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Welcome address at the art inauguration at the ECB

Welcome address by Mario Draghi, President of the ECB,
“Art on site” inauguration,
Frankfurt am Main, 6 October 2015

Dear colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you here this evening. Tonight’s event marks both the successful finalisation of our “art on site” competition that we launched in February 2014 and the completion of our new building.

I would in particular like to welcome the winners of our competition, Liam Gillick, Giuseppe Penone and Nedko Solakov. They responded to the competition’s themes of “Stability and Independence” and “United in Diversity” by creating something that reflects the life of a community under construction, in all senses.

Congratulations!

“If I had to do it again, I would begin with culture.”

This quote is often attributed to Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the European Union. There is a debate whether he actually said it. But whether he did so or not, it is a great point. Art abolished borders well before they began to be removed from maps through the European project.

Europe’s history of the last century shows that common ideas inspired by artists from different countries (such as the artistic avant-gardes of “Bauhaus” or the CoBrA movement that started in 1948, two years before the Schuman Declaration) can spread all over Europe and create a sense of unity even during the most challenging periods.

Artists are often ahead of their time. Their artworks tend to escape political constraints, to denounce nationalism, and overcome wars. The “Documenta” exhibition is a prominent example. It first took place in 1955 in Kassel in Germany. Situated near the “Iron Curtain”, for a long time it was a showcase for democracy and the belief that Europe would not be forever divided between East and West.

Maybe they are not always aware of it, but artists are often our best European ambassadors. They create – amongst the European nations – a better knowledge and hence understanding of each other, aspects without which the European project and a common future will not work.

Art is part of European history, of European heritage at its best. It also reminds us that values are not only monetary.

This is why the ECB, like most central banks around the world, collects works of art. Since the beginning our focus has been on contemporary art. Today, our collection consists of 320 works created by 170 artists from 20 countries. It includes paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture and object art.

One of the latest additions is the installation in the market hall, “Frankfurters, 1980”, by Thomas Bayrle, whom I would like to warmly welcome tonight as well.

Art unites, but to engage in art also means to accept different perspectives, and to embrace the possibility that different, sometimes even incoherent perspectives coexist. In this way, art stands for the idea of tolerance, of an understanding that difference enriches – and mirrors the European idea of being united in diversity at its best.

Blending different systems and cultures, enabling them to exist side by side and fostering synergies between them, without denying their origins, is really one of the lessons that artists can teach us.

Art implies questioning, reflecting and sharing. I invite all of you to do exactly that during our guided tours later tonight. This act of sharing takes place between individuals, as well as between a work of art and different pairs of eyes, which do not all perceive alike. I am sure that our expert tonight, Rein Wolfs, will share with you his interpretation of the three winning pieces of art.

The three artists we celebrate tonight, Liam Gillick, Giuseppe Penone and Nedko Solakov, have all worked across borders, real and imaginary. And the works of art they created for our new home mirror the concept of “united in diversity”.

Before I give the floor to Mr Wolfs, let me end with expressing my gratitude to the members of the competition’s selection committee and the jury - some of whom are here tonight: Susanne Gaensheimer, Sirje Helme, Mária Hlavajová, Enrique Juncosa, Erkki Liikanen, Frank Stepper, Werner Studener, Rein Wolfs and the chairman of the jury, Benoît Cœuré. I also want to thank those colleagues who have helped to carry out the competition and supported the installation of the works here in our building.

Thank you.

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