The address could not sound more prestigious: Unter den Linden 5. Commonly known as the “Prinzessinnenpalais” (princesses palace), the building has been home to the Deutsche Bank’s PalaisPopulaire for nine months. The renowned architectural firm of Kuehn Malvezzi was commissioned to redesign the building. The architects retained the baroque facade and designed modern exhibition rooms in the interior. The PalaisPopulaire is a real eye-catcher. In an interview with Oliver Hilmes, Thorsten Strauß, who as Global Head Art, Culture & Sports is responsible for the Deutsche Bank’s international activities in these three areas, Svenja von Reichenbach, the director of the PalaisPopulaire, and her deputy, Sara Bernshausen, introduce the concept of this unusual space.
128: Mr Strauß, you are the head of the Art, Culture & Sports unit at the Deutsche Bank. The combination of art, culture and sports is unusual. What do you expect to achieve with this combination?
Thorsten Strauß: When this area was established three years ago, the focus was on creating synergies. We want to consolidate our activities in the three areas of art, culture and sports in order to provide completely new experiences for the public, our customers and employees. Our goal is to bring people together and in this way help shape our community. Art, culture and sports play an important role in this context.
Thorsten Strauß: To begin with, it is about critical discourse, creativity and inspiration. Anyone who is involved with art and culture thinks outside the box. Art is a very effective instrument, with which one can question one’s own views. Suddenly many things seem possible if one only has the courage to imagine new things. Art can do that.
And what significance does sports have in these considerations?
Thorsten Strauß: In sports people also enter into an exchange; in the end, they compare their achievements with each other. Social factors like motivation and fairness are also important, however. We can learn a great deal from sports. Ms von Reichenbach, in 1997 the Deutsche Bank opened the Deutsche Guggenheim in cooperation with New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, an exhibition space which continued from 2013 as the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle.
How does the PalaisPopulaire differ from the former KunstHalle?
Svenja von Reichenbach: The KunstHalle, as the name indicates, was a traditional exhibition hall. The PalaisPopulaire, on the other hand, offers an exciting mixture of art, culture and sports. We have around 900 square meters at our disposal, approximately three times as much space as before. As a result, in addition to changing exhibitions with international partners, at the same time we can present exhibitions from the Deutsche Bank’s collection. The PalaisPopulaire is much more than a museum or art gallery, however. In addition to our exhibition spaces, we have two event rooms in which we can offer a wide-ranging supporting programme – from education workshops and artists’ talks to concerts, readings and film screenings. Thus the Palais is also a place for critical discourse, a think tank and a cultural laboratory.
And what is “popular” about the PalaisPopulaire?
Sara Bernshausen: We are popular in the sense that we are inviting and not exclusive. We focus on artistically and socially relevant themes and explore them in various ways. The PalaisPopulaire is also synonymous with modern forms of presentation. In addition to a wide range of talks and workshop programmes, we also make use of digital communication. We have developed the PalaisPopulaire app for smartphones. It is a multimedia accompaniment for your visit to the PalaisPopulaire and provides audio guides for adults and children. A calendar function is also integrated into the app, with which the dates of our programmes can easily be stored in your own calendar. Another app – the PalaisPopulaire TimeMachine – invites you take a journey through time and experience the history of the building using augmented reality.
The PalaisPopulaire is housed in a historic building, the former Prinzessinnenpalais...
Svenja von Reichenbach: This historic location on the boulevard Unter den Linden makes our concept even more exciting. Built as a rococo palace during the 18th century, the property initially belonged to the Prussian monarchy. After the First World War it was already used as a museum. Completely destroyed during the Second World War, it was restored as an opera cafe during the 1960s by the Bauhaus-trained architect Richard Paulick. German and European history becomes more concrete as a result of this diverse usage. We are pleased and proud that this building, which originally served as the residence of the ruling family, as the PalaisPopulaire is now a modern relay station for cultural and social dialogue. The PalaisPopulaire was opened to the public in September 2018 with the fascinating show The World on Paper.
What is next on the agenda? What are your further plans for 2019?
Thorsten Strauß: On 20 June we will open the exhibition summer of love – art, fashion, and rock and roll. It is an homage to the year 1967, when hundreds of thousands of people flocked to San Francisco to celebrate the summer of love there. In cooperation with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, we will present costumes, record covers, posters and photographs, along with interactive music and light shows and avant-garde films. This show, which I am very much looking forward to, again demonstrates the goal of the PalaisPopulaire very clearly: to think outside the box and make an entire era – the late 1960s – come alive for all the senses. In mid-November we will introduce Beirut-born Caline Aoun, the Deutsche Bank’s Artist of the Year. We will also continue to develop new formats and new international partnerships in 2019.
The Deutsche Bank has been the partner of the Berliner Philharmoniker since 1989.
This interview originally appeared in the magazine 128 (in German), which is available in our online shop and at the Philharmonie.