June 19, 2016 Anna Lowe

SMARTIFY Visit Deutsche Bank’s London Collection

Guest blogger Olga Dyakova visits the Deutche Bank collection in London and shares her thoughts.

What does international investment bank has to do with contemporary art scene? In Deutsche bank’s case, quite a lot. The bank owns the largest corporate art collection in the world, as well as long-running sponsorship of art exhibitions and Freize Art Fair in London, Hong Kong and New York. It also publishes an online ArtMag and supports an Emerging Artist of the Year award. SMARTIFY was fortunate to join curator’s view in the bank’s London offices earlier in May.

The collection goes back to 1970s, when bank decided to start buying German and Austrian art to decorate their offices. The works included art by Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys and his student, Gerhard Richter. It was decided the collection will focus exclusively on contemporary art and the theme will be “works on paper”, which mainly includes drawings, photography and prints, but it may also depart from wall art into sculpture. The collection, which purpose has always been to create attractive work environment for the employees, expanded to include international art with globalization and the bank’s growth in the 1990s. Nowadays the collection includes 60,000 works globally including 5000 in the UK.

While the size of the collection is openly shared, the bank does not to discuss the monetary value. Our tour guide comments that the budget goes up and down depending on how well the bank performs financially. The collection is living and breathing: artworks are bought and sold, but we’re told the curators are against buying contemporary art solely as investment. They often buy works of emerging artists, sometimes directly, sometimes through galleries, when there is no certainty if an artist becomes famous and his or her art rises in value. Instead, the committee, which meets quarterly to decide what works to buy, focuses on uplifting, easy to look at art. Whist political statements are common in art, the bank prefers to stay away for the fear of offending any one side. Instead, they buy art that reflects what is happening around and is a contribution to the bank and society. This process also means that the works are not reflection of individual taste of top managers, which sometimes happens to corporate collections.

Tony Cragg

Tony Cragg, Secretions


Anish Kapoor, Turning the World and Damien Hirst, Biotin-Maleimide

We start the tour on the ground floor, which houses large scale works by sculptors Anish Kapoor and Tony Cragg, and spot painting “Biotin-Malemide” (1995) by Damien Hirst, joined by  monumental “12 Harmonics” by Keith Tyson, designed especially for this reception hall. Previously, Tony Cragg’s Secretions (1998), comprised of thousands of ivory-colored dice, dominated the entrance, but when SMARTIFY visited, they were on loan to the artist’s retrospective exhibition, and were temporarily replaced by a smaller, intimate bronze sculpture “Passers by” (1998). It is see-through and looking closely, you can see each figure is made of smaller, linked, ant-like human figures. Its aim is to explore the man and the environment with every visitor becoming part of the relationship. The work reminded me of city crowds near the bank headquarters and I was pleased with the detailed information they provided.

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Keith Tyson, 12 Harmonics

The tour continues on the eights floor, where conference rooms are located. There, each room is named after the artist and includes works by Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter, Raqib Shaw and many others. Each room contains a plaque with a short biography of an artist. Each room and corridor is filled with works.

This remarkable collection is open to public tours on selected days for a small fee that goes to a charity. For further information and to learn more about the collection:

Tours: https://www.db.com/unitedkingdom/content/en/the_london_collection.html

Art: https://www.db.com/unitedkingdom/art.html

Keith Tyson on 12 Harmonics at Winchester House: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3nwMx8Sus8

Guest Post by Olga Dyakova

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