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>> Interview with Ariane Grigoteit and Friedhelm Hütte
>> The Press on "From a German Perspective" and John Baldessari

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Art Is a Social and Cultural Investment:
An Interview with the Directors of Deutsche Bank Art

This year, the Deutsche Bank Collection is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a large exhibition opening April 29 at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. In anticipation of the anniversary, Deutsche Bank Art received a visit from Japan: the journalist Aki Nakanishi from the art magazine Axiom, published by the gallery MSSOHKAN in Kobe. Nakanishi interviewed the directors of Deutsche Bank Art, Dr. Ariane Grigoteit and Friedhelm Hütte, and we’re pleased to publish the results here in db artmag:

Art in the Deutsche Bank. Elfriede Lohse Wächtler, Selbstportrait
(in fantastischer Gesellschaft), 1931

Deutsche Bank , one of the world’s most reputable banks, is no stranger to the world of contemporary art. Indeed, it has been collecting works of both Classic Modernism and contemporary art for over a quarter of century. In keeping with its "Art in the Workplace" theme, the collection is presented in branches worldwide to bring the two essentially different perspectives of the art and working worlds together.
MSSOHKAN finds it surprising that no major Japanese art magazines or journals have reported on the bank’s pioneering art concept to date. And that’s precisely why MSSOHKAN commissioned Aki Nakanishi to travel for the art magazine AXIOM to Frankfurt, Deutsche Bank Art’s headquarters, to find out more about the corporate collection.

Aki Nakanishi: First of all, I’d like to thank you both for the opportunity to talk with you personally. Let me begin by asking you how Deutsche Bank’s commitment to art first came about.

Ariane Grigoteit: The concept of “Art in the Workplace” was initiated some 25 years ago, by the then board of directors chaired by Dr. Zapp, who had the vision of taking a proactive role in bringing the world of art closer to the workplace alongside the bank’s major spheres of financial operations. Deutsche Bank had been engaged in various acquisitions in Classic Modernist art before that, but there was neither a universal concept nor a strategy in terms of the collection. So, Dr. Zapp, together with a team of art experts both private and institutional, established what still stands as the working collection principle:

The already existing smaller stock of works from Classic Modernism will be expanded with selected pieces and then completed. On the other hand, the collection's main focus will be works on paper by contemporary artists: drawings, watercolors, and gouaches, as well as photography. In addition, young artists and their galleries should be supported through acquisition.

Art at working place. Hanne Darboven, 21 x 21, 1968

Initially, the pivotal aim of the bank’s acquisition activity was developed in light of the newly built twin towers in Frankfurt, although the furnishings were made available to the public for the first time in 1986. The hanging in the 55 floors of the Frankfurt headquarters was intended to bring German post-war art closer in terms of individual positions while at the same time underscoring the works’ social relevance for the present day. For this reason, along with the completion of the collection with works from Classic Modernism, particular emphasis was given to acquiring contemporary art – also because the social aspect of the collecting activity was crucial to Dr. Zapp.

Friedhelm Hütte: While we were in the process of furnishing the new twin towers in Frankfurt, it quickly became clear, due to the sheer size of the architecture, that our primary focus on artists from German-speaking countries could never become a final decision. Despite the quantity of art works in the bank, we were always primarily concerned about maintaining a high level of quality in the collection and keeping it abreast of the times. In the face of major changes in the social and economic environment such as the reunification of Germany and the increasing degree of globalization on the market, it seemed wise to broaden our collection to include international perspectives. We already began integrating young artists from all around the world into our program in the late eighties.

Ariane Grigoteit: As a consequence of our decade-long artistic commitment, we now have the world’s largest corporate collection with over 50,000 works of art. These are not only shown on every floor of the headquarter buildings, but in branches throughout the world. While each floor of the twin towers is dedicated to the work of a single German artist, the vertical order of the floors actually represents a panorama of German art from the sixties, seventies, and eighties, progressing chronologically towards the lower floors and augmented there by current movements. Horst Antes and Joseph Beuys can be found on the uppermost floors, the two oldest artists who also stand for the academies in Düsseldorf and Karlsruhe, each of which is represented by a tower.

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