Concept behind the collection

(Kopie 1)

Loredana Nemes
Joachim, 2016, 2016
Aus der Serie: Nadelstreifen / Pinstripe
37,5 x 31,5 cm

The DZ BANK Art Collection was founded in 1993 and is the corporate collection of the DZ BANK AG (Central German Cooperative Bank), based in Frankfurt am Main. It encompasses more than 7,500 art works by over 800 international artists and is among the largest collections of its kind.  Its main focus is contemporary art that engages the medium of photography. This comprises all works of art that, during the process of their creative genesis, made use of a photographic technique. The decision to concentrate on the medium of photography is closely tied to the history of the cooperative banking sector whose roots reach back to the time when the first photographic images emerged. Furthermore, photography understood as a democratic medium corresponds with the idea of the cooperative, which today still characterizes the DZ BANK.

The selection criteria for inclusion in the collection include art historical genres like, for example, still lifes, landscapes, or interiors. An equally central concern is to approach photography not as a purely documentary medium that illustrates reality, but rather above all as a genuinely artistic medium. Special interest is also placed in artistic standpoints that newly define the boundaries of photography with regard to classical genres like drawing, painting, or sculpture. This is accomplished on the one hand through the content of a work, or on the other hand by representation of the greatest possible variety of materials, which find their expression in entirely diverse ways. Lithographs, collages, handpainted photographs, sculptural solutions, reliefs, and computer-generated images are thus just as much a part of the collection as camera-less images in the form of photograms and generative photographic images. In its forms of production, the photograph extends from analogue to digital, from silver gelatin prints on fiber-based baryta paper to photogravures on handmade paper or plotted prints with pigmented inks, from C-prints on all types of papers from Cibachrome to dye transfer. Furthermore, the mission of the collection includes clearly portraying and making visible in the collection the development of an artist within his or her oeuvre, including different creative phases, which is achieved by periodic purchasing of their works and series of works.

(Kopie 2)

Raphael Hefti
Aus der Serie: Lycopodium, 2012
180,6 x 106 cm

One of the driving forces at the time of the collection's founding was the idea to engage art as an internal instrument for communication. Display of works in the immediate work environment creates an inspiring space that at the same time foments a dialogue. A democratic method of selection allows bank employees to decide which art works will be exhibited in their space in 6 to 8 curated exhibits on different floors of the bank each year. Moreover, numerous tours of the collection are made available to the bank's employees. Projects in which artists collaborate closely with employees of the DZ BANK grant special insight into artistic working methods. The artist Loredana Nemes created her series »Pinstripe«” as part of the seventh employee project, which was on view in 2017 in the DZ BANK.

Over the years, the collection has increasingly established its place in the public sphere. First, through tours of the exhibits in the office building itself, and from 1998 on, through numerous exhibitions in national and international art institutions. Counted among these exhibitions are, for example, »The Promise of Photography« at MoMA PS1, New York; Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; National Photography Center, Paris; Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow; Academy of Arts, Berlin and the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt; »Real« at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt; »Road Atlas« at the Dieselkraftwerk Art Museum in Cottbus; »American Dream« at the Kunsthalle Mannheim; »Painting in Photography« at the Städel Museum Frankfurt; and the most recent exhibition »Picturing Movement« at the Märkischen Museum in Witten.

(Kopie 3)

John Baldessari
Life's Balance (with Money), 1989/90
129 x 108 cm

The inauguration of the ART FOYER in 2006, a 300-square-meter gallery space in Frankfurt am Main, provided free, public access in a museum setting to the wide range of the collection through three to four different exhibitions each year. The exhibitions are accompanied by publications and diverse programming including artists' talks, panel discussions, guided tours, and children's workshops. In addition, we invite creative artists from different cultural fields every two years to curate a thematic composition from the collections, placing the selected objects in an interdisciplinary discourse.

From 1993 to 2003, and now again since 2013, the DZ BANK Art Collection awards two fellowships every two years. They are directed at artists of all ages who work with the techniques and materials of photography understood in the broadest possible sense. This can include artists working at the fringes of other artistic forms and in so doing, challenge photography and push it into new territory. It is exactly these diverse approaches to the medium of photography and diversity of materials that are of particular interest to the DZ BANK Art Collection. An alternating, interdisciplinary jury of experts awards two artistic perspectives each a project-based fellowship of 12,000 Euros. Works by the fellowship winners and three additional short-listed finalists are purchased for the collection and exhibited together in the ART FOYER. Each of these exhibitions are accompanied by a publication.

After the transfer of a group of 220 artworks from the DZ BANK Art Collection to the Städel Museum in Frankfurt in 2008, the Museum has exhibited since 2011 a selection of long-term loaned works in its newly-constructed garden hall galleries. This collaboration represents a milestone in the declared goal of the DZ BANK Art Collection to support photography as an autonomous artistic genre: the photographic works are given equal footing with the paintings, sculptures, and installations displayed alongside them in the galleries. In this way, the DZ BANK AG promotes the preservation of cultural values and gives them back to the citizens of the city and society as a whole.


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