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Interview by Catherine Hickley
Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Max Hollein, the director of Frankfurt’s Staedel Museum, is defying Europe’s debt crisis by expanding the museum underground to double its space and create room for some hefty loans from banks.
Deutsche Bank AG and DZ Bank AG agreed in 2008 -- the year Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed -- to hand over more than 800 artworks to the Staedel. They include pieces by Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman. Corporate collections are, says Hollein, “the most interesting collecting development in the last 20 to 30 years.”
“As a rule, they were started in the 1960s and 1970s with the idea of providing art in the workplace,” Hollein said in a Berlin interview. “Now they have often got too big and too valuable to be just for the workplace, so companies have to come up with solutions for what to do with them.”
The new extension is costing 32 million euros ($42 million.) More than half has come from private sources -- from foundations such as the Hertie Stiftung and Bankhaus Metzler seel. Sohn & Co. KgaA, and from individual donors, among them Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Officer Josef Ackermann. Local people also responded to eye-catching fund-raising campaigns.
“This is unprecedented in Germany, to fund a museum extension not only through big private donors but lots of small ones too,” Hollein, 42, said. “We are showing a possible way for museums in Germany to develop and grow instead of just keeping going.”
In line with Frankfurt’s role as Germany’s financial center, the Staedel has a history of patronage by banks. It was founded in the will of a banker called Johann Friedrich Staedel in 1815. Its collection spans 700 years of European art, with works by artists from Vermeer and Botticelli to Degas and Picasso.
The extension, built under the garden, includes 195 circular skylights that create a pattern on the lawn. The domed ceiling rises at the center, forming a large hillock dotted with skylights in the garden.
The Staedel also is renovating the original building at a cost of 18 million euros -- a third of it from private donors -- and reorganizing the collections. It reopened the wing housing modern art up to 1945 this month. The Old Masters section reopens on Dec. 15.
The new extension displaying the contemporary art collection will open in February 2012.
“When we started, there were zero euros in funding available,” said Hollein. “So it was essential to get an anchor donor in order to be taken seriously.”
Frankfurt-based Hertie Stiftung, one of Germany’s biggest private foundations created by the owner of a department-store chain, contributed 7 million euros to the expansion. Bankhaus Metzler and the Metzler family followed with 3 million euros.
Other donors include PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP with 500,000 euros; Royal Bank of Scotland NV; Erivan Haub, the billionaire owner of Tengelmann Group, with 500,000 euros and Hilmar Kopper, the former chairman of Deutsche Bank’s supervisory board, with 500,000 euros. Another 15 million euros for the extension has come from public coffers.
Yellow gumboots are the symbol for the fundraising campaign, and the Staedel has sold about 5,000 pairs to supporters. Posters advertising the campaign, including one that features the local soccer team clad in bright yellow boots, are plastered around the city. The campaign has reaped more than 3 million euros from Frankfurt citizens.
Such mixed financing is becoming increasingly common for museum extensions in Germany as public funds grow scarcer, said Ekkehard Nuemann, president of the Federal Association of Friends’ Societies for Art Museums, which counts more than 60 member groups supporting German museums.
The Staedel’s gumboot campaign “was a good idea that has also been very professionally executed,” Nuemann said by phone from Hamburg. “You could see how the people of Frankfurt joined in. If you reach the hearts of the people and are careful with the costs, you can achieve a lot.”
Hollein, son of the architect Hans Hollein, has a foot in both the business world and the art world. He grew up in Vienna and studied economics and business administration while freelancing as a journalist for the business pages of the Standard newspaper.
In 1995, he became project director of exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. He helped set up Guggenheim offshoots in Berlin and Las Vegas and has written two books on the art market.
It was under his initiative that the Staedel developed its strategy of acquiring corporate collections. DZ Bank’s loan includes 220 photographs by 76 artists -- among them Andreas Gursky, Nan Goldin and Richard Avedon.
From Deutsche Bank’s collection, the museum chose 600 works by 45 artists. Among the gems are Richter’s 1965 painting “Boat Ride.” Other artists represented are Martin Kippenberger, Sigmar Polke, Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer.
The loan includes an option for the Staedel to buy the art at a quarter of its value, without interest and over 25 years.
It is “a way to make Deutsche Bank’s collection accessible to a greater public,” Ackermann said when it was announced. He also stressed the bank’s “special bond to Frankfurt and the Staedel Museum.”
(Catherine Hickley writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
--Editors: Jim Ruane, Farah Nayeri.
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