“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. 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."
Mercedes-Benz Art Collection
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.
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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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”