German State Collection of Contemporary Art
Since 1971, works by contemporary artists have been added to the “Sammlung zeitgenössischer Kunst der Bundesrepublik Deutschland” (Contemporary Art Collection of the Federal Republic of Germany). The collecting programme of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland was established by Willy Brandt during his chancellorship.
The Bund has set an annual budget for acquiring contemporary art. In 2016, this budget runs at about 400,000 Euros. The rule of thumb for acquisition is that the work should have arisen post-1945, i.e. under the Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Today, the State Collection comprises about 1500 works and is growing from year to year.
Current political trendThe “Sammlung zeitgenössischer Kunst der Bunderepublik Deutschland” is administered by the State Minister for Culture and the Media, Monika Grütters. State Minister Grütters describes the trends in current acquisitions policy in the following terms: “Contemporary artists are increasingly taking up political and socially relevant topics and reflecting and working on them critically as well. In particular the members of the current and previous acquisitions committee have therefore also placed great importance on proposing works with historical or political background.” In this context she referred to works by Peter Rösel and Antje Majewski.
Rösel and MajewskiIn 2011 the Bund purchased an installation by Peter Rösel from 2010 consisting of two wooden telephone benches with official phone books for the district of the Reichspostdirektion Berlin on their shelves. The thick, comprehensive phone book on the left bench is from 1941, at the outset of the Second World War. The thinner phone book is dated 1945, the end phase of the war.
Peter Rösel, Installation untitled, 2010 | © Peter Rösel, Bundeskunstsammlung The greatly reduced volume of the phone book from 1945 bears mute witness to how greatly the war had decimated the population of Berlin, how high the losses were due to deportation and the murder of regime critics and Jewish inhabitants, through the participation of the male population in the war, and from the bombing raids on the city. The installation gives viewers a great deal of free space to imagine the events for themselves, but also offers concrete impulses.
Grütters also had in mind a 2013 work by Antje Majewski; a painting of a miniature dog (“Miniaturhund”) after a miniature dog in plastic, made from a plastic toothbrush as a kind of good-luck charm in Ravensbrück concentration camp. It is documented that, before 1945 it was given as a gift to a celebrated female inmate of the women’s concentration camp: the French Communist Martha Desrumaux, who had fallen into the hands of the Gestapo in Lille in 1941 and had been deported to Ravensbrück. Miniatures such as the little dog depicted in the painting were given to inmates by their fellow prisoners as small gifts or good-luck charms. The originals are now kept in the collection of the Ravensbrück Memorial. Majewski has recorded these miniatures in a series of paintings. They tell us about cooperation and solidarity in the labour and extermination camps of the National Socialist regime like witnesses to lived history. The miniature dog may indeed have brought Martha Desrumaux good luck, since she survived the camp and returned to Lille in 1945.
Painting of a Miniature dog from Ravensbrück | © Antje Majewski, courtesy neugerriemschneider, Berlin, Fotografie Jens Ziehe, Berlin