Mercedes-Benz Art Collection

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Art as a counterbalance.

The change of name to Mercedes-Benz Group AG will also affect the renowned art collection of the former Daimler AG: The Daimler Art Collection is becoming the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection. Nothing will change about its orientation as a fixed, avantgarde star in the night sky of art. On the contrary, Director Renate Wiehager and her team have a lot planned.

8 min reading time

by Holger Mohn, Editor
published on May 12, 2022

“It does pose a huge challenge for us,” Wiehager emphasises. The new name is to be quickly established among colleagues in the Group, international art experts, and the general public. To this end, the head of the art collection and her team have prepared a complex exhibition programme for 2022. With intensive communication, she wants to get the message across to the art and culture scene in particular: “The Daimler Art Collection was neither dissolved nor abandoned. It’s still here. And it’s continuing its work with the same high level of commitment – now just under the new name: the ‘Mercedes-Benz Art Collection."

 Renate Wiehager, Head of Mercedes-Benz Art Collection.
Renate Wiehager, Head of Mercedes-Benz Art Collection.

One of the 100 most important corporate collections worldwide

“Fortunately, we’re not starting from scratch.” Wiehager laughs at this remark, because she knows that this assessment is a bit of an understatement. In its 45 years of existence, the Daimler Art Collection has built up an excellent reputation. It embodies the Group’s commitment to the arts as part of its social self-image, cultural profile, and sustainable thinking. Most recently with its world tour, during which it made appearances in 15 of the most important international museums from 2003 to 2018, the Art Collection was perceived as one of the 100 most important international corporate collections. “If we’re talking about collections anywhere in the world today, and especially in the automotive environment, everyone knows about us. And not because we hold such expensive art or put on such an enormous number of exhibitions. It’s because we have an outstanding combination of quality and innovation, of academic work and journalistic activity.” It is important to the director that this mystique be maintained.

”When the world’s problems seem to double and triple day after day, engaging with art provides a counterbalance, a moment of inner stability and growth.”

Renate Wiehager Head of Mercedes-Benz Art Collection

Art provides perspective

When speaking with Renate Wiehager, the enthusiasm with which she has been developing the corporate collection for 20 years is evident. From its beginnings in South German modernism, the Art Collection has accompanied the Group in its internationalisation, its evolution towards progressive design, and its diversity. Today, the collection quite naturally stands for abstract-minimalist pieces through to international photography and media art – accompanied by consistently establishing women in art and sustained promotion of young artists all over the world. “We understand culture as an analytical medium in our time,” Wiehager says. “When the world’s problems seem to double and triple day after day, engaging with art provides a counterbalance, a moment of inner stability and growth.”

The head of the collection emphasises the value of this conflict, which creates a positive perspective on life. “You can’t just always be looking into the black hole. Human beings need light. We want people to gain strength from engaging with public cultural resources, and their own spiritual resources.” The work of the collection defines a point where one can recognise oneself – as an individual, but also as a company. “We view art, in the broadest sense, as a model space with enough room to try oneself out, develop substance, and test out pieces that are open enough to include other opinions and new aspects.”

Exhibition: Friendship. Nature. Culture. 44 Jahre Daimler Art Collection.
Exhibition: Friendship. Nature. Culture. 44 Jahre Daimler Art Collection.
Exhibition: 31: Women.
Exhibition: 31: Women.
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In the beginning, there was the idea of education

Thus, the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection is taking the idea Edzard Reuter, who later became Chairman of the Executive Board, used to initiate the collection in 1977 into the future. “This period opened up the possibility for large companies in Germany to get involved in the arts and culture, beyond their positioning in the economic and social environment,” Wiehager explains. “Back then, Daimler-Benz was the first and only German automotive company to draw level with other leading corporations.” Initially placed in the environment of the Executive Board, the idea of offering education was quickly extended to employees. “This mission remains fundamental to our work, and our collection structure and expertise, today.” In Untertürkheim, but also at other locations, employees come into contact with the collection as a matter of course. One highlight is the ever-changing exhibition at the Group headquarters in Untertürkheim, with 200 works of art spanning twelve floors. Through its Education Programme, the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection is also consciously promoting art education for families with children, schools, and university students.

”We’re pursuing a sustainable business strategy and want to create a recognisable benefit for the common good. Promoting culture and education is something that concerns us all – and we as a company can also make a difference.”

Renata Jungo Brüngger Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG. Integrity & Legal Affairs

Since December 2021, the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection has been the organisational responsibility of Renata Jungo Brüngger, Executive Board Member of Mercedes-Benz Group AG responsible for Integrity and Legal Affairs as well as Co-Chair of the Group Sustainability Board. “I have a great passion for art, and am therefore very pleased that I can also be responsible for our art collection at the board level. The colleagues there do excellent work, highlighting the collection’s international reputation.” The company’s social commitment to culture and education is of great importance to Jungo Brüngger: “We’re pursuing a sustainable business strategy and want to create a recognisable benefit for the common good. Promoting culture and education is something that concerns us all – and we as a company can also make a difference.” The Mercedes-Benz Art Collection, she says, is the best example of this.

Renata Jungo Brüngger, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG. Integrity & Legal Affairs.
Renata Jungo Brüngger, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG. Integrity & Legal Affairs.

Collection profile far beyond automobiles

In the 45 years of its history, the Mercedes Benz Art Collection has developed a distinctive profile that it has expanded steadily and systematically. “In terms of content and curation, we try to give the collection a clear, recognisable, art historical orientation without too many stylistic restrictions,” Renate Wiehager explains. The approximately 3,000 pieces by 800 international artists focus on the abstract avantgarde of Classical Modernism, beginning with the environment of the Stuttgart School and the Bauhaus, to the present. In addition, a second focus on international photography and media art has been established over the past 20 years. “It didn’t exist in this form in our collection before.” Certainly not surprising in an automotive group is the third focus of the collection: automobile-related art. However, it is surprising that this field only accounts for five percent of the collection, and that cars do not even necessarily feature. In addition to the large holding of pieces in painting, drawing, collage, video, photography, and installation, Wiehager is also proud of a small niche in the collection. “Many don’t know that we have one of the most important collections of large sculptures held by a German company, with 25 large sculptures at the Sindelfingen, Untertürkheim, and Berlin sites.” Now and in the future, there will always be new perspectives to discover in the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection.

Broad spectrum of exhibits in 2022

The broad spectrum of exhibitions in “Year One” under a new name is a reflection of the role of the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection. On the one hand, it feels committed to the idea of the internal educational mission; on the other hand, it shapes the image of Mercedes-Benz in the art-savvy public with a small but beautiful facet. “We are back in the company this year with our exhibitions, as a matter of course, where our colleagues are. We’re appearing publicly at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, we’re in Los Angeles and Bilbao, and we’re in Berlin,” Wiehager explains.

Yuken Teruya: Notice-Forest Louis Vuitton, 2019. Photo: Hans-Georg Gaul, Berlin.
Yuken Teruya: Notice-Forest Louis Vuitton, 2019. Photo: Hans-Georg Gaul, Berlin.
Camille Graeser: Harmonikale Konstruktion, 1947/51; Daimler Art Collection, Stuttgart/Berlin; Photo: Andreas Freytag, Stuttgart. © VG-Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022.
Camille Graeser: Harmonikale Konstruktion, 1947/51; Daimler Art Collection, Stuttgart/Berlin; Photo: Andreas Freytag, Stuttgart. © VG-Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022.
Exhibition: From a Poem to the Sunset: Yang Fudong. Photo: Hans-Georg Gaul, Berlin.
Exhibition: From a Poem to the Sunset: Yang Fudong. Photo: Hans-Georg Gaul, Berlin.
Isabell Heimerdinger: Still from Soon It Will Be Dark, 2020.
Isabell Heimerdinger: Still from Soon It Will Be Dark, 2020.
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Autumn exhibition at the Mercedes-Benz Museum

Intensified cooperation with the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Untertürkheim is on the horizon. Starting in October 2022, works from the collection will selectively complement the permanent exhibition, presenting the Mercedes mythos and the automotive inventor’s car collection in the double helix of the museum tour. In addition, an art exhibition lasting several weeks will add another component well worth seeing to the Mercedes-Benz Museum programme. The premiere is planned for this autumn. Renate Wiehager has yet to reveal the thematic orientation of the show. However, one thing is firmly promised: “It will be extraordinary, a spectacular contribution to Stuttgart’s cultural offerings.”

Mercedes Benz Museum.
Mercedes Benz Museum.

Warhol’s Cars and classics with a star in L.A.

However, it is already clear what the focus of the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection in the Petersen Automotive Museum will be. In the place that celebrates the history and art of the automotive industry in Los Angeles, Mercedes-Benz will present its unique combination of art and automotive classics under the title “Art and Cars” in 2022. In L.A., the tried-and-tested concept, which has been successful with audiences, makes its California premiere: The complete Cars series by Andy Warhol is exhibited together with the eight corresponding vehicles. Warhol designed the commissioned work in 1986/87. His homage to the 100th birthday of the automobile transformed legendary Mercedes-Benz icons such as the Benz Patent Motor Car, the 300 SL “Gullwing”, the early Silver Arrows, or the C111 into colourful, cheerful pop art.

“Art – Architecture – Automobiles” at the Guggenheim Bilbao

The second international stage in 2022 will be the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The fact that the institution that is so renowned in modern art is inviting the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection may be seen as a recognition of the collection’s work. Especially since the exhibition in the spectacular, deconstructivist building by star architect Frank O. Gehry revolves around the connection between “Art – Architecture – Automobiles”. The Mercedes-Benz Art Collection will be represented in Bilbao with a larger group of pieces.

In Berlin, a look into the future

The Mercedes-Benz Art Collection is making intensive use of its permanent platform in Berlin. The Haus Huth at Potsdamer Platz – previously Daimler Contemporary Berlin, now Mercedes-Benz Contemporary – has become a home and flagship for the collection with the star, where it attracts around 30,000 international visitors every year. Even in the past two years of COVID-19, the figure was still 20,000. The exhibition “Friendship. Nature. Culture – 44 Years of the Daimler Art Collection. Works from the 1920–2021 Collection”, which is still running until 28 August 2022, shows a cross-section of the collection’s history. It is a cross-media dialogue that sums up the multi-faceted art historical horizon and the diversity of materials and media in the collection profile. This retrospective will be followed by a look into the future, starting in October 2022: The new exhibition “Perspectives. Futurisms – 45 Years of the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection” will celebrate the collection’s anniversary and its start with a new name. Here, curator Renate Wiehager further emphasises the way forward, where the fixed star in the night sky shines into the galaxies of contemporary art. For those who want to have a look: The Mercedes-Benz Contemporary Berlin in the Haus Huth at Potsdamer Platz is open seven days a week. Admission is free.

Holger Mohn

Sees himself as a classic desk editor - for printed media in the past, and for digital media today. From the daily newspaper to employee newspapers and magazines to the company website, he has accompanied a wide variety of media and formats - mainly at and for Mercedes-Benz and Daimler. And this despite the fact that the confessing Hesse wanted to do the job in Stuttgart "for three or a maximum of four years". He would vehemently deny it, but it seems that living and working in exile in Swabia has its pleasant sides.

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