E.ON Corporation: Sponsoring Exhibitions in Germany

From the E.ON Collection. By Daniele Buetti, Arabesque on hand (from the series Good Fellows), 1996/2001, Colour photograph on aluminium dibond, 180cm x 120cm. © DACS 2013

E.ON is a German energy company now based in Essen, Germany, which for many years has made a significant commitment to supporting art. 

For over 15 years, E.ON has helped museums to create large exhibitions and many cultural highlights. From the first Caravaggio retrospective in Germany to a Caspar David Friedrich exhibition,  to artists in the classical modern genre, such as Paul Klee or contemporary artists such as Jeff Koons and Thomas Demand – E.ON has sponsored exhibitions showing art by old masters up to contemporary artists and positions.   The most popular were retrospectives of Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Paul Cézanne. The show “From Monet to Picasso” drew more than one million visitors.

In a cultural public-private partnership with the city of Düsseldorf, E.ON facilitated and participated in the revival of the Kunstpalast originally constructed in 1902.

The “Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast” (Museum Foundation) was founded in 1998 in conjunction with the city of Düsseldorf. After extensive modifications and renovations, the new ‘Museum Kunstpalast’  opened in 2001 with the first grand exhibition: “Altars – art that brings you to your knees.”

During the past 18 years, E.ON has sponsored the Kunstpalast with around 60 million Euros, 42 million of which was donated for the museum’s ongoing operation and sponsorship for exhibitions.

E.ON’s initial 10-year commitment to the museum foundation was renewed several times, but at the end of 2017, the company will not renew its membership in the foundation, primarily because the company recently relocated from Düsseldorf to Essen. However, E.ON will sponsor one exhibit in 2018 and another in 2019. 

In 2014, E.ON decided to sell Jackson Pollock’s Number 5 (Elegant Lady) (1951), a painting which the company had owned since 1980, at a Christie’s auction to keep funding the Museum Kunstpalast. Pollock had swapped it in 1954 with New York gallery owner Martha Jackson for the convertible in which he had a fatal accident two years later. In 1980, Ulrich Hartmann, head of VEBA’s corporate board office, pushed for the purchase from art dealer Alfred Schmela. The acquisition was considered to be the foundation for E.ON’s art collection of more than 1,800 works.

Until December 2016, the E.ON headquarters was based in Düsseldorf in a building designed by renowned architect O.M. Ungers.  In several benefit exhibitions, art could be purchased directly from the artist or galleries. The last and largest benefit exhibit was the exhibition “Kunst für Obdach. 20 Jahre fiftyfifty” (http://www.kunst-fuer-obdach.de/en/home/) at the end of 2015. Here, E.ON and the non-profit organization fiftyfifty” were able to successfully acquire works by 80 new, established or acclaimed artists, e.g. Gerhard Richter, Imi Knoebel, Thomas Ruff and Katharina Sieverding, who  donated important art works for the cause.

Fiftyfifty was able to raise over 2 million Euros for the homeless of Düsseldorf at the exhibition, and few days after the event, part of the funds raised was used to buy a tripartite house in Düsseldorf.

Since the company relocated to Essen in January 2016, art has been displayed in a new way at the headquarters. At the entry lobby, employees and guests are welcomed by a major work by Rupprecht Geiger and a steel object from 1989, “Riroriro Pongo”, by the American artist John Chamberlain. The cafeteria showcases a 30-part work entitled “Grace Kelly” by Imi Knoebel and a photograph by acclaimed photographer Candida Höfer. In total, over 300 works from the E.ON art collection can be viewed at “Brüsseler Platz” in Essen. The works cover a broad range and their diversity reflects the company’s history and  long-standing tradition with art.

Essen is home to one of Germany’s most important exhibition spaces, the Folkwang Museum.  In 2016, E.ON supported a contemporary exhibition for the first time, with major works by the sculptor, Katharina Fritsch.

E.ON’s extensive E.ON art collection, includes over 2,000 works by 700 artists, displayed in the company headquarters and many offices.  Some of the more important works are on display in public areas.  the main focus of the collection is on post-war and contemporary German art, and most art works were acquired during the 1990s.   All media are represented and artists represented include Tony Cragg, Jackson Pollock, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin and Andreas Gursky.

Note:  E.ON is a German energy company / European holding company, based in Essen, Germany. It runs one of the world’s largest investor-owned electric utility service providers. The name comes from the Greek word aeon which means an age.   It operates in over 30 countries and serves over 33 million customers and is one of the 30 members of the DAX stock index of major German companies

The website about the E.ON Collection is at:

https://www.eon.com/en/about-us/art-and-culture.html

Information on the E.ON collection and art programs of  20 other collections in Germany are described in the latest edition of the International Directory of Corporate Art Collections, now available for a New Year 40% discount.  See information here:    http://www.corporateartbrief.com/?page_id=270