The Captured Museum – Carte Blanche

Museum of Contem­porary Art Leipzig (GfZK)

Carte Blanche (CB), a twoyear research project by the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst (2008–10) offers its exhibition space to private initiatives— i.e., collectors, businesses, or commercial galleries.This book analyses the contributions made by private initiatives and places them in a wider context of art theory dating back to the 19th century. Reflections on the changing relations of art and commerce, on museum history, or shifts in the balance of public and private form the framework into which CB, an often provocative project, is embedded.

The Captured Museum
Editor: Barbara Steiner on Behalf of Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig
168 Pages
with 36 col. Images
Dimensions: 17 x 24 cm
Euro 25.00  sFr 40.00
ISBN 978-3-86859-059-3

JOVIS Verlag GmbH

Also available in German:
ISBN: 978-3-86859-067-8
more information
Date of publication: February 2011




Carte Blanche VI
Gerhardt Wolff

VNG – VERBUNDNETZ GAS AG is a group of enterprises based in Leipzig, with activities all over Europe. Its core activity is the import and delivery of natural gas to major clients. The enterprises of the VNG group also provide extensive transport and storage solutions for natural gas and energy technology and energy services. The VNG AG group has its traditional roots in eastern Germany, but it also has trading activities, shares, and co-operations all over Germany as well as in central, eastern, and southern Europe.
GERHARDT WOLFF, born in 1944 in Obernigk / S ilesia was trained as a bank clerk and worked in the Foreign Business Department of the Berliner Bank AG before studying Business Management at the Business Academy Berlin and the Free University of Berlin, where he did his PhD from 1972 to 1977. From 1977 to 1985, he was Head of the Board office, Company Secretary, and Department
Director at the Grundkreditbank e. G. in Berlin. Following this, he was a member of the Board of Krone AG, Berlin until 1992. After a period working in real estate management, he was appointed to become a member of the Board of VNG – Verbundnetz Gas public limited company, representing business procedures and personnel in Leipzig. From 2007 until his retirement in October 2009, he was also Deputy Chairman of the Board of VNG AG. Additionally, Gerhardt Wolff has been teaching at the University of Leipzig as an Honorary Professor in International Management since 1997, and working as a freelance consultant since November 2009. As well as a wide range of social commitments, including activities in cultural, sport and social areas, the VNG AG has built up two important art collections during the course of the years: One focusing mainly on photographic works, and the other on paintings and graphic art. The curators are Frank-Heinrich Müller (photography) and Christine Rink (painting and graphic art), who are
responsible for the conception and upkeep of the collections. The painting and graphic arts collection consists mainly of works by artists from Saxony, particularly students or graduates of the Leipzig Academy of Visual Arts (HGB). The VNG AG photographic collection is regarded as one of the most important contemporary German collections of photographic art. All of the photographs were taken by former students of the HGB, commissioned by the VNG AG to document the
social changes in East Germany between 1991 and 2001. In Carte Blanche, works from both collections were presented together for the first time. In addition the VNG AG took the exhibition as an opportunity to start a new section of the photograph collection, under the title EAST – for the record, showing events from the years 1989 and 1990 in the form of a photographic synopsis.


S y n o p s i s   o f   I n t e r v i e w s


Barbara Steiner: Of course, a collection belonging to an enterprise is far more at
risk of being resold, at least at the moment ... but the danger for museum collectionsis on the increase too, and who knows how the situation will be in fifty years’ time. Selling items from a collection is still a taboo for us. If a museum were to sell something from its collections, it would not receive any further donations. But you are right, who knows what might happen in the future

Gerhardt Wolff: The first priority of a privately-run enterprise is to make money.
We cannot spend it until we have earned it. If we are successful in this, we have
a little more leeway, but if not, things begin to get tighter. We have to think
carefully about what we can afford to spend, over and over again. This is why
we have to draw up budgets – for art as well as for everything else.

Ilina Koralova: Of course you are under obligation, especially towards your shareholders. I’m sure people ask what the VNG – Verbundnetz Gas AG spends its funds on ?

Gerhardt Wolff: That depends on the current situation of the enterprise. Until the mid-1990s we were running a loss and the questions were especially probing: what do you do with all the money ? What do you spend it on ? As long as you are making a loss, you have to have very good reasons for making any additional
commitments. If you are making a profit it becomes easier. But of course our
shareholders on the board regularly ask us what we have spent money on.

P U B L I C   C O M M I T M E N T

Gerhardt Wolff: Our commitment is related to Leipzig: we are a business based
in Leipzig and we also have a special situation here. So what could be more logical
than making the most of the talents we have ? We wanted and want to make sure
that what happens in Leipzig is seen in other places. Our initiatives are not only
linked with the field of art; we are also active in social areas and sports, but art has always been very special to us. On a political level we also give our support to the ‘Verbundnetz für Toleranz’, an alliance against extremism. Basically our
commitment is geared towards creating positive awareness.

Ilina Koralova: Your commitment is directed not
only outwards towards the public, but also inwards,
towards the employees of the VNG.

Gerhardt Wolff: Both of these are important to us. We have noticed that the works of art that our company has purchased make quite an impression on our employees. They can choose which paintings or photographs are exhibited on the floor they work on. Certain members of staff within the building are responsible for this. They act as contacts, channel the requests, and make sure they are carried out. We do not want our collection to be static; we prefer it to be in continual motion. In this way, the pieces in the collection inspire lively discussions to take place.

Ilina Koralova: Would you say that your involvement with art is also a social commitment, and if so, to what extent ?

Gerhardt Wolff: Of course we are committed to social issues. We do what other businesses also find beneficial – we try to be what is known as a ‘corporate citizen’, a good member of society. At the moment this is a highly controversial question, how far an enterprise can be or strive towards being such a thing, but we feel that it is necessary and we also think it is possible. I believe our past activities have been sufficient proof of this. Because of our shareholders and customers in the region we have a strong local character, so local references are of the utmost importance to us.

Ilina Koralova: So it would be damaging to your image if you were not socially committed ?

Gerhard Wolff: Absolutely.

T H E  P U B L I C  M U S E U M

Gerhardt Wolff: I find the basic concept of Carte Blanche very attractive and interesting, to say that you will provide a public space where collectors are willing to show something, something that is sure to provoke an exchange of ideas. I think
this is a good idea. It makes a big difference whether you see our collection in our company rooms or in an art institution.

Frank-Heinrich Müller: The walls of the GfZK are highly sought-after, there are
a lot of people who would like to exhibit there. Whilst working on this project I
certainly noticed people’s reactions when you said ‘we are presenting at the GfZK and there will be a book published by Steidl.’


Frank-Heinrich Müller: The artists who participate in a programme like this always name the art institutions in their biographies, and their gallery owners will always refer to them in their advertising material. It appears to me to be far more important to the artists where they exhibit than for the enterprises. It also strikes me that people are quick to bitch about entrepreneurial initiatives like this, but they don’t mind using them for their own benefit.

Barbara Steiner: That confirms one of the main criticisms of Carte Blanche, namely that the GfZK automatically enhances the status of artistic positions. The interesting thing is that the artists evidently also immediately put it to use
themselves, hand in hand with the enterprise so to speak.

Frank-Heinrich Müller: But they would never admit it. And when people like this are writing their next CV, they will not hesitate to refer to the book published by Steidl, and then they will list their exhibitions in the GfZK and the Museum of Fine Arts. That is why the commitment of the enterprise must be seen in a much broader sense, instead of reducing it to image politics.

Guest curators
Frank-Heinrich Müller, born in Haldensleben/Saxony-Anhalt in 1962, trained as a photographer before studying Photography at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig. In 1994, he founded the ‘Photographiedepot’, a collection of photographic documentation in Leipzig, and gave lectures on architectural photography at the Hochschule für Architektur und Bauwesen (University of Architecture and Building) in Weimar. Since 2009, he has been teaching photography as a replacement
professor at the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design in Halle.