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LONDON HQ RIVALS
THE WORLD’S BEST
ART MUSEUMS. WE
TAKE A TOUR OF
ITS WORKS FROM
BACON TO HIRST. BY
PHOTOGRAPHS: DAVID HARRISON
HALL OF FAME:
foyer in London
Tyson’s work ‘12
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RT HAS ALWAYS been a form of currency;
just think of the paintings patronised and
bought by Florentine banking family the
House of Medici in the early 15th century.
Of course, the connections between
commerce and culture have diversified quite
a bit since Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici first
commissioned Brunelleschi to reconstruct the
Basilica of San Lorenzo back in 1419.
Fast forward the best part of six centuries
and take a look inside Deutsche Bank’s London
HQ to see what I mean. Winchester House is
primarily an international hub of commerce
and industry – but it’s decorated like a modern
art gallery. Works by artists the world over are
hung or installed – and represent a rich palette
of global themes and influences.
It’s this juxtaposition of traditional trade
– the everday work of the bank – alongside
creativity that reveals a lot about the German
institution’s approach to the visual arts. As
a business that takes its acquisitions, and
relationships with artists it chooses to work
with, very seriously, it sees the collection and
sponsorship of the arts as part of its very
DNA, just as much as money is.
The bank’s relationship with the Frieze Art
Fair is well documented, and with 60,000 art
works in 928 buildings across the globe, 1,900
of these can be found in Winchester House.
The bank has been collecting and championing
art since the 1970s, and prides itself on being
one of the first to break from the trend of
buying art purely for investment purposes.
Rather than looking for returns on the art it
shows and sponsors, the bank claims it doesn’t
adhere to any particular style. Instead, it insists
that the artists and what their work has to say
about the world comes first. Deutsche is also
reluctant to put a corporate stamp on any art it
owns, wary perhaps of creating limitations for
artists and their pieces. If anything, though,
it’s clear the passion for contemporary art and
artists runs high on the bank’s list of priorities.
The collection in Winchester House is
expansive and features renowned artists
including Damien Hirst, Tony Cragg and
Anish Kapoor. Reflecting current financial
trends, it also chooses to back new and
emerging artists from the East and South
Americas, and exhibits their work in halls
and boardrooms throughout the building.
When the bank moved into Winchester
House in 1998, Deutsche and its curators
wanted an office that made a bold statement
to both employees and visitors alike.
As entrances go, Winchester House has one
that rivals many international banks (and even
London’s other cultural establishments) with
Anish Kapoor’s reflective installation Turning
the World Upside Down III (1996) positioned in
front of Damien Hirst’s Biotin-Maleimide (1995).
It’s important to note, though, that these aren’t
installed solely to increase the aesthetic of the
building, or to increase the bank’s kudos in any
way. Rather, Deutsche is at pains to point out
that it really believes in this art.
Kapoor’s installation as a focal point is
gloriously disconcerting – when you look
into it, the work creates the appearance of
an inverted world and forces you to question
what you’re seeing. As the company’s
senior curator Alistair Hicks says about the
decision to support and show art throughout
Winchester House: “Excitement is gained
in engaging with the individual artist. Our
policy is to show a cross section of artists,
from Gavin Turk to Cao Fei, by way of Marcel
Dzama and Wangechi Mutu.
“Artworks need to have an audience to
live, and artists keep us fresh and engage with
what is happening now. Contemporary art is
about change, so we’re benefitting from their
responses to the world. We choose works that
engage staff and are ideas-led.”
Turner Prize winner Keith Tyson’s piece
12 Harmonics (2011) [pictured on previous
spread] certainly fits Hicks’ description – an
immersive work of 12, 3.5 metre-high canvases
presented in a photo-realistic fashion is as bold
as it is arresting. The panels have a “numerical
essence” the viewer is challenged to detect.
Deutsche is proud to claim that auction
houses are never approached when the
bank wants to buy an artist’s work – instead,
Deutsche contacts artists directly. Hicks and
the bank’s team of curators proactively scout
art galleries and exhibitions, and a panel
of departmental executives meets three-to-four
times a year to decide which works should be
hung in the building.
There are guided tours of the artworks at
Winchester House, but if you’re imagining
queues that put the Natural History Museum to
shame, think again. There is limited capacity –
not to foster a feeling of exclusivity, but simply
because it’s a working office.
And yet it is an office like no other. How
many workplaces can claim to have Francis
Bacon’s Study For Portrait of Pope Innocent X
(1989) located unassumingly at the end of
a corridor? Here, art is braided into the
working environment. For example, what
would otherwise be a featureless boardroom
is graced by works from Canadian artist
Marcel Dzama. The particular pieces hanging
in the room are primarily on paper, a form
which Deutsche is especially keen to invest
in, because of its accessibility to staff.
Just as the Medici family built its grand
palaces to house an ever-increasing art
collection, it could be said Deutsche Bank has
created the new Uffizi right here in London. ■
For more information, see db.com
How many banks have
an original Francis Bacon
at the end of a corridor?
THE SPHERE AND NOW:
(Clockwise from this
image) Visitors to the
London HQ are met by
Anish Kapoor’s work
‘Turning the World Upside
Down III’ (1996) and
Damien Hirst’s ‘Biotin-
Maleimide’ (1995); the
reception also shows
Tony Cragg, ‘Secretions’
(1998) and Keith Tyson, ‘12
Harmonics’ (2011); Marcel
Dzama, ‘Such a Strange
Rebellion’, ‘I Remember
How You Made Me Feel’
and ‘They Grin Like a Dog,
in the Streets’ (2012).
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