Release of 22.07.2020

Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary announces The Commissions Book, a celebration of its work on contemporary art and the environment

Hi-res Thyssen Bornemisza Art Contemporary: The Commissions Book.

Thyssen Bornemisza Art Contemporary: The Commissions Book. Design: Irma Boom. Cover image: John Akomfrah, Purple, 2017, still (detail) © Smoking Dog Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery. Photo: Elodie Grethen

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Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary: The Commissions Book (Sternberg Press, 2020) is a vivid documentation of TBA21’s commissioning practice and the ethos of the foundation, which involves working directly with artists on some of the most urgent topics of our time. This volume is an anthology of new texts, visual material, and research on TBA21’s commissions, woven together with explorations of the processes and relationships that enabled them. The publication was inspired by the labor, dialogue, and collaboration it took to produce these works over the past two decades, and what it means to be their guardian. The book’s innovative design was conceived by the world’s foremost book designer, Irma Boom. Print sheets made of robust natural fibers, covering and bookending the publication are scented with a fresh sylvan smell of earth, pine wood, and moss designed as a special commission by artist Sissel Tolaas. Honoring TBA21’s commitment to the environment, the book is made from sustainable materials, using 100 percent recycled paper.

Daniela Zyman, TBA21’s artistic director and co-editor of the book, said on TBA21’s commissioning practice: “The Commissions Book gives voice to hundreds of artists and writers with whom we have developed a close rapport in the past two decades. It hopefully presents a nuanced understanding for what it means to produce, collect, and care for contemporary art and be aligned with the issues of the present.”

In over 1,300 pages, The Commissions Book engages in depth with more than 100 works of art. The publication organizes and weaves together sequences of potential narratives and interrogations, along with close examinations of different works of art and an archive of images. The stories embedded in these works, as well as in the foundation’s work, and that of TBA21–Academy, an itinerant site of transdisciplinary research and cultural production engaging with the oceans, are stories of making new connections across disciplines, geographies, and different forms of expertise. Committed to the sensibilities of artists-as-researchers, TBA21 has sided with artists in imagining new ways of knowing and intervening in the societies we live in and deploying new ways of encountering the world around us. The foundation’s work presents an attempt at reimagining what it means to “work together” as artists, commissioners, and public, and The Commissions Book seeks to rearticulate this praxis of intervention and reimagination as it evolved over two decades.

The Commissions Book
 brings together visual and written material from TBA21’s commissioning practice and vast history of exhibitions and programs, including artists and architects such as David Adjaye, John Akomfrah, Olafur Eliasson, Amar Kanwar, Walid Raad, Jana Winderen, and—most recently—Joan Jonas. The book also presents new works and commissions by Cecilia Bengolea, Claudia Comte, SUPERFLEX, and Territorial Agency, among many others. It also includes contributions by curator Natasha Ginwala and transdisciplinary feminist thinkers Astrida Neimanis and Eva Hayward, whose essays transcend individual artistic positions and ask questions that lie at the core of TBA21’s program, interrogating institutional boundaries and connecting with the complexities and urgencies of the age of the Anthropocene. 

Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza said: “This anthology of TBA21’s work over the last two decades is also a guide book for the foundation’s future. It describes a method of commissioning works that has evolved over the years, from a spirited commitment to collecting unique works of art, into a dedicated and engaged commissioning practice as agent of change. It has been driven by a community of collaborators who have identified with our ethos, and have amplified our work with their engaged participation. I am extremely humbled by the scale of their generosity. I confess that until the publication of this volume, I had not quite taken measure of just how much we have achieved over the years together!”

The Commissions Book is available for sale at Sternberg Press, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza’s shop and other selected bookstores. It is part of a broader series of activities organized by TBA21, which share the foundation’s values and spirit. The book launch will be related to the presentation of st_age, a collaborative digital program initiated by TBA21 to support artists and reflect on how to mitigate cultural loss during the Covid-19 crisis. 



Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza is the fourth generation of the Thyssen family committed to the arts. As the founder of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) she is a collector who forges relationships with contemporary artists through a program of commissions as the preferred method of adding works to the collection. These commissions are a reflection of her personal concern for the rapidly changing world we live in and the urgencies we face. She fundamentally believes in cultural diplomacy, which she learned from her father’s cultural exchanges with the Soviet Union in the 1980s during his, but has taken this practice to a whole other level by facilitating the foundation’s first commission in 2004, and taking the work of the foundation consciously into a practice of care and engagement. She later pushed the foundation into a further direction by supporting the creation of the TBA21–Academy as the exploratory soul of TBA21, a practice of artistic research focused exclusively on the oceans.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) is a leading international art foundation, founded in Vienna in 2002 by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza. Promoting art as a powerful agent for change, the foundation aims to investigate pressing issues of the day and supports artistic practices that are informed by social and environmental concerns. Seeking to forge new, productive relationships between artistic research and creative work in the sciences and the humanities, TBA21 operates a unique program of commissions, often working in partnership with leading cultural organizations across the world. These include, for example, an important series of collaborations with Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum (MNTB) in Madrid.

TBA21–Academy is a cultural organization investigating environmental injustice against the ocean through the lens of art, founded in 2011 by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza and Markus Reymann. TBA21–Academy instigates intersectional and collaborative research, artistic production, and new forms of knowledge, resulting in commissions, exhibitions, and pedagogical programs. It has grown an extensive network of ocean practitioners and experts from the fields of science, policy, law, big data, and Indigenous scholarship.

The Commissions Book includes TBA21 and TBA21–Academy commissions as well as works from the TBA21 Collection by Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, David Adjaye, Nabil Ahmed, Doug Aitken, Atif Akin, John Akomfrah, Nevin Aladağ, Allora & Calzadilla, Laura Anderson Barbata, Jonathas de Andrade, Kutluğ  Ataman, Neïl Beloufa, Cecilia Bengolea, John Bock, Monica Bonvicini, Candice Breitz, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Julian Charrière, Anetta Mona Chişa and Lucia Tkáčová, Tyler Coburn, Phil Collins, Claudia Comte, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Emanuel Danesch and David Rych, Dark Morph, Jeremy Deller, Olafur Eliasson, Noa Eshkol, Omer Fast, Mario García Torres, Gelitin, Isa Genzken, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Dan Graham, Ariel Guzik, Carl Michael von Hausswolff and Thomas Nordanstad, Florian Hecker, Nikolaus Hirsch / Michel Müller and Cybermohalla Ensemble, Carsten Höller, Marine Hugonnier, Pierre Huyghe, inhabitants, Sanja Iveković, Rashid Johnson, Joan Jonas, Brad Kahlhamer, Amar Kanwar, Ragnar Kjartansson, Armin Linke, Sharon Lockhart, Los Carpinteros, Sarah Lucas, Ursula Mayer, Jonathan Meese, Eduardo Navarro, Ernesto Neto and the Huni Kuin, Rivane Neuenschwander, Carsten Nicolai, Olaf Nicolai, Jorge Otero-Pailos, Mathias Poledna, Walid Raad, Raqs Media Collective, Lisa Rave, Matthew Ritchie with Aranda\Lasch and Arup AGU, Tomás Saraceno, Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, Hans Schabus, Christoph Schlingensief, Allan Sekula, Charles Stankievech, Simon Starling, SUPERFLEX, Territorial Agency, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Sissel Tolaas, Suzanne Treister, Janaina Tschäpe with David Gruber, Jana Winderen, Susanne M. Winterling, Cerith Wyn Evans, Želimir Žilnik.

Texts and contributions by Atif Akin, Joan Anim-Addo, Magalí Arriola, Rakhee Balaram, Erika Balsom, Ute Meta Bauer, Bettina Brunner, D. Graham Burnett, Patrick Charpenel, Damian Christinger, Sebastian Cichocki, CM Live (Neelofar, Suraj Rai, and Shamsher Ali), Gabrielle Cram, Heather Davis, Angela Dimitrakaki, Georges B.J. Dreyfus, Eva Ebersberger, Charles Esche, Beatrice Forchini, Anselm Franke, Natasha Ginwala, David Gruber, Carles Guerra, Soledad Gutiérrez, Nav Haq, Eva Hayward, Stefan Helmreich, Stefanie Hessler, Václav Janoščík, Caroline A. Jones, Ruba Katrib, Lutz Koepnick, Cresantia Frances Koya Vaka’uta, Luca Lo Pinto, Sarat Maharaj, Chus Martínez, Margarida Mendes, Suzana Milevska, Vanessa Joan Müller, Heike Munder, Henning Nass, Sara Nadal-Melsió, Astrida Neimanis, Ingo Niermann, Sandra Noeth, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Boris Ondreička, Annie Paul, Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, Ignas Petronis, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Filipa Ramos, Raqs Media Collective, Markus Reymann, Kathrin Rhomberg, Dan Richards, Ridykeulous (Nicole Eisenman + A.L. Steiner), Ralph Rugoff, Thibaut de Ruyter, Nadim Samman, Mirjam Schaub, Andreas Schlaegel, Cory Scozzari, Tsering Shakya, Chris Sharp, Jasper Sharp, Frederike Sperling, Andreas Spiegl, Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, Emiliano Valdés, Nicola Vassell, Franziska Sophie Wildförster, Eva Wilson, Slavoj Žižek, Daniela Zyman, Oona Zyman.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary: The Commissions Book

Edited by Daniela Zyman and Eva Ebersberger


1,336 pages

Publisher: Sternberg Press 

Language: English

Design: Irma Boom

ISBN-10: 3956795555

ISBN-13: 978-3956795558

Dimensions: 21 x 15 cm

Sales price: $35.95 / €29.00 / $47.95 CAN

Press Enquiries:

For TBA21

Erica Bolton

Bolton & Quinn

Tel: +44 (0)7711 698 186


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Jonathas de Andrade, O Levante, 2013, still
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Carsten Höller, 'Giant Multiple Mushrooms (Large and Small)', 2014
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Gelitin, A Vase Is a Vase Is a Base, 2015
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Simon Starling, Prouvé (Road Test), 2012
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Ragnar Kjartansson and Friends, The Palace of the Summerland, 2014
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Laura Anderson Barbata, What-lives-beneath, 2016
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Joan Jonas, Moving Off the Land, 2016
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Olafur Eliasson, Green Light—An Artistic Workshop, 2016
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Ernesto Neto, Nixiforestkupixawa, 2015
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Susanne M. Winterling, 'Glistening Troubles', 2017
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Claudia Comte, Marianne and Toby (Underwater Cacti), 2019
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Jeremy Deller and Cecilia Bengolea, Bombom’s Dream, 2016
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Amar Kanwar, The Counting Sisters and Other Stories, 2011
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Hi-res Thyssen Bornemisza Art Contemporary: The Commissions Book. (. tif )

Thyssen Bornemisza Art Contemporary: The Commissions Book. Design: Irma Boom. Cover image: John Akomfrah, Purple, 2017, still (detail) © Smoking Dog Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery. Photo: Elodie Grethen

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