Art in the bank

Deutsche Bank has one of the largest corporate art collections in the world. Alistair Hicks gave Artworks a guided tourWhy does Deutsche Bank have an art collection?

3 min read

Why does Deutsche Bank have an art collection? 

Deutsche Bank has been buying art since the bank was established in the 1870s, but in the 1970s members of its vorstand [management board] decided it was time to rationalise the collection. With the help of a couple of art professors, the Deutsche Bank art concept was conceived, very much as an answer to this question, why should a big corporation have an art collection? We decided emphatically that we should not be buying for investment, but as part of our programme that proves we are a company that cares for more than just money. Since the 1970s, our two main reasons for buying art have been to create a more stimulating working environment for staff – and visitors to our buildings – and to support the communities in which we have offices.
 
How does the art collection benefit the company?

Buying contemporary art helps the bank and its employees engage with the latest ideas. Supplying a platform for a wide range of artists is simply a sign of how we are fully involved with our fast-changing times.
 
How are arts programmes managed at Deutsche Bank?

Friedhelm Huette heads up a team of art curators, including myself. We report internally as part of the corporate social responsibility and communication team, and also to a series of committees around the world.
 
Do you think there are other ways the arts could be used in the corporate world?

The purchase of art is only one of many ways we are involved with art. We have a kunsthalle [art gallery] in Berlin, there is a programme of travelling exhibitions, we have an Artist of the Year programme and there is the Deutsche Bank art magazine, Art Mag. We give tours of our collection to thousands of people every year. We share our knowledge of the arts with our clients in an art advisory service. We sponsor exhibitions and fairs, notably the Frieze Art Fair in London and New York.
 
Which other companies’ arts projects do you admire?

There are almost as many ways to get involved in the arts as there are artists and I admire many other corporate projects in the visual arts – Bloomberg, Flemings and Statoil immediately come to mind. But I would like to comment specifically on a project by the Chinese artist Cao Fei as we have works from this artist in the room we have named after her in London and the floor named after her in Frankfurt. Cao Fei was invited to be an artist in residence at one of Siemens’ factories in China. She worked with the young workforce there to find a more personal motivational language, and explored the dreams and aspirations of individual workers, helping them to act these out in a film. She describes the Whose Utopia? project as exploring the life of migrant factory workers in the Pearl River Delta who represent the “back-up force” for China’s competitiveness in the global economy. “Their utopia is also my utopia – the utopia of many more aspiring hopefuls. Wish the utopia will come true one day,” says Cao Fei.

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