Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) celebrates two decades of commissioning and collecting. 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. 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 densely illustrated pages, The Commissions Book engages in depth with more than 100 works of art. The publication 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.


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.


The Commissions Book brings together visual and written material from TBA21’s commissioning practice and 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 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.

Founded in 2002 by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza in Vienna, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) represents the fourth generation of the Thyssen family’s commitment to the arts. As a foundation of contemporary art and dedicated to the worldview changing realization that can be called the Anthropocene, TBA21 is foremost a space within which very different kinds of knowledge and practices can meet. TBA21 collection is the result of the foundation’s ongoing commitment to commissioning and developing art projects that defy traditional categorization, including large scale installations, sound compositions, performance, and contemporary architecture.