Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

These Irreverent Doodles Are Designed to Enlighten Mario Draghi Every Day

Doodles on the walls of the ECB are the work of Bulgarian artist Nedko Solakov, part of a plan to enliven the glass-and-steel skyscraper.

One year since the European Central Bank opened its shining 1.3 billion-euro ($1.4 billion) headquarters in Frankfurt, and its walls are blemished with graffiti.

A partially submerged fin has appeared in black marker next to a window in the atrium with an annotation reading: "A small financial shark."

Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

A tiny hand-sketched arrow points to a door concealed in the wall. "Not so big financial secrets behind this door," says the scrawled script.

Vandalism it isn't, nor a creeping revolt against ECB President Mario Draghi. The doodles are the work of Bulgarian artist Nedko Solakov, part of a plan to enliven the glass-and-steel skyscraper -- and perhaps the stuffy image of central bankers -- with contemporary art.

Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

The most visible of three new commissions is Italian artist Giuseppe Penone's "Gravity and Growth," a 17.5-meter (57-feet) bronze tree in front of the main entrance with a sphere of golden leaves around the trunk, and a ball stuck in the branches.

Inside the building, a mathematical formula used in economics has been cast in aluminum and plated in chrome by the U.K.'s Liam Gillick.

Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

The new pieces take the ECB’s collection to 320 works. Draghi, welcoming guests to guided tours in October, said art "reminds us that values are not only monetary."

(Still, money bought it -- the central bank set aside a budget of 1.25 million euros for the newest additions.)

Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

Solakov’s doodles face unexpected risks -- not all have survived the attentions of overzealous cleaners. But about 80 remain and can be found all across the building up to the 38th floor where Executive Board members have their offices.

His work aims to remind ECB employees why they're there. Some scribblings are on a large fake stone, described on a plaque as a placeholder for a "glorious" artwork to be installed when the central bank’s workforce have achieved all their goals "for the common benefit of the European Union."

Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

According to Rein Wolfs, a museum curator on the jury that selected the artworks, Solakov "addresses the ECB and its employees directly, using his artistic freedom to play an intelligent and witty game."

The artist was briefer. "I’ve just drawn them as they came, while walking around the building."

Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg
Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg
Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE