The Generali Group Austria established the Generali Foundation in 1988 as a non-profit art association to promote contemporary art and culture. Today, its art collection holds some 2,200 works by 313 renowned artists and is one of the most important private, corporate collections in the world. At first, the Foundation’s collecting strategy was focused on the new understanding of sculpture that emerged after 1945, and on young, up-and-coming Austrian artists. A growing interest in international trends in art, especially in the North American art scene from the 1960s onwards, was a logical consequence of this strategy, and served to contextualize local developments. Exploring interconnections led to the gradual expansion of the collection with international artworks, though the focus here was initially on a Western-oriented canon that was subsequently extended to include art from the former Eastern bloc countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
Until 2014, initially under the direction of Sabine Breitwieser and from 2008 under Sabine Folie, the Foundation engaged in highly successful exhibition activities and continued to build up its art collection at locations in Vienna. In 2014, the Generali Foundation Collection was entrusted to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg on permanent loan. Doris Leutgeb is head of the collection in Salzburg, as she was in Vienna before 2014. The framework of this collaboration means that works of art from the Collection are continuously presented in changing exhibitions at the Museum, and are loaned out to exhibitions across the world and made generally accessible to a broad, international public.
The Generali Foundation Collection is notable for its targeted acquisition of artworks that are unconventional because of their socio-political stance, their criticism of institutions, or because they are conceptual, feminist or performative in nature. The Collection’s expanded concept of sculpture corresponds to the process-oriented understanding of art as a social space that emerged in the 1960s, and reflects interdisciplinary explorations of interfaces with architecture, design, dance, literature, and music as well as critical revisions of Modernism and Postmodernism.
The Collection is heterogeneous in its range and corresponds to the broad palette of expressive forms that in the 1960s began to assign a social significance to transgressing the boundaries of traditional genres, and ultimately declared such acts of transgression to be a political statement. The Collection unites unconventional sculptures and works on paper with photography, film, video, statuary art, object art, early computer and media art, and multimedia installations.
The Generali Foundation is committed to supporting artists who are highly regarded in specialist circles, but little known to the general public. Its uncompromising exhibition program and its concomitant acquisition policy have enabled it to develop a consistently high international reputation. Promoting women artists is a matter of prime concern. During her directorship at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg (2013–2018), Sabine Breitwieser deepened the Generali Foundation Collection and set the focus for its expansion on essential feminist, performative, and conceptual positions since the 1960s in contemporary art. The early, sporadic inclusion of non-European viewpoints became increasingly important under the direction of Thorsten Sadowsky (2019–2022) and was continually expanded and enriched by shifts in perspective, and by including renowned artists of color.
Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos, Permutations, 2014, 8-teilig, Acrylglas, LED-Lichter, Sammlung Museum der Moderne Salzburg – Ankauf aus Mitteln der Generali Foundation, © 2021 Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos