Oliver Koerner von Gustorf: Deutsche Bank is giving the Städel Museum 600 works from their collection. What importance do these permanent loans hold for the museum's image?
Max Hollein: These works constitute one of the largest additions to our collection in the history of the museum. Contract stipulations guarantee that the works remain in the museum for for a long time and that they will become an integral part of our collection. This is a remarkable accomplishment for the museum. We can now document essential developments in contemporary art while also paying tribute to one of the greatest corporate achievements in collecting, that of Deutsche Bank.
What were the criteria for selecting these works?
The Städel has been continuously expanding its collection since it was founded in 1815, incorporating current artistic movements into the art historical canon throughout, ranging from the Nazarene movement in the early 19th century and Classic Modernism in the early 20th century to the art of the past several decades. And so we have seminal works by Yves Klein, Dan Flavin, Francis Bacon, and Gerhard Richter, which means that the works from the Deutsche Bank Collection constitute a valuable addition to our own collection. Above all, they reflect the developments in post-war German art. Important works by Georg Baselitz, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Martin Kippenberger, and Anselm Kiefer, from whom we purchased a group of works already back in the '70s, augment our own holdings. But there are also works by important artists not previously part of the collection, such as Rosemarie Trockel. Our selection was motivated by a keen interest to bring entire work groups into the Städel Collection, particularly prints-including works by Hanne Darboven, Günther Förg, Imi Knoebel, as well as Polke and Richter. In addition to these are whole series of original works on paper by artists like Richard Artschwager, whose work was not overly represented in the collection previously.
Was it a difficult decision-making process, or was there a consensus on the selection from the onset?
The Deutsche Bank Collection encompasses around 53,000 works, and naturally we weren't familiar with every single one of them. We had definite preferences regarding the parts of the collection that we were familiar with. It was a matter of finding the ideal additions to the Städel collection together with the Deutsche Bank curators. This occurred in a very pleasant selection process over a longer period of time. Of course, there were certain stipulations on the part of the Deutsche Bank Collection that clearly excluded certain things. Deutsche Bank was concerned with maintaining their main core of drawings, for the most part. But this was not a problem for us, because we were primarily interested in the paintings. We asked ourselves what would best help our collection. We were focused on works that are important in an art historical sense, of course, but are also relevant for the public and possess a museum-like quality, such as Richter's Kahnfahrt and Kiefer's Hermanns-Schlacht.
You've already introduced a selection of the works in the exhibition First Choice.
This exhibition was intended to provide an initial glimpse into the larger group. We talked about how we should react to the expected interest on the part of the public, which would certainly want to know what works from the Deutsche Bank Collection would be going to the Städel. We wanted to present a cross-section of these works, but not in the form of a curated exhibition. Instead, we were concerned with conveying an impression of the abundance and variety of the larger group. This is why we decided upon a Petersburg hanging and deliberately showed paintings, drawings, and prints together. And now we're in the process of building an annex for the Städel, which will add 70 percent more exhibition space to the collection. This will enable us to show for the most part post-war art in around 30,000 additional square feet of space. And of course the works from the Deutsche Bank Collection will play a prominent role.
How important to you is the commitment of companies like Deutsche Bank?
It's become highly important, of course. I'd even go so far as to say that the appearance of corporate collections of this kind has been the most interesting development in collecting in the second half of the 20th century. Many of these collections were founded in the sixties and seventies with the concept Art at the Workplace. This was based on a new understanding of art and its social relevance and made the art accessible to staff. Many corporate collections were amassed with expert knowledge. In contrast with some private collections, they do not reflect the individual vision of a single collector, but are conceived in a manner similar to that of a museum collection. Several curators are involved, the selection of works is subjected to lengthy consideration, and there is a fundamental interest in documenting wider historical developments. A corporate collection like that of Deutsche Bank is certainly not only one of the largest, but also one of the most significant in terms of its quality. To my mind, this is still vastly underestimated. Of course, private collectors are extremely important, but it has to be acknowledged that a whole group of companies-especially Deutsche Bank-has performed a remarkable collecting achievement. And this should be reflected upon and paid tribute to.
The Städel doesn't only show contemporary art, of course. In your current show, The Master of Flémalle and Rogier van der Weyden, which is supported by Deutsche Bank, you introduce two important pioneers of early modern painting. What do you think is the importance of this exhibition?
This exhibition is truly historical, because the paintings of the Master of Flémalle and Rogier van der Weyden, which are as good as never given out on loan, can now be seen together in one place. These two pioneering Dutch artists founded early modern painting together with the van Eyck brothers. Their works heralded a completely new form of art and art reception. But they're not only interesting due to their immense influence on the development of painting. What fascinates the public then and now is the fact that these artists introduced a completely new kind of naturalism to traditional painting formats such as the portrait of saints or crucifixion scenes. Their painstaking realism also made a deep impression on the Italian painters. In the final analysis, the paintings of the Master of Flémalle and Rogier van der Weyden constitute some of humanity's highest artistic achievements. You can truly say the show is a sensation. And the fact that it came into being in the first place is also due in no small part to the Städel's own excellent collection of Early Netherlandish painting and the collaboration of the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, which also has a significant number of works. This was why we were able to persuade the many other museums to lend their works to this exhibition. Of course, Deutsche Bank's support was crucial, because it's extremely costly to put on an exhibition with works as valuable and as fragile as these.