If you had the opportunity to temporarily house a work of art from the last century in your office or working space, which one would you chose? The current exhibition at Martin-Gropius-Bau prompts this question. “From Beckmann to Warhol” brings 240 (out of a reported 2000) works of 20th and 21st century art from the Bayer collection to the eyes of the public. This exhibition marks the first time the Bayer AG Company publicly shows off its collection in celebration of the company’s 150th year anniversary. Artworks by Beckmann, Kirchner, Picasso, Miró, Chagall, Richter and Walrhol, to name a few important names, hang on the atriums of the gallery. The company, interestingly enough, allows its employees to borrow works of art from the collection to hang inside their offices or conference rooms. Why? According to the audio tour, it is in an attempt to aid in the education of its staff, the humanization of the work place and the creativity of its workforce by prompting engaging conversations. Bullshit? I think so.
A Tough Pill To Swallow
Bayer AG is a German chemical and pharmaceutical company founded in 1863. If the name sounds familiar, it is probably because you’ve seen its logo on the packages of aspirin, a product Bayer invented. According to the exhibition’s press release, when Carl Duisberg, the company’s chief executive from 1912 to 1925, began to set the foundation for the collection, “the objective was not to tie up money as an investment for a particular time but rather to make artworks available to staff members for a certain period as part of their office furnishings.”
Prints by Pablo Picasso. Photo: Chris Phillips
I think that the moment these works of art enter an environment where they are set as decoration for an interior space, they lose their punch—especially hanging on the office walls of a workforce who may not be so familiar with a particular artist or the context of the artwork. The Picasso prints pictured above, fortunately or unfortunately, gain more presence and relevance appearing here in a museum. The thought of them hanging in a conference room seems to devalue them even of their authenticity, especially when framed so simplistically as if they’ve been found at a thrift store.
Even the Warhols on display (symbols of consumerism, endless prints of which already populate the home deco industry) appeared less “real” and important to me. Perhaps this devaluation was due to the thought of them hanging in the background of some office space as busy workers went about their daily business.
Prints by Andy Warhol. Photo: Chris Phillips