Art in Luxembourg banks - Part I: Deutsche Bank
Hidden behind the walls of many financial institutions in Luxembourg, sophisticated collections are waiting to be seen. In most cases, they are not visible to the public. This is why during the summer months, Luxembourg for Finance releases a summer series about art in Luxembourg banks. Five institutions have been chosen, based on their sole collections different topics can be covered. The art historian Ute Bopp-Schumacher has a standing contract with Deutsche Bank Luxembourg as curator of the bank’s art collection. LFF talked to her about the importance of private collections and the impact of Luxembourg banks on the local art scene.
One common criticism is that art held in private collections cannot be enjoyed by the public. Is this true?
The Deutsche Bank collection is not a private collection hidden behind closed doors. One section of the public lives with the collection on a daily basis : the people who work at the bank and their clients. Besides that, Deutsche Bank shows its artwork at exhibitions. It loans pieces to various museums and collections on request. It has travelling exhibitions that are shown in selected branches and at institutions owned by Deutsche Bank, such as the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, where exhibitions from its own stock are shown on a regular basis. Hence, the criticism that Deutsche Bank buys artwork for its own private purpose is inappropriate. Moreover, Deutsche Bank is planning a huge permanent loan to the Städel museum in Frankfurt, to coincide with the opening of the new annex of the museum. This comprises 600 exhibits that Deutsche Bank is granting on permanent loan to the Städel, although it remains the owner of the artefacts.
Amongst the permanent loans for the Städel, are there also artworks from Deutsche Bank Luxembourg?
The Luxembourg portfolio is too small to give away elements on permanent loan. We would have to substitute them. Rather, we focus on the cultural scene within Luxembourg by sponsoring the MUDAM (Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean). We offer to loan them artworks from the Luxembourg branch, as well as from the worldwide branches of Deutsche Bank.
How important are private collections to the continuance of our cultural heritage?
Private collections are very important. Nowadays, public collections are partially fed by private collections, sometimes to the extent of entire wings, like at the Städel, and this is criticised. But actually it should be seen positively, that private collectors cultivate art by buying and exhibiting it and making it available to institutions. By doing this, they support firstly the artist, then the art galleries and finally the art institutions. Thus, the whole industry remains in motion and a different public is exposed to art in addition to the typical museum-visitor. In this respect, private collections lead to the fact that a wider section of the population is interested in art.
What liberties does a private collector have compared to a public collector?
That depends on the concept of the private collector. In general, he is totally free. A museum has certain goals to pursue, but actually both collectors have their liberties. It is in the nature of things that a museum probably doesn’t collect radical works, because it will not snatch at a work of art until it is recognised as being of museum quality. Museums with a focus on contemporary art can have a difficult time, because from today’s viewpoint you can favour something that, in twenty years time, may no longer be considered as good. A private collector has to deal with the same problem.
Is the existence of your collection guaranteed in the event of changes in the management of the bank?
The encouraging of art is part of the Corporate Identity of Deutsche Bank. It started with the theme “Art at the workplace” and has developed into “Art works”. At first, the bank focused on German contemporary artists with the idea that the art could be seen at the workplace in branch offices around Germany. The new term “Art works” reflects the expansion of the bank into the whole world. That has no bearing on the preferences of a single director. Engagement in art is one of the main social pillars of the bank, alongside other social tasks.
Do you organise exhibitions in your premises that are open to the public?
During the first years, from 1992 to 1998, we organised three or four exhibitions on our premises. Then we started to become engaged in sponsorship of music and now we make one or two exhibitions a year. Besides that, we sponsor the MUDAM and encourage sponsorship requests from outside.
What led you to become sponsors of the MUDAM?
The idea came to us because Deutsche Bank considered it as an excellent opportunity that so close to our Kirchberg office there is an institution concentrating contemporary art. Interestingly, the Mudam has many cross-links with the new “Art works” concept of Deutsche Bank. Their concerns are similar: both ask critical questions about society. The Deutsche Guggenheim also more and more shows such artworks.
Are the collections of Luxembourg banks underestimated?
The development of these collections has always been seen positively. Various publications mention aspects of the different collections. The engagement of banks in this sphere has not been forgotten. On the contrary, the Luxembourg art scene has benefitted from this. During the 1990s, when famous architects left their footprints here, it was exceptional that banks engaged so explicitly in buying art and organising exhibitions. For the Luxembourg art scene this commitment has been very positive, helping to build a permanent cultural landscape. This is widely appreciated.
Interview: EK; Copyright: Dieter Leistner
A catalogue, compiling the most interesting artworks of Luxembourg banks and companies, is available at the Gallery Nosbaum & Reding.