The DZ BANK Art Collection of artistic contemporary photography

Under the theme of Concept: Photography, DZ BANK has an art collection that is one of the largest of its kind world-wide. Founded in 1993 by DG BANK, the precursor institution of today's DZ BANK Deutsche Zentral-Genossenschaftsbank, the collection has from the outset highlighted the current and open view of photography in  contemporary art.

The idea behind setting up the Art Collection as dedicated to photography as an art was spectacular and was greeted by great interest well beyond the enclaves of the art world. At that time, it could hardly be imagined that the strategy of focusing firmly on a single vibrant art current would trigger a veritable boom and that the Art Collection would thus become lodged in the collective memory.

Dedicated to the art event of the century Setting up a collection this genre was inspired by the  conviction that the mediums extraordinary dynamism pointed far beyond zeitgeist trends. The transition from painterly to photographic image, is something philosopher Boris Groys in 1998 termed perhaps the real art event of the century. This phenomenon is reflected in many different ways in the DZ BANK Art Collection. After 15 years of collecting, with the team headed by art historian Luminita Sabau, the renowned Art Collection now includes about 6,000 works by over 550 artists.

From the beginning, the Art Collection followed the concept of exploring the medium of photography in contemporary art as being of equal status to other art forms and to document that importance.
The focus on the photographic image in all its diversity enables a concentrated view of the wide variety of trends in contemporary art.

The Art Collection was established in line with art-historical criteria, and on the one hand a substantive emphasis is deployed, taking its cue from the traditional genres in art theory, such as portraiture, landscaping, still lifes, cityscapes (architecture), interiors and Concept Art. On the other, there is a temporal thrust, with the emphasis on the 1980s and 1990s and contemporary art.

Almost all the big names, from Richard Avedon through to Andy Warhol, are represented in the Art Collection. Frequently works that are not in the mainstream of the respective artists oeuvre are acquired. The Art Collection consciously champions new talent. Not infrequently, the early support by the Bank has helped turn young talents into prominent artists.

What counts is good art, explains Art Collection Head Luminita Sabau. We primarily focus on the individual artistic position. We prioritise work complexes or groups, as these tend to render the artistic mindset of a particular outstanding personality more readily accessible.

The Promise of Photography

Precisely because a corporate collection is not private in the customary sense, and yet also not public as in traditional cultural institutions, the Bank has always emphasised familiarising viewers with the works. The commitment to art has consistently hinged on transparency in order to foster internal and external dialogue.

After only five years, the Art Collection met with a great international response when it took first stock in The Promise of Photography. The xhibition with exemplary positions from the Collection went on show in famous institutes between 1998 and 2003, such as in Hannover (Kestner Gesellschaft), Frankfurt/Main (Schirn Kunsthalle), Berlin (Academy of Arts), New York (Museum of Modern Art / P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center), Tokio (Hara Museum of Contemporary Art) Paris (Centre National de la Photographie), and Moscow (House of Photography).

The encyclopaedic picture book on the Promise of Photography brought out in 1998 in Prestel Verlag is to this day one of the standard reference works on contemporary photography. Almost a decade later, DZ BANK redeemed its promise and documented the further development of the Art Collection, again analysing it in terms of a current view of the state of the photographic image. The relevant catalogue was published as Dialogue & Attitudes and appeared to coincide with the second exhibition of the Art Collection entitled Concept: Photography and shown in 2007 at Ludwig Museum in Budapest.

The DZ BANK Art Collection has a permanent audience in the ranks of the cooperative financial services network. From the very beginning, the Collection has been embedded in the staffs working environment and formed a part of the corporate culture. Over 2,000 works are perma nently on display in the Frankfurt head office, the branch offices and outside in exhibitions and as loans.

Countless projects link the staff directly to artistic work. For example, together with English duo Clegg & Guttmann a Museum for the Workplace was developed. The two prominent artists arranged objects provided by the employees to form installations and then took large-size photographs of the assemblages.

Going public: Art Foyer DZ BANK and Frankfurter Städel

In the Art Foyer DZ BANK, Deutsche Zentral-Genossenschaftsbank in Frankfurt/Main has since autumn 2006 regularly held thematic and solo shows in its building on Platz der Republik featuring works by artists from the collection. Moreover, on the first Friday of every month art experts offer a public guided tour of the DZ BANK collection.
In future, parts of the Art Collection will also be on permanent public view. DZ BANK is handing over an important section of works to Städel Museum in Frankfurt/Main. Over 200 leading works from the DZ BANK Art Collection will form the basis for the museums new focus on photography and after completion of the planned annex will be on public view there.

A taste of things to come will be given in summer 2008. On the occasion of the 125th anniversary of DZ BANK, a major jubilee show at Städel Museum in Frankfurt will present highlights from the DZ BANK Art Collection.



Sylke Grußendorf, Spokesperson DZ BANK AG
Tel.: +49 69 7447-2381