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25 – The Anniversary Exhibition of the Deutsche Bank Collection

With a spectacular exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim, the largest corporate collection worldwide is celebrating its 25th birthday. From Classic Modernism to recent contemporary work: “25,” the first comprehensive museum presentation of the Deutsche Bank Collection, is showing around 300 exceptional works. The visionary exhibition design of the London-based star architect Zaha Hadid has transformed the show into an impressive gesamtkunstwerk.

Exhibition view, Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin

The anniversary exhibition commemorating the 25th birthday of the Deutsche Bank Collection has surprised the public with an unusual concept: for the show, 25 patrons and friends were invited to select exceptional exponents from the corporate collection – favorite works that hold a personal significance and that, to their mind, embody the spirit of the bank’s commitment to art. Accordingly, the godfathers – museum directors, curators, gallery dealers, long-time advisors, and bank board members – describe their very own view of the collection (readers can find an index of all godfathers here). And as was to be expected, the selection has turned out to be rich in variety, with works ranging from the New Objectivity movement, such as George Grosz’ caustic watercolor People in a Coffeehouse (1918), through works by post-war artists like Joseph Beuys to Bill Viola’s elaborate high-tech video installation Going Forth By Day (2002). The chiefly external view of the godfathers is augmented by the section “Curator’s Choice.” Here, along with the collection’s milestones, new acquisitions can be seen, with works by Julie Mehretu, Tam Ochiai, Emel Geris , and William Kentridge providing insight into the future of the collection.

Bill Viola, Going Forth by Day (Detail), The Deluge, 2002,
Deutsche Bank Collection
©Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin/ Bill Viola

The collection, which has grown to become the largest corporate collection worldwide, encompasses over 50,000 works. The main focus is on works on paper, although painting, sculpture, and video installation are also represented. For “25,” Dr. Ariane Grigoteit, director of the collection and the exhibition’s curator, has embarked on a completely new path: “The story of 20th-century art and the company’s collection can be told in an infinite number of ways,” the curator has said. “It was part of our intention that the visitor be led through a labyrinth of ideas, visual impressions, and historical references.

Exhibition view

The exhibition veritably calls upon visitors to draw their own personal conclusions and to depart from the trodden path.” This concept is also reflected in the show’s visionary design. For “25,” the London star architect Zaha Hadid radically transformed the exhibition space and surrounding rooms of Deutsche Bank at Unter den Linden into an atmospheric, tunnel-filled spacial landscape that is both organic and technoid at one and the same time. Art works and ambience combine here to form a fascinating gesamtkunstwerk.

For years now, international contemporary art has been lending the Deutsche Bank Collection its unique profile. The exhibition shows the subtle watercolors of the American artist Laura Owens as well as drawings by Elizabeth Peyton, while works by Francis Alys, Kara Walker, and Neo Rauch are shown alongside photographs by Wolfgang Tillmanns, Thomas Struth, and Hiroshi Sugimoto. For “25,” rooms at the neighboring Deutsche Bank branch were incorporated into an exhibition of the Deutsche Guggenheim for the first time. Here, visitors can discover works by the American artist Tom Sachs in the first-aid room and experience art “on site,” so to speak: after all, the Deutsche Bank Collection’s motto is “art in the workplace.” In keeping with this, art is present on an everyday basis in the branches worldwide, not only in the boardrooms, but also staff offices, hallways, or in surprising locations such as, for instance, the first-aid room.

Bernhard Prinz, Ideal, 1989,
Deutsche Bank Collection

Thanks to its unusual concept, “25” presents the Deutsche Bank Collection with many different faces. Classics are juxtaposed with works by the younger generations, which leads to interesting confrontations and moments of friction. Some of the godfathers have chosen their favorites from every phase of the collection’s history, while others have concentrated on a single artist. Thus, Miuccia Prada – the Italian fashion designer and president of the art foundation Fondazione Prada, restricted herself to a single work by Andreas Slominski. Dr. Rolf-E. Breuer, chairman of the Board of Trustees and formerly responsible for the bank’s art activities, recalls in his section the exhibitions at the Deutsche Guggenheim that impressed him most: James Rosenquist, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Bill Viola, and Miwa Yanagi. The collection’s high quality, as the anniversary exhibition clearly demonstrates, is the result of long-term personal commitment. Yet its attention is directed to the future: even after 25 years, the collection has retained its youthful curiosity, as well as a willingness to enter into contemporary and critical positions that have not yet established themselves.