Modern Art, for instance, or the Metropolitan Museum often record several hundred thousand visitors to their larger shows – as was the case at the beginning of this year with the public rush to see Leonardo da Vinci's drawings, or the exhibition of the paintings of the two great masters Matisse and Picasso.


James Rosenquist, Mirage With Bedsheet Escape Ladder, 1975
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2003

Collection Deutsche Bank

For its part, the Deutsche Bank Lobby Gallery in Midtown Manhattan is currently showing the exhibition Dreamspaces/Entresuenos (more here). Situated between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, the twenty-nine-story building of Deutsche Bank is accessible from 52nd and 53rd streets. Many pedestrians use the passageway as a welcome shortcut set off from the noise of the street. In addition, there are the approximately 3,500 employees passing through the rattling turnstiles in the entrance area each day, signalling the beginning of the working day, lunch break, and quitting time. In the face of this bustling activity, one could safely say that The Lobby Gallery, situated as it is in such an exposed place, regularly receives more visitors than New York's largest museums. In the final analysis, it can be assumed that every employee, passerby, guest, or client takes a look at the works exhibited, just as the numerous art enthusiasts in The Lobby Gallery of Deutsche Bank do. And with Dreamspaces/Entresuenos, taking a closer look is well worthwhile. Guest curator Holly Block is presenting over twenty works by twelve Latin American artists who live and work in the United States. Dreamspaces are the blueprints of an imagined architecture, visions of interior and exterior spaces, surreal landscapes of the imagination.


Liz Christensen in front of
James Rosenquists Mirage With Bedsheet Escape Ladder



Mr. Robert Cotter, Global Corporate Finance Cohead and
Global Head of Mergers and Acquisition

Liz Christensen, who takes care of the art at Deutsche Bank New York since 1994, was responsible for initiating Dreamspaces. For The Lobby Gallery's six annual exhibitions, she prefers to work directly with galleries, museums, and culturally involved non-profit art institutions such as Art in General. Two of the six exhibitions each year are dedicated to artists from the worldwide collection.

In a conversation, Christensen has stressed: "Compared to other companies, The Lobby Gallery is an exceptional feature. It provides an excellent opportunity for exchange with the local arts community. It helps widen everyone's exposure to different artists and different types of contemporary work. Inviting guest curators who emphasize other perspectives helps create diversity. It's another way to try to make contemporary art more accessible."

Andy Warhol, Franz Kafka
from "Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century", 1980
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2003

Collection Deutsche Bank
Andy Warhol, Sarah Bernhardt
from "Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century", 1980
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2003

Collection Deutsche Bank


At the Bank, the world of art by no means restricts itself to the entrance area. Throughout six buildings, works by important international contemporary artists can be seen as eye-catchers in the midst of the everyday working environment: hanging to the side of elevators and water coolers, on the walls of large office spaces, meeting rooms, and conference rooms. The fact that they are in a position to show roughly 95 percent of the collection here and in every other branch of the Deutsche Bank worldwide on a constant basis amounts to the unattained dream of every museum. That the collection primarily consists of works on paper is largely due to pragmatic reasons, according to Christensen: "They can be easily framed, which better protects them in an office environment. Moreover, purchasing art on paper – especially from well-known artists – is often much more economical than acquiring paintings and sculpture." This consideration is in keeping with the concept "Art in the Workplace," because it ensures that staff areas can be furnished with high-quality works from the broad spectrum of the collection. "Furthermore, artists often work out their original ideas directly on paper, drawings start the process, which can be a very exciting thing. At the same time, contemporary art offers an ideal corrollary to the Bank's business philosophy: ‘We're innovative, we find creative solutions, and we're right at the forefront."


Drawings, editions, and photographs can be found in the collection of Deutsche Bank more or less to an equal degree. In 1978, when the Deutsche Bank moved into its office building at 9 West 57th Street, the chance was born to introduce a reciprocal dialogue between North American and German contemporary art in the unusual setting of an office building. In keeping with the “Art in the Workplace” concept initiated in Frankfurt’s twin towers which have housed the bank since 1984, the idea behind furnishing the New York branch consisted in establishing an artistic encounter between works from the host country and those from the German-speaking world. From the very beginning, the acquisitions were meant to demonstrate that this juxtaposition not only allows for a vital coexistence, but also for contradictions and experimental reinterpretations of traditional ideals and ideas.


Doug & Mike Starn, Watson's Hand, 1988
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2003

Collection Deutsche Bank


Parallel to this, the artistic furnishing of each floor required the formulation of various themes intended to illuminate the developments on both sides of the Atlantic while taking diverse points of views and perspectives into consideration: One floor has nothing but photography; another shows the "team work" of collaborative artists such as Christo and Jeanne Claude, Bernd and Hilla Becher, or Doug and Mike Starn. In Scale/ Out of Scale shows photographic models and miniature worlds, Drawings by Sculptors just that. In the process, the attempt is made at all times to create a defining aspect for each of the spacious elevator areas. On the 13th floor, for instance, where the theme is "The Human Figure," a large silkscreen of the American artist, Kiki Smith, who was born in Nuremberg in 1954, is hanging outside the glass doors leading to the offices. Opposite is a large-scale charcoal drawing by the young Dutch artist, Juul Kraijer. The interplay between the two works offers the viewer a glimpse of alternate possibilities for representing the female body.

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