If Deutsche Bank wasn’t a bank, it would be an art gallery.
It has 60,000 pieces of art in 900 offices worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
While it might not be enough to bail out the bank if Deutsche Bank ever hit financial trouble, the art collection is a substantial asset.
“In terms of works on paper, it’s probably one of the top three or four collections of post-1960s art in the world,” Alistair Hicks, Deutsche Bank’s senior curator, told Business Insider in an interview in London.
“In sheer numbers we do have more than most other banks. We’re the ones that think most about art,” he said.
Hicks says the art has two functions, and neither of them are to do with making money.
“It’s part of the program to break down the ivory tower mentality of the office,” said Hicks. “In other words, to try and make the working office a more stimulating place to work and also to support the communities and make links with the communities in which we operate.”
“People find it very difficult that the bank doesn’t do it for money. That is a very difficult concept for people. Deutsche Bank has, if anything, under-exploited what they do in art.”
Deutsche Bank is going through one of the biggest overhauls of management and business structure in its history.
Former UBS Chief Financial Officer John Cryan replaced Anshu Jain as CEO in June, and wasted no time in remodelling the bank.
While Hicks didn’t say whether his own department would be affected, the theme of change is built in to the collection.
“The job of the art is help people into new ideas. One of the reasons we chose to buy works on paper, is that often artists choose to work through their ideas on paper. So it’s a very ideas based collection. A lot of the artists that you’ll see around the building don’t believe that art is a finished object, it’s more a continuous process, and Deutsche Bank’s collection is one of the first to really show that.”
Before joining Deutsche Bank, Hicks was a writer. When the bank began buying art in London, he wrote the catalogue and, in his words, “once I was in the door I wasn’t going anywhere. So I stayed on to help them as advisor and curator.”
He even interviewed his current boss in his former role as a journalist.
“Before that I used to edit a magazine. I did an article on corporate art and Deutsche Bank and how they were a major force. And I remember interviewing the global head of the art department in Frankfurt, Friedhelm Huette.”
If there’s any measure of how important the art is to the bank, it’s how little is sold, even to clients.
“We don’t sell much. If a client asked to buy something we would get them something from a similar collection. It has happened.”