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Art in the HVB-Tower

Bärbel Kopplin – Curator of the HVB Collection

‘HVB – The Tower to Inspire’

Under this heading, the light artist Philipp Geist covered the HVB-Tower, which has newly been converted to a ‘green building’, with moving light images for a few days in January 2015. The inspiration behind this temporary installation on the architectural shell of the Tower will now be continued and permanently established with art from the HypoVereinsbank collection that is being given a permanent place in the building.

Art in the workplace

Experiencing art in the workplace has become a matter of course for all of us. And yet, or perhaps precisely because of this, the HVB Corporate Collection, which has grown over many decades to 14,000 works, sparks quite a few moments of surprise and food for thought. Diversity, size, uniqueness and individuality are particular hallmarks of our collection. Outstanding individual objects and masterpieces of art history are just as much part of the inventory as controversial works from the current art scene. This combination of tradition and innovation gives the collection its unique profile. And this was the special feature to be highlighted in selecting the art for the HVB-Tower.

A story of 100 works of art in the Tower

So the 100 works of art that have found their respective places on the 22 floors of the building after its reconstruction tell the history of the more recent collection and its key works. A special challenge in this was to establish a link to the collection's history while at the same time convincingly capturing the company’s European dimension and increasing globalisation – always with a view to the central aspect of using art to initiate discourse. Also, the ‘choreography’ of an art installation in a bank building must, of course, always keep in mind the building’s various usage areas.

Art in dialogue for the event spaces

The guiding principle of entering into a dialogue with art is especially evident in the lower floors of the HVB-Tower where the event areas with conference rooms and a guest casino are situated on the 1st and 2nd floors. People, encounters and conversations characterise this area. The works of art selected for this situation tell their specific ‘story’, some of them in extensive groups of works. They pursue an unconventional approach, stimulate reflection on social and political concerns, and seduce viewers with their suggestive painting style or technical brilliance. The corridor areas on these two floors follow a separate concept. Photography plays a special role in the HVB collection, and is represented in over 2,000 works. From this extensive focus, works were chosen for these spatial environments that on the one hand put a ‘frame’ around people, encounters and social life, while also forming a mix of photography classics and the work of young artists that is rich in contrasts and associations. So a great many substantiated statements on this focal topic of the collection can be found here.

European dimensions – global thinking on the ‘standard floors’

The concept for the 'standard floors' from the 7th to 18th floor follows and deepens another idea: a journey that leads us primarily through the art of Europe but also touches on art styles from Asia and America. Here, where more than a thousand employees work in flexible and communicative networks in open-plan office areas according to the ‘smart working’ concept, our company’s European dimensions and global thinking are visualised with positions of 20th and 21st century art that can be quite contrary, and the international aspects of the collection become apparent. The starting point of the journey through countries and continents is Germany, which is represented on the 7th floor with two important positions and works. Rupprecht Geiger, a founding father of German abstraction, is presented here as a master of colour. Alongside his work, photographs by Sabine Hornig come as a surprise with their innovative image-space compositions.

With works by Siegfried Anzinger and Hubert Schmalix, the 8th floor offers a profound insight into Austrian figurative painting. Formats both large and small are presented here, and the pictures lead the viewer to a very personal style of painting. The 9th floor also contains art from the German-speaking regions, but shifts to the very lively art scene in Switzerland, where two idiosyncratic representatives were selected: Roman Signer, the artistic protagonist who likes to present himself with the attitude of a scientist and researcher, and Christine Streuli with her  ornamental images, who essentially  forms a brilliant painterly ‘counterpoint’ to Signer. On the 10th floor we turn to Italy, where three artists from different generations were selected, Giuseppe Santomaso, Luigi Ghirri and Carlo Valsecchi, whose works each stand for a style of their very own and who express themselves using very different techniques.

As the architectural conditions do not permit a presentation of art on the following floor, the journey through the European art scene continues on the 12th floor with a look at Eastern Europe. Here the art scene in Bulgaria and Romania is shown with in works by Krassimir Terziev and  Irina Botea. Both are members of younger generation marked by the changes in a post-communist society after 1989. This is followed on the 13th floor by two positions from Poland, both of which play with the theme of abstraction and figuration. Wilhelm Sasnal with his often complex references to art history and political reportage is certainly among the most important contemporary artistic positions in Poland. By way of contrast, Agnieszka Kaszubowska astonishes us with her photorealistic rendering of ordinary everyday objects.

An innovative spirit, technical perfection, and keen sense of design also characterise the two artists who represent their country of origin France on the 14th floor. While Georges Rousse found his life’s theme in architectural photography, Sebastian de Ganay explores new technical territory with his folded pictures that playfully and conceptually prompt the viewer to a new kind of seeing. France's neighbour Belgium is represented one floor above, on the 15th floor, again by two artists who often tell the viewer gripping stories in entire groups of works. David Claerbout frequently addresses the themes of time and memory, observation and change. Meanwhile, the younger of the two artists, Rinus van de Velde is a radical questioner and story-teller with a distinctive style in the field of drawing. A snapshot of the humorous, critical, and extreme lively art scene of Britain can be seen on the 16th floor, with celebrated representatives like Peter Hutchinson and Gilbert & George, as well as the young artist Clare Strand. Their passion, wit and enigmatic imagery challenge the viewer to find his own interpretation.

As a major link between West and East and indispensable in view of the international and global nature of the HVB collection, art from Asia and America is presented on the 17th and 18th floors. With Nobuyoshi Araki and Ryuji Miyamoto, the 17th floor is home to undisputed stars of the Japanese art scene, while on the 18th floor, a display case showing a land art project from the U.S. presents the global citizen and international concept artist Christo. On the same floor, Raissa Venables and Matt Saunders represent the ‘young voices’ of the US East and West Coasts.

Key works in the collection

The art of the 20th and 21st centuries with their controversial statements, European dimensions and international characteristics has thus been given a permanent place in the Tower. A select few special works of classical modernism and contemporary art are on view on the 19th through 22nd floors. A prelude to this special segment of the collection is formed by two paintings by the internationally renowned light artist Heinz Mack and the British land artist Richard Long. The 20th and 21st floors house works by the Englishman Julian Opie, whose central theme is people. On the 21st floor, Opie’s work is associated with a work by the major German photo artist Thomas Ruff, who deals with abstract psychedelic colour spaces in his ‘Zycles’ series.

Finally, on the 22nd floor the viewer encounters the HVB banknote collection in a large display case, and in the large conference room, a multi-piece mirror work by the Swiss artist Lori Hersberger. A rather small-format work, but with a huge impact, rounds off our tour: a sponge sculpture by the French avant-garde artist Yves Klein. This iconic work of Classical Modernism concludes this section while also bearing eloquent testimony to the richness and variety of this corporate collection.