Deutsche Bank Art Collection

“Art builds. Art questions. Art transcends borders. Art works.”­

(A philosophy by Deutsche Bank)

Image

[Turning the World Upside Down III’, 1996 by Anish Kapoor and ‘Biotin-Maleimide’, 1995 by Damien Hirst]

‘Diversity’, – it’s a word frequently used by Deutsche Bank as a way of analysing and solving problems, to methodically examine from all angles using different mindsets. This, DB hopes, will lead to an acceptance of all views of all ages and cultures on the global stage of business and banking. This also may be the key factor as to why DB started its art programme 30 years ago that now amasses the largest corporate art collection throughout the world. If you imagine the way our brains function, with the left side dealing with logic and the right with emotion, DB understands that to have a well rounded perspective you need to activate both sides of your brain. Since the late 1970’s DB has been cultivating and championing artistic brilliance, of both established and emerging talent, as a way of a) supporting the arts and b) of bringing stimulation, inspiration and enjoyment to both their clients and colleagues. The collection is not, as one might suspect, an investment. There is no storeroom, it’s all out there on the trading floors, offices and meeting rooms that span 70 countries and is accessed daily by over 100,000 employees. Prize pieces of the collection include works by Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, Damien Hirst and Anish Kapoor. I am fortunate enough to be given a private tour of Winchester House in the heart of the City of London by curator Alistair Hicks.

Image

The rules of the selection process are thus laid bare. DB’s intentions are to garner talent that has endurance and a length of life, meaning that new graduates are often over-looked simply due to their fallout rate. Auction houses are not approached because DB want to directly support the artists. Alistair Hicks is the networker of DB’s Art Programme, who scours the galleries and studios of the U.K. for emerging talent. The works are mainly of figurative and abstract content and are considerate in the sense that they are not setting themselves up to offend. “There’s a line that has to be drawn”, claims Alistair, and so for this reason you will not find any suggestive nudes or themes that might be distasteful to certain cultures or beliefs. There are 3-4 annual meetings where the art committee (comprised of departmental executives) decide on around 20 additions to the collection. The average price paid for a piece is £1000 and the average age of an artist is 20 to 35 years. Generally, the pieces are of photographic, print or paper format, of modest size in a way to make it approachable even to the faintest of art lovers. DB rarely commissions work, reasoning that it might impinge on the artistic process. Key factors for approval are the marriage of expressiveness, emotion, innovation and longevity. Ultimately, and quite understandably, the budget for art purchasing is the first thing to be cut when DB revenue is down.

Image

Guided through the conference rooms and upper floor offices (that take on the names of the presiding artist), the sounds are hushed and the décor sober. The annunciation comes from the art itself, softly spoken, yet very much in evidence. I almost miss the Francis Bacon…but not quite. However, it’s when you get to the 2 main entrance halls that reduces you to a state of fixated awe. In the Great Winchester Street entrance you are confronted by Anish Kapoor’s ‘Turning the World Upside Down III’, an enormous inverted sphere inside a sphere that gives the viewer a reflection of himself and surroundings upside down when viewed face on. In other words, walking past it every morning, employees are forced to see themselves from a different perspective. On the far wall hangs ‘Biotin-Maleimide’, one of Damien Hirst’s ubiquitous Spot Paintings. Crossing the foyer to the London Wall access we are confronted by Keith Tyson’s mind-blowing polyptych, ‘12 Harmonics’, a series of 12 paintings specially commissioned by DB. Each panel is loosely based on a number from 1-12, and using symbols and symmetry explores ideas, theories and varied concepts of our world. On introducing his work to 400 employees, says Alistair, “Keith explained that the 12 pieces explain how parallel systems work in the world”, a theory that can be applied to all walks of life. Like all great art, the audience has their own personal response to these panels in accordance to how you view the world. Alternately, you can walk past this piece on 100 occasions and see something different every time. The overall experience is quite intense, a feeling that you do not get in a normal art gallery. It feels half way between you happening upon someone’s personal home collection to a gallery space that caters for one viewer at a time. A privileged experience indeed. And beside each piece comes a mini bio about the artist. Staff and investors are frequently invited on guided tours of the DB art collection as well as artist studio visits, so there’s an educational element for a better understanding of the arts with its varied levels of communication that will hopefully reflect in business terms. All London employees are also given ‘culture cards’ that gives free access to most major art galleries.

Image

[Francis Bacon ‘Study for a Pope Innocent X’, 1989]

Image

[Jorma Puranen, ‘Icy Prospects #18’, 2005]

Image

[Jorma Puranen, ‘Icy Prospects #27’, 2005]

Image

 

[Caro Niederer, ‘Shella and Manda Beach’, 2005]

Image

[Caro Niederer, ‘Shella and Manda Beach’, 2005]

Image

[Anish Kapoor ‘Wounds and Absent objects’, 1998]

Image

[Wang Taocheng, ‘My History’, 2008]

Image

[Ralf Peters ‘Indoors’, 2003]

Image

[Anish Kapoor ‘Turning the World Upside Down III’ 1996]

Image

[Anish Kapoor ‘Turning the World Upside Down III’ 1996]

Image

[Anish Kapoor ‘Turning the World Upside Down III’ 1996]

Image

[Damien Hirst ‘Biotin-Maleimide’, 1995]

Image

[Keith Tyson ’12 Harmonics’, 2011. Image © John Wildgoose]

In an age were banks are crumbling left, right and centre, Deutsche Bank has proved both stalwart and ever productive, and one of the few Banks to still be showing a considerable profit (except for a slight wobble in 2008). In 2012, DB was named ‘Best Global Investment Bank’ in the annual Euromoney Awards, with the International Financing Review acknowledging DB as both ‘Equity House of the Year’ and ‘Bond House of the Year’. This success has come mainly from its break as a German-centric organisation in the last 5 years, with investments growing more towards the global market. But still, these are difficult times and one could question if an office would really miss that nice painting on the wall. Many banks have in fact had to divest their art collections in recent years to help combat their own economic crisis. On September 15th 2008, the day that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, the artist Damien Hirst raised £111,000,000 at Sotheby’s in a direct auction of his works. Weeks later, however, the contemporary art index fell 20% and works by Hirst were failing to sell in the US. Has modern art seen its day as a form of investment? 

Image

[Keith Tyson ’12 Harmonics’, 2011. Image © John Wildgoose]

Whatever the argument, DB has never seen art purchasing from this angle. For them, it’s a mind-release from the stats and numerical spaghetti-junction of investment banking. Alistair finishes by saying, “we’re very lucky that the concept was actually designed back in the 70’s and it was designed as much for the difficult times as good times. The idea was to make the art a small but integral part of the company’s DNA and because of that we do not spend extravagantly. It’s very cost effective, – if you’d given the job of making the walls for the last 30 years to a designer, decorator or architect it would have cost 20 times as much.” We should also remember that Art always has the last laugh. In archaeological terms, the things we create determine best how we are remembered. You can tell so much about the attitudes of an era from the clothes, implements, wall markings and art that we create, more so than written historical documents because they speak our needs in expressionistic and emotional terms. Deutsche Bank has shown humanity in their valiant support for the arts, and a wish for longevity that I hope will in time reflect back on them. 

Image

For more reading on DB’s Art Collection

An explanation on the ’12 Harmonics’ by Keith Tyson

N.B. Viewing the collection is by appointment only and can be arranged through the Contemporary Art Society. A large selection of DB’s art can also be viewed each year at the Frieze Art Fair.

 

 

 

Advertisements

About londoninsight

A compassionate photographer working to better her understanding of her town, her village, London.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s