Mladen Stilinović, Četiri crvene / Four Reds (Detail), from the series Crveno-Roza / Red-Pink, 1978

Kontakt. The Art Collection of Erste Group and ERSTE Foundation

The Art Collection focuses on art production in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, which has accompanied the social and political developments over the past decades and contributed significant artworks to European art history since the late 1950s.

“As an open process that points to the future via a new understanding of the past, the collection becomes a hypothesis, the hypothesis of a new canon. ” (Boris Marte, Head of the Erste Hub)


The collection’s intention is to reflect on conceptual forms of art production within Europe’s changing political geographies. There are several categories of interest which developed within the art scene of the 1960s and which corresponds with the major themes of the collection: the reflection of and approach to modernist structures, the redefinition of material in space, issues of the political and the public, as well as matters of the body on both a performative and gender-emancipative level. Reflections on these developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe serve as the point of departure for assembling and expanding a collection of artworks in a variety of media and formats. Kontakt thus collects works which play an integral part within European art history but which claim a status of exceptionality within a politically heterogeneous terrain.


The presentation of the artworks in the collection remains decentralised and relational and is independent of an institutional or locally anchored exhibition space. The artists and their works, which have become part of the collection since 2004, have by now gained attention of numerous curators and museums. Exhibitions from the collection in Vienna, Belgrade and New York testify to the presence and demand for these works by international institutions. Moreover, exhibitions including several biennials and documenta XII have shown works by artists who have been part of the Kontakt collection from the very beginning. Thus, a growing general interest in the region of former Eastern Europe has been witnessed since the collection first set off on its mission. In general, the artworks are available as loans for context-specific exhibitions and presentations. The collection seeks to put its assemblage of art from Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe in the public’s service and continue its vigorous purchasing and exhibition activities in the years to come.


In 2004, a newly elaborated concept served to reestablish Erste Group’s collecting activities in terms of both content and method. The collection’s historical beginnings in the context of the international avant-gardes of the 1960s documents the emergence of conceptual and actionist tendencies that were developing simultaneously and internationally. The collection’s strategy and mode of presentation take shape according to the guidance of an art advisory committee. The work of the collection is embedded in a programme of related activities including exhibitions, loans, research, documentation and the exploration of the social and political framework in which the artworks were produced.

Image of Christiane  Erharter Christiane Erharter
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“The collection bears the name “Kontakt” in tribute to the work of Slovak artist Július Koller (1939–2007). The term’s existence in German, Czech and Slovak was taken as an impetus to use it as a name for the collection in order to overcome the former East-West boundaries, as well as to assemble a body of works which has meanwhile made its way into a pan-European canon of art history.”

Walter Seidl, Collection Curator

Art Advisory Committee:
Silvia Eiblmayr, Georg Schöllhammer, Jiří Ševčík, Branka Stipančić, Adam Szymczyk