Why do central bankers buy and collect art?

Jens Weidmann of Bundesbank in this speech:

It gives me great pleasure to join you here today in opening this exhibition of artworks from the collections of the National Bank of Belgium and the Deutsche Bundesbank. I must say, this is an impressive and exceptionally pleasing space for an exhibition of this kind. We jumped at the chance of sending exhibits from our collection on a journey to Brussels, to our friends at the National Bank of Belgium in the capital city of Europe. It’s a premiere for us – never before have we shown our works outside Germany.

Both the National Bank of Belgium and the Bundesbank have been avid collectors of art for many decades now. Over the years, we have each gathered quite sizeable collections which shed some light on how art has evolved in Belgium and Germany. But why do central banks collect art in the first place? There are two reasons for that. First, because we’re looking to engage with society at large. As public institutions, we have a sense of commitment to the arts and culture in our respective countries. Second, we also feel that it is crucial to incorporate art into working life, because that brings our colleagues, and our guests and visitors, too, face to face with artistic expression. So over the years, collecting and exhibiting art has become part of our institutions’ DNA.

Encountering artworks on an everyday basis makes art part of our routine, a commonplace occurrence in our daily lives. Not just that: art also has the ability to surprise, challenge and inspire us. It lets us see things from a different angle and opens up a world beyond our own horizons. And in my experience, it can quite often be a cue for some fascinating conversations.

This exhibition now marks our own attempt to spark a special type of dialogue. Not just between visitors and the artworks, but also between two art collections which have evolved at two similar institutions in neighbouring countries. And that’s what makes the title of this exhibition – “Building a Dialogue” – so apt.

In this day and age, it’s certainly not a question of finding out what aspects of the collections are “typically Belgian” or “typically German”. Not least because artists in Europe, as we know, have been seeking to build a dialogue across national borders for centuries now. And yet for all that, it’s interesting to observe how well the works from the respective collections complement each other, and how the individual artistic statements interact.

Well, central banks also have the money!

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