by Thomas Krens/ 2000

Since it first opened to the public on November 7, 1997, the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin has proven to be a vital art institution within both the city of its origin and the international art community. Its comparatively modest exhibition space, designed by Richard Gluckman, has allowed for the development of highly focused exhibitions, including historical shows of predominantly Modern art and commissions of major works by international contemporary artists. These exhibitions have been remarkably successful from the very beginning. The inaugural presentation, "Visions of Paris: Robert Delaunay's Series", garnered critical attention from the international press, and the number of visitors to the show escalated well beyond our initial estimates. Other historical exhibitions, including "Dürer to Rauschenberg: A Quintessence of Drawing" and "Amazons of the Avant-Garde," which concentrated on six female Russian Modernist painters, have also been great accomplishments. To these, we would add the enormously successful exhibitions that focused on individual artists working after World War II: "Dan Flavin: The Architecture of Light" and "After Mountains and Sea: Helen Frankenthaler 1956-59."
In reflecting upon the museum's programing, however, we believe what has made the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin truly unique within the arts community today is its mission to commission major projects by contemporary artists. Historically, the patrons of the arts were the royal courts, the churches, and wealthy nobles. Many patrons, according to Francis Haskill's "Patrons and Painters: A Study in the Relations between Italian Art and Society in the Age of the Baroque," took their roles as supporters of artists with great passion, often providing an allowance for artists, as well as housing and board, in addition to payment for individual artworks. Some patrons also sounded the praises of their artists and even paid for travel, if they thought it would benefit their artists. Within the Renaissance and Baroque periods, a select number of these patrons were able to distinguish themselves above others for not only championing individual artists, but also shaping the larger cultural climate of the period in which they lived. Through their commissions and purchases, they allowed artists to create enormous projects, to realize their greatest visions. One need only think of the Medici family in Florence and Pope Urban VIII in Rome to understand the incredible significance that patronage can have in the development and stimulation of artistic practice.
Today, this class of patronage has largely diminished and it has been difficult for some artists to realize their ambitions in the same grand manner. The church no longer provides the support it once did, and in countries like the United States, government funding has declined precipitously. While wealthy individuals continue to collect artwork and even commission projects, these works have typically remained within the confines of their private homes. As we move into the new millennium, we have a need to fill this void by reinventing large-scale patronage within our culture. This is one of the predominant reasons why theDeutsche Guggenheim Berlin was established through a fortuitous partnership between Deutsche Bank and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
Separately, these two institutions have supported the visual arts in their respective ways. Deutsche Bank, since its foundation some 130 years ago, has always maintained a commitment to the arts, seeing it as one of its integral responsibilities. For the past several years, the bank has sponsored exhibitions in international museums and since 1979 has collected contemporary art for its corporate spaces. Since its inception in 1937, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which now operates an international network of museums in the United States and Europe, has maintained its four initial primary objectives: the collection, preservation, interpretation, and presentation of objects of twentieth-century visual culture. While the individual pursuits of our institutions continue to be vital and relevant, Deutsche Bank and the Guggenheim Foundation, by joining forces, have been able to achieve a greater purpose in the arts. According to Lisa Dennison, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Guggenheim, "Our partnership allows us to break free of our traditional roles in the arts-the corporation as sponsor and the museum as repository. Although we both collect art, we can now, through working together, act as a catalyst for artistic production."
To date, the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin has commissioned five artists to create their own distinctive projects specifically for its gallery space. In shaping the program, we have deliberately selected a diverse group of artists who represent various nationalities, are at different stages in their careers, and work in distinct mediums.
The first commission was awarded to James Rosenquist. One of the most significant Pop artists emerging in the United States in the 1960s, he created an enormous three-panel history painting of monumental scale. Tailor-made for the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin's rectilinear gallery, the work wrapped around the walls like a mural, enveloping viewers in the space.The swirling vortices that barrel across the vast expanse of these paintings and give the work its exceptional dynamism mark an entirely new direction in the artist's visual vocabulary. Entitled "The Swimmer in the Econo-mist", the painting represents, according to the artist, "the tumult of our economy"--the financial ups and downs experienced around the world, particularly in Germany after reunification and the United States today.
Our second project was given to Andreas Slominski, one of the best known and most respected German artists of a generation that emerged during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The artist created a conceptually rigorous, yet playful sculptural installation made up of several works all reflecting a fanatical, even absurdist sensibility. One sculpture, alluding metaphorically to the alluring yet deceptive nature of art, consisted of a fully functional bird trap that at first glance appeared to be a static artwork, but upon further inspection revealed its true menacing purpose, ready to spring shut at anytime. In consultation with the Technische Universität Berlin, Slominski also created a mechanism capable of safely transporting a spoonful of cough syrup, a project he exhibited as a sculpture and video. In addition, he moved outside the confines of the gallery space, planting a stump of a linden tree right in the middle of the linden boulevard in front of Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin. With his traps and odd interventions into the urban fabric and museum environment, Slominski offered an approach to the world that is critical of cultural conventions.
Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, our third commissioned artist, created a series entitled "Portraits", for which he turned to wax figures as his subject matter. Unlike his previous depictions of displays found in natural history museums and tableaux in wax museums, these images are life-size, black-and-white portraits of historical figures photographed against dramatically lit, black backdrops. Working in a scale entirely new to his oeuvre, Sugimoto isolated the wax effigies from their stage vignettes, posed them in three-quarter-length view, and lit them so as to create haunting Rembrandtesque portraits. His painterly renditions are lush with detail and recall various painting sources-such as David, Holbein, Leonardo, van Dyck, and Vermeer-from which the wax figures were originally drawn. The presentation of Sugimoto's photographs at the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin was noble, emulating the grandeur of a traditional portrait gallery, and thus created a dialogue with the established painting galleries found in this city's classical museums.
For his Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin commission, Lawrence Weiner-a sculptor whose medium is language-created a bilingual installation and artist-designed book entitled NACH ALLES / AFTER ALL. An American-born Conceptual artist, Weiner concluded in 1968 that the actual construction of a work of art was not crucial to its existence and therefore revolutionized the very definition of what constitutes an artwork. Although his museum project was not sight-specific per se, it was designed for the Deutsche Guggenheim gallery space and composed of various texts painted directly upon the walls. NACH ALLES / AFTER ALL is inspired by Weiner's interest in the work of Berlin-born scientist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt . The scientist's exhaustive systems of classification motivated the artist to re-examine the mundane materials of his surroundings and the ways in which they are ordered. According to the artist, the title of the commissioned project-NACH ALLES / AFTER ALL-does not refer necessarily to the idea of finality, as in "after all is said in done," but is intended to connote the total accumulation of things with a reference to what might lie beyond (or after) such an aggregation of materials. In German, the more common spelling of the title would be "Nach Allem," but Weiner has chosen to use the slightly irregular "Nach Alles" in order to subtly emphasize this nuance in meaning.
Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin's most recent commission project is a series of paintings entitled Easyfun-Ethereal by American artist Jeff Koons, who from the late 1970s onward has created an exceptional body of work that reflects deeply upon the complex concerns of Western culture. Working from computer-scanned reproductions taken from glossy magazines, brochures, advertisements, and personal photographs, Koons combined familiar yet sometimes unrelated images to create collage-like oil paintings rendered in photo-realist perfection. A hybrid of fun and fantasy, the works feature such imagery as happy-faced deli sandwiches, spiraling roller coaster rides, succulent lips, and loose strands and braids of hair. Koons's paintings recall 1960s' Pop Art, yet also engage other art-historical references, from the Renaissance, the Baroque, and Rococo to Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. In creating this new body of work, Koons's strategy was two-fold: he embraced the future using the advanced technology of the computer, while keeping one foot firmly planted in the artistic traditions of the past.
With these diverse projects, and its ongoing commission program, the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin not only adopts the role of patron for contemporary artists, but also acts as their public promoter. Aside from the actual commission, the museum publishes extensive catalogues, brochures, and other materials for each project. The Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin also produces an extensive promotional campaign, one more elaborate than most other art institutions. In Berlin posters and cards advertising the museum's exhibitions decorate the entire city, and citizens and visitors cannot help but take notice of the artists' projects on view at the museum. Additionally, our shows have traveled to museums in other cities so people outside Berlin can have the opportunity to see our commissioned projects. In fulfilling such fundamentally essential needs as patronage and promotion, Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin operates at the forefront of contemporary culture, distinguishing itself as a museum for living artists. Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin's intention has been, and will continue to be, to provide for artists, to help them realize their visions, as well as to stimulate contemporary culture as a whole.

Thomas Krens is the Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York