The Significance Art Has for a Company
On November 13,
the Historical Society of the Deutsche Bank AG in Frankfurt held an event
on corporate culture. In his speech, Dr. Tessen von Heydebreck, member
of the board of directors of the Deutsche Bank AG, underscored art’s significance
for a company even in the context of necessary cost reduction measures.
The following is comprised of excerpts from his speech.
Global action and crossover teamwork – in the area
of art, these goals of the Deutsche Bank have already become a reality:
at present, exhibitions from our collection can be seen in museums on all
five continents, realized in teamwork with our colleagues on site. With
50,000 works of art in 911 branches worldwide, our collection is the largest
and most important corporate collection in the world. For the bank, art
is a catalyst to communication; it interprets our present, lends form to
abstract content, and can render complex interrelationships visible. This
potential of art has continuously contributed to creating a corporate culture
that both includes and connects clients, staff, and the public in an exemplary
I know that many of you are waiting to hear an appeal for
a long-term commitment to art, and beyond this – and perhaps even more
than this – concrete figures. I can confirm the fact that extensive cost
reduction measures have been undertaken and continue to remain on the bank’s
agenda. The acquisition budget has been drastically cut, and beyond this,
the exhibition space we entertain together with the Guggenheim Foundation
in Berlin, the Deutsche Guggenheim, is now faced with a significant reduction
of all costs for its second five-year period. We’re realizing first-class
projects with slender means, and we’d also like to set the tone in the
future with our art program – even in times of difficulty. Art can reach
a large number of viewers, people of a variety of interests and cultures.
It offers an alternative set of criteria for universal culture beyond mere
economic evaluation. It renders the rich abundance of tradition and present
and future visions visible, at the same time demonstrating its ability
to offer a home to people coming from a wide variety of backgrounds – because
art and culture have everything to do with identity. And for this reason,
promoting its acceptance stands at the center of our commitment.
the seventies, the bank has continuously sponsored cultural exchange and
visual experience, especially of contemporary art, manifesting this commitment
in its own collection. In 1979, the former board member Dr. Herbert Zapp
developed a basic concept that remains largely intact to this day.
of artists from German-speaking countries whose main period of production
took place in the years following1945 were collected in larger groups.
Before long, however, it was particularly the generation of artists born
in the sixties and seventies that shifted to the center of our attention.
Sponsoring artists who are still at the beginning of their artistic careers
is essential to our culture’s continued existence and development. Precisely
these young, talented individuals, however, often have nearly no recourse
for exhibiting in museums or galleries; it’s here that we, as a company,
can bring about a multiplicative effect in a variety of ways. Through purchasing
and presenting works in the rooms of the bank, people are confronted with
contemporary art who never or only rarely come into contact with this part
of our cultural life. In contrast to the museum context, art comes to the
viewer here, so to speak. At the same time, a commitment of this type helps
prevent art from becoming the concern only of a small minority, in other
words, of those who can afford to buy it. And finally, the artist – and
this is probably the most important personal aspect – is confirmed in his
or her artistic endeavor.
In the meantime, “Corporate Collecting”
and “Art Sponsorship” have become well-known, much-discussed terms. To
this day, however, concepts aiming less at representation or image improvement
than the mediation of modern art to staff members or an encounter between
art and the working world are rare. Art in the Workplace, however,
is the central theme of the Deutsche Bank’s concept.
and presented in this vein, art has brought about change in the bank. And
the bank itself remains in a continuous state of transformation, as well.
Its energy echoes far beyond the Frankfurt buildings, in the ongoing development
of its artistic concept. During the eighties, the number of newly-opened
branches grew rapidly, and along with it the size of the collection. Soon
thereafter, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Germany’s subsequent reunification
brought about a crucial thematic expansion. Now, artists in Dresden, Leipzig,
or Rostock who were previously ignored by the state art establishment and
whose works were consequently beyond our reach could also be sponsored
through acquisition. In the network of branches growing up in the new Laender
of the Federal Republic, art hung on the hastily whitewashed walls was
often the first, hopeful sign of a fresh start, a symbol for openness and
To this day, the bank, unerringly and in tandem with
the business’ increasing globalization, continues to pursue the international
emphasis in its choice of artists already begun with the first installation
of art in its Frankfurt offices. In the process, and in view of the fact
that more and more branches are being closed, the optimization and distribution
of the collection have increasingly come into focus in accordance with
a necessary adaptation to new business goals. Yet our commitment to art
is not solely characterized by reaction. As in other areas of business,
the Deutsche Bank stands out through its pioneering activities in art.
Out of this self-definition and under the aegis of Dr. Rolf-E. Breuer,
the board developed the project series Moment as a continuation and complement
of the concept Art in the Workplace. Moment mirrors developments
in the increasingly virtual banking business as well as tendencies in contemporary
It all began in the year 2000 with an open competition: projects
by international artists were sought that were meant to be seen for a limited
period of time in public space: a different artist in a different city
each year. The idea for the first project, Shipped Ships, came from
Ayse Erkmen, who lives here in Frankfurt.
The Turkish artist proposed a
ferry service on the river Main that not only formed a bridge extending
from one bank to the other, but a bridge of international cooperation,
The second Moment project also reflected the way
in which a variety of cultures interact with one another. On October 4,
Karin Sander’s wordsearch appeared in the financial section of The
New York Times. The artist had asked 250 New Yorkers to donate a word
from their respective native language that carried personal meaning for
them. And the New Yorkers spoke. Coming from a variety of backgrounds and
nationalities, they all chipped in for a good cause, giving a new, powerful,
and forward-looking contour to the city’s changed skyline following September
Karin Sander chose the stock listings of The New York Times
as the place to publish her work, transforming it into the site of a very
particular portrait of New York that was only valid for a single day; depicted
in fine gradations of grey, it described both the high degree of tolerance
among existing cultures and the city’s powerful force of inner cohesion.
Thus, the international art series Moment furthers the global presence
of international art on a variety of levels. It offers access to the most
important contemporary ideas and developments. Of course, our renowned
exhibitions around the world also provide further platforms.
this, the bank has been sponsoring exhibitions in important international
museums for a number of years already. The Deutsche Bank, particularly
in the person of Dr. F.W. Christians, also provided the German/Russian
cultural exchange with crucial support. As early as 1977, we organized
the first presentations of the Russian avant-garde (Costakis Collection)
in the West, and in 1983 the exhibition People and Landscapes in
Moscow and St. Petersburg. This commitment has continued to this day: in
the winter of 1997, over 200 works by Georg Baselitz from our collection
were shown in Moscow’s Manege on the occasion of its 850-year anniversary.
Man in the Middle is the title of the current thematic exhibition
of the collection of the Deutsche Bank on view to the end of next week
in St.Petersburg’s Hermitage. A double premiere we can be proud of: the
Hermitage is not only presenting a contemporary German exhibition for the
first time, but works from a company collection, as well.
since 1980, one annual solo exhibition of the works of a prominent artist
from the collection has been touring through museums and branch offices
worldwide. In view of our international emphasis, this year’s choice went
to the African American Kara Walker, to be followed next year by Richard
In addition, the following works from the bank’s collection
are also on view this year: Hiroshi Sugimoto in Auckland, New Zealand;
A Century of Landscapes in Capetown; and The Return of the Giants
with works of “Heftige Malerei” from the seventies and eighties in Monterrey,
Art in the Workplace as the guest of museums around
the world – here, of course, the question repeatedly arose as to our own
exhibition location. Düsseldorf had been discussed at an early date, later
Leipzig; then, the Deutsche Bank was offered the chance to combine the
changeover in the East with a return to Berlin, the location of its historical
beginnings: in 1992, the former office buildings of the Disconto Company,
which had been incorporated by the Deutsche Bank at their merging in 1929,
could now be bought back from the Treuhand.
From the beginning,
the building’s long ground-floor space looking out onto Unter den Linden
was earmarked for a public function: to help reanimate the legendary boulevard.
The director of the Guggenheim Museum had already – in the context of the
Guggenheim Foundation’s global expansion – expressed interest in Berlin.
The bank building in the city center, his own plans, and the bank’s cultural
commitment fit together splendidly. An exhibition space at Unter den Linden
was to be planned and co-run; together, internationally renowned and younger
artists were to be commissioned to create new works for the space. Both
institutions have brought their own specific intellectual and material
capital into the joint venture: the Guggenheim Foundation offers its curators’
knowledge and the many working relationships to donors and artists around
the world, as well as their own excellent collection. The bank contributes
its year-long experience, especially in the area of contemporary art, as
well as its know-how in applied economics, its collection, its building,
and the necessary financial means.
In the five years of its existence,
the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin has proven to be a successful enrichment
to the cultural life of the capital: we were able to attract 600,000 viewers
with 21 exhibitions to date, ranging from drawings by Albrecht Dürer to
Andreas Slominski’s “Traps.” Hence, our newly-founded museum has met with
more resonance than any other in Berlin, and is one of the most successful
museums in Germany.
Companies are increasingly searching for new
identities; this is a result of an increasing cooperation among concerns
worldwide as traditional working structures and definitions of function
dissolve. In this context, commitment to art can constitute a significant
contribution to the formation of corporate identity; it provides a vast
potential for marketing strategies tailored towards both clients and staff.
The values we’re trying to communicate through advertising or the press,
such as innovation or teamwork, for instance, are an integral part of art
and can be implemented effectively. Art stands for a credible image transfer.
Our experience has shown that the chances are good for a positive response
to such strategies, both for clients and staff. The interest in contemporary
art among our target groups is unusually high, while the art field itself
is marked by dynamic growth throughout. Client reactions, numbers of visitors,
press, staff opinion, and the great willingness among museums and artists
to cooperate document the success both of this art concept and its realization.
To us, this success is a motor for thinking beyond our balance sheets,
in the future, as well: in order to offer people some of those unique moments
and encounters – at least in the area of culture – that lend meaning and
purpose to the quest for material gain.