The anniversary exhibition ›Friendship. Nature. Culture. 44 Years of the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection‹ looks back on the development of an internationally renowned corporate collection. From over 3,000 artworks in the collection, founded in 1977, about 100 works by ca. 70 artists have been selected. Relating, in a broad sense, to contemporary phenomena in the context of friendship, nature and culture, the artistic works from a period of 100 years form networks and explore the interplay between art and human coexistence.
The exhibition shows a cross-section of the collection’s history from its beginnings in the tradition of South German Modernism, through abstract-minimalist approaches, and further to a current focus on international photography and media art. This multifaceted horizon of art history and the diversity of materials and media reflect the profile of the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection. At the same time, the orientation towards reduced, conceptual, and minimalist tendencies is perceptible throughout. Another focus of the collection’s development since 2000 has been on works by women artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.
The terms used in the title – friendship, nature, and culture – serve as points of connection to reflect on events and phenomena of our immediate present. Hannah Arendt gave her much acclaimed speech ›On Humanity in Dark Times‹ in 1959. In it, she formulated thoughts on the political dimension of the concept of friendship. She understands this as an actively lived and shaped relationship between people, which opens up a perspective on diverse and divergent points of view: it is about the friendship of the different. For Arendt, the essence of humanity lies in conversation. Against the backdrop of current trends of populism and increasing polarization, Arendt’s understanding of friendship prompts reflection on togetherness in times of social divisions.
Linked to this political charging of the notion of friendship are changing understandings of the concepts of nature and culture. In the context of the climate crisis and human influence, in both a negative and possible positive sense, it becomes apparent how intertwined human solidarity, nature, and culture are.
On the occasion of 44 years of the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection, the exhibition ›Friendship. Nature. Culture‹ brings works from painting, drawing, collage, video, photography, installation from the 1920s to the present into a cross-media dialogue. The exhibition, therefore, opens up different perspectives on artistic concepts of the aspects of friendship, nature, and culture as they have occupied art in a global perspective over the last four decades.
Curator: Renate Wiehager