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concept.gifKontakt. The Art Collection of Erste Bank Group explores art production in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe with a special emphasis on contemporary art discourses and critical theory. Kontakt reflects the political transformation in Europe and the significance of art before the background of specific cultural, social and economic developments in the post-socialist countries. Its aim is to develop a collection with a sound art-historical and conceptual basis that deals with artistic positions rooted in a specific location and context that has long been neglected by many museums despite this art’s international credentials. This endeavor ­causes displacements within the existing canon of the most recent art history and opens new opportunities for the positioning of artistic activity.

The collection’s intention
is to reflect the forms of art production within Europe’s transformed and self-transforming political geographies. It is essential that the art of the former Communist countries be subjected to international comparisons and that attention be drawn to its reciprocal connections and varied practices. In many of the countries governed by real socialism, artists often had less contact with one another than with exponents of the international art world. This unusual phenomenon resulted from the absence of a unified infrastructure promoting artistic production and intensive communication. Erste Bank Group’s new art collection aims to present works that play a decisive role in the formation of a common and unified European art history.

The point of departure
for Kontakt is to be found in the conceptual tendencies and key artistic movements of the 1960s and 70s. This historically oriented section begins with a number of works that understand themselves as reactions to modernism and its status within the art discourse of the present. Reflections on the developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe serve as the point of departure for assembling a solid collection of artworks in a variety of media and formats. The main body of the collection focuses on works dating from the most recent art history.

Eastern Europe’s history
consists of numerous partial histories that cannot be subordinated to any simple systemization. The collection’s ­historical beginnings in the context of the international avant-gardes of the 1960s documents the emergence of conceptual and actionist tendencies that were developing simultaneously and internationally. In addition to the aim of rearticulating the canon of Europe’s most recent art history, the collection endeavors to include works that are erratic and nonetheless referential, which testify to an art production that has been continuous and yet has often remained concealed from public view. The collection’s general focus rests in a transgeographic conception of art that is less interested in spaces as physical sites of production and more oriented toward exploring the ways in which their manifestations can be coherently interrelated.

The Erste Bank Group art collection
understands itself as a process-oriented structure that reacts to developments within contemporary art. Its collecting activities go beyond the piece-by-piece purchase of artworks, and the possibilities for its representation are just as multifarious. In addition to perpetual acquisition, the collection’s structure offers a flexible working platform that is in continual contact with current art production.
Thus the presentation of the art­works remains decentralized and r­elational and is independent of an institutional or locally anchored exhibition space. Exhibitions take pla­ce in the form of curated projects in cooperation with museum institutions and exhibition centers and also in col­laboration with the artists themselves. One of the project’s aims is to show the collection or a selection of works from it in the corresponding local context in which the artworks were created.

This website offers diachronic insight into the collection’s works and its artists. In order to provide an example of the collection’s overall content, a number of artists have been selected for whom members of the art advisory committee, which has been active since 2004, have written articles.

Walter Seidl
PR
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