The Kulturkreis der deutschen Wirtschaft im BDI e.V. (Association of Arts and Culture of the German Economy at the Federation of German Industries) has supported arts and culture since 1951 and campaigns for a society in which art is seen as an essential resource.
The Kulturkreis is the oldest institution for entrepreneurial support of the arts in Germany. With member contributions and donations from its approximately 400 members, amongst them leading German corporations, it supports artists in the areas of architecture, fine arts, literature and music. The focal point of advocacy is the support of young and still undiscovered artistic views. In addition to advocacy of emerging artists, the Kulturkreis initiates different innovative art projects. Moreover, at the intersection between economy and art, the Kulturkreis advises its member companies on issues such as philanthropic artist support, cultural sponsorship, cultural education, corporate collecting, and international art initiatives. The Kulturkreis also represents the cultural political interests of its members.
Since its formation, the Kulturkreis has supported more than 1000 artists in the fields of architecture, fine arts, literature and music, many of whom had not previously received large awards or stipends. Some of the recipients are renowned artists today, who were, and still are influencing the cultural life in Germany such as Ingeborg Bachmann, Heinrich Böll, Ilse Aichinger, Thomas Bernhard, Günter Grass, Amelie von Wulffen, Rosemarie Trockel, Olaf Metzel, Max Ernst, Christoph Eschenbach, Wolfgang Tillmanns, Thomas Demand and Sabine Meyer. A more recent example for the relevance of this support is the award of the Noble Prize in Literature 2006 to Orhan Pamuk: the first translation of his work into German was encouraged and financed by the Kulturkreis at the end of the 1980s.
Aside from the support of emerging artists, the Kulturkreis has initiated and completed numerous cultural projects, for example the Museum Donation project to support West German museums in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s through the acquisition of new works for their dispersed collections due to war. The restoration of the Marian organ in Ottobeuren (1953-1958), the Altstadt Regensburg Foundation which was an exemplary model for the sanitation of historic city centers in Germany (1963-1967), and the development of the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig (Museum of Contemporary Art Leipzig) (1992-2006) were other important projects implemented by the Kulturkreis.