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>> Deutsche Bank Collection Italy in Milan / Lobby Gallery New York
>> Divisionism/ Neoimpressionism at Deutsche Guggenheim

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Homage to Italy
A tour through the new DB Collection in Italy

The new "DB Collection Italy" has just been officially opened. Like the headquarters in Frankfurt, New York, and London, the new Deutsche Bank head office in Milan has had its very own art installed. Tim Ackermann took a look at the approximately 70 works for db artmag.

Luca Vitone, Mare Nostrum, 2004/2007,
Commissioned work for the Deutsche Bank Headquarters in Milan,
Photo: Roberto Marossi

Milan is not exactly showing itself from its most attractive side: it’s drizzling, the doors in the express train from the airport are stuck, and soccer fans from Celtic Glasgow are raging through the inner city. Frank Boehm is already waiting in his office nearby Porta Venezia. The architect and local curator in art matters for Deutsche Bank Italy is taking me through the DB Collection Italy – the brand new art collection newly adorning the corridors of the bank’s Italian headquarters.

Kurator Prof. Frank Boehm in front of a commissioned work by Lara Favaretto,
Photo: Tim Ackermann

Boehm explains that "it’s the bank’s credo to collect contemporary and especially young art." Over the past nine months, he’s been poring through galleries all over Italy to find appropriate works to build up the collection. As a professor for art and design at the IUAV University in Venice, Boehm is the man responsible for the selection of works for the Italian headquarters together with Friedhelm Hütte, Director of Deutsche Bank Art, and curator Claudia Schicktanz. Several meetings were necessary to view, discuss, and gain background information on the works Boehm proposed. In the end, five artists were invited to create commissioned pieces for the new building. In addition, works by young, unknown artists were purchased, as well as works by renowned artists. The major theme of the collection is: Italy. "22 of the artists are Italian. The others at least refer in their works to an Italian context," as the curator explains. This criterion for selection might seem simplistic at first glance, but it provides ample opportunity for surprise.

Gino Valle's building for Deutsche Bank in Milan

The Deutsche Bank headquarters are in Bicocca, ten minutes’ drive from the center. It’s noticeable that the city in undergoing change; nowhere can this be felt more strongly than in this district on the city’s outskirts. A new business quarter has cropped up here over the past decades that is also home to a large cinema and a section of the Milan University. And for the past two years, the main headquarters of Deutsche Bank in Italy has been here, as well. The head office arose as a "polo unico," a place where today over 1,000 colleagues from all over Italy work together in more than 34,000 square meters of space. Now, the art has arrived as well. The Management of Private and Business Clients invited the curators of Deutsche Bank Art to work on a concept for an art installment that would inspire staff, clients, and the bank’s guests, initiate discussion, and lend the building its own special character. The E-formed cement building appears defiant; its unembellished, fort-like appearance vaguely recalls the old Castello Sforzesco in the city center. The bank building is one of the last designs realized by the Italian architect Gino Valle, who died during the construction phase.

A commissioned work by Alberto Garutti in the foyer,
Photo: Tim Ackermann

At first, Boehm leaves me in the foyer of the main branch; he has to attend to some important details concerning the collection. I take a seat on a bench – and, in doing so, on the first work of art. The beige-colored piece of furniture is part of a commissioned piece by the Italian artist Alberto Garutti, who has installed a total of nine benches in the building’s corridors. Places to pause and to chat. In the foyer, however, staff members pass by the benches without taking notice. From the office to the cafeteria and back again; there isn’t enough time to take a longer break.

Patrick Tuttofuoco, X-Flag, 2006,
Commissioned work for Deutsche Bank's Headquarters in Milan,
Photo: Roberto Marossi

Yet there’s quite a bit to see in the entrance hall. A second commissioned piece, for instance: Patrick Tuttofuoco, who likes to impress his public with huge rainbow-colored spirals, is no less confident in the way he approaches the main branch of Deutsche Bank. His three-part grill construction hanging from the ceiling easily takes up an entire floor in height. In addition, it hovers rather low above the heads of the bank’s employees. Thus, the entrance hall seems almost like a cave, and the bankers evidently like to find protection under Tuttofuoco’s light sculpture to talk on their cell phones. The title of the work, X-Flag, is written in red neon letters on the white grating – a puzzle that remains to be solved.
But first into the company cafeteria, in the underground level. For a large number of the bank’s 1,000 employees, art is enjoyed at lunch here. Those who helped themselves to an ample portion of dessert have pangs of conscience at the very latest when they see Massimo Vitali’s large-format beach photograph: how uncouth will they look on their next vacation if their bellies stick out over their swimsuits?

Ina Weber, Kiosk, Milan, 2006,
Deutsche Bank Collection

Gazing at Vitali’s work, bank staff can daydream about a long vacation. On the other hand, a short holiday is only a few steps away, at the bar. Here, Swena Lau and Roberto Capra are also relaxing with a cup of cappuccino. The two work in the IT area of the bank and love getting involved in a discussion over art. Lau has already picked out her two favorites in the art installment: a commissioned piece by Luca Vitone with a silhouette of Italy from a vacation postcard on a sea-blue background; and a delicate watercolor drawing by Ina Weber portraying an Italian newspaper kiosk. "It seems so typically Milanese." Her colleague Capra remains skeptical: "Actually, I prefer traditional art," he says. He finds some of the works in need of explanation, such as Luigi Tenco’s showcase with records, which he sees on a daily basis on the way to his workplace.

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