Art & Finance: Risk propensity

Three risk takers discussed the adventure of surgery, art and entrepreneurship on the roof terrace of the Bayerischer Hof in Munich at the end of summer. 

The opinions presented by the professionals from the art world (Dr. Matthias Mühling, director of the Lenbachhaus), the field of medicine (Dr. Constance Neuhann-Lorenz, plastic surgeon) and financial economics (Dr. Peter Haller, founder of the Service Plan Gruppe) could not have been more different since art and life are incalculable in all respects. But even though there is a disparity between how the world of art, real life and finance operates, they have one thing in common: insecurity of the future.

Dr. Peter Haller – a successful entrepreneur in the area of advertisement bases most of his arguments on statistics, his past research on financial crises, and on the recurring cycle of the economy (see Joseph Schumpeter) – said that it was important for an entrepreneur to be highly scared of failing, and that besides being good with numbers, s/he had to know how to cooperate with others. The chairwoman of the third Salon discussion (2014 Salon-series in Munich), Nina Ruge, pointed out that Dr. Haller’s self-confidence has always been supported by the success of his company, which makes it comprehensible that he thinks risks can be calculated.

Likewise, the trained art historian Dr. Matthias Mühling said that, as a museum director, he has to think in an entrepreneurial way to secure the reputation of his institution. But at the same time, he strongly emphasised that his team of 25 people – “wir träumerische Spekulanten” – was much more concerned about the loss of important values in society, which makes life worth living, than worrying about financial returns of their daily work. For example, he made clear that art should not serve as a speculative investment.

Juxtaposing the arguments of a businessman and an art historian shows that basing her/is opinion merely on simple accounting is not enough to be successful. Inconspicuous parameters – such as sympathy, the first impression, trust in others and self-confidence – are not programmable, but are often decisive for the future outcome of a project, or personal mission. Hence, it makes little sense to specialise only in money matters, even though “money is our currency and serves as a symbolic means of communication”, Dr. Mühling noted at the Munich Salon.

The risk of making financial investments or organising an art exhibition in museums is however not comparable to the one Dr. Constance Neuhann-Lorenz undertakes when she travels to Bangladesh with a small team of nurses to help local women who have been scarred for life by petrol (very often by their own families). “We don’t know how the locals respond to us,“ she said, “and I have the responsibility for getting my team back home safely.”

Dr. Mühling’s frank response to the experience of the female surgeon in Bangladesh stressed that even if he put on a bad exhibition at the Lenbachhaus, no one will get hurt while Dr. Neuhann-Lorenz physically helps others, which is an action to truly admire. But nevertheless, in today’s democracy Dr. Mühling’s team is also trying work on the concept of civilisation “which is only paper-thin and close to break through every second. This is what we are scared of, and what we are taking risks for; and we ask ourselves: What is possible? And what can be done differently?”


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