The 10 Best Corporate Art Foundations- Part I

One of the most effective ways to assure the future and safeguard a corporate-owned art collection from being sold, has been to establish a foundation or trust. This provides a solid legal structure and also makes it easier to exhibit the collection publicly. The formation of foundations is now a trend, particularly in Europe and Asia, and more companies are looking into this as a future strategy.

Japan has a deep tradition of corporate foundations, such as the Bridgestone Museum of Art, which is now known as the Ishibashi Museum. Korea has seen the development of a surprising number of corporate foundations, most created since the 1990s. Some of the most important for visual-arts programmes include the Daelim Culture Foundation (1996), the Daeyu Cultural Foundation (1992), and Kumho Asiana (1977), which has the Kumho Museum of Art and Kumho Art Studio.  Korea’s Samsung Corporation’s Cultural Foundation oversees several museums that house only a fraction of its approximately 25,000 artworks.

Many of the Spanish corporate art collections operate in this manner, as do Siemens Stiftung in Germany, and the AKZONobel Art Foundation in the Netherlands.

This is our pick of the 10 best around the world.

Hoam_HeewonSamsung:  The Ho Am Art Museum and Heewon

Samsung – Korea

Certainly one of the most impressive corporate foundations in the world, Samsung’s dynamic art programme has created the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art; the Ho-Am Art Museum; and PLATEAU; as well as many other cultural and artistic activities, and academic research. The mission of the Samsung Foundation of Culture, established in 1965, is to preserve and promote the achievements of traditional Korean arts, while supporting emerging and established artists in all media and enriching the country’s cultural landscape through the finest art exhibitions, performances, cinema and literature.     Hoam_Wooden FurnitureThe Leeum opened in 2004 and is the only art institution in Korea where visitors can view works of art that range from Korean traditional art to international contemporary art – all in one location. It consists of two buildings, Museum I and Museum 2, designed by Mario Botta and Jean Nouvel, along with the innovative Samsung Child Education and Culture Center designed by Rem Koolhaas.   The diversified educational programs include lectures, family workshops, teachers’ programs and tours.

The Ho Am Art Museum opened in 1982, and is the permanent home for traditional Korean works of art collected over about three decades. The museum’s annexe, Heewon, opened in 1997 and is a traditional Korean garden that allows visitors to enjoy Korean aesthetics through not only artworks but traditional Korean landscaping as well.

Formerly known as the Rodin Gallery, the PLATEAU, was inaugurated in 1999, presenting the permanent installation of Auguste Rodin’s monumental masterpiece The Gates of Hell. Since then it has become one of the central institutions in the Korean contemporary art scene. Its new name, PLATEAU, provides an experimental ground where art historical achievements of the past and future coincide and become reinterpreted with new perspectives.

 Banamex – Mexico

As the oldest private bank in Mexico, Banamex has been important in disseminating and protecting the artistic heritage of Mexico, and its art collection is considered to be part of the country’s national heritage.

Banamex is part of the worldwide Citibank financial network, but the art collection is administered by the Fomento Cultural Banamex, a non-profit affiliate that was founded in 1971 to purchase and exhibit art, and also promote the cultural development of Mexico, from its base in the Palace Iturbide in Mexico City.

Palacio de Cultura Banamex – Palacio de Iturbide. Photograph: Fomento Cultural Banamex, AC Mexico

IFPart of the bank’s social commitment has been to preserve several historically important colonial buildings – what are called Casas de Cultura Banamex – such as the Palace of Iturbide (house of the counts of San Mateo and Valparaíso), the Casa del Diezmo in Morelia, the palace of the count of the Suchil Valley in Durango, the Casa de Montejo in Mérida, and the home of the Majorat of Cane in San Miguel de Allende.

The Palace of Iturbide houses temporary exhibitions and a permanent museum and also has a library (6,060 titles and 29, 521 image records), educational workshops, consultation, and video and multimedia rooms.

The Banamex historical collection includes more than 4,000 works of Mexican art that range from the colonial period to the present. The diverse collection includes all traditional media as well as colonial buildings, furniture, textiles and pre- Hispanic objects. Some of the artists represented include Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco. tn_GMIPERME23-IMG7107_4

The bank has also concentrated efforts in the rescue of Mexico’s folk art through programs that encourage and strengthen practices. The folk art collection includes work by 2,500 Mexican artisans from each of the Mexico’s 31 states, with 21 indigenous cultures represented.

The Program in Support of Folk Art was founded in 1996 to identify and provide support for accomplished artisans and to collect, preserve and promote folk art. It includes sculpture, furniture, ceramics, weaving, toys, religious objects, glassware, beadwork and leatherwork. Banamex has also focused on the rescue of cultural heritage, often linked to community development and promoting tourism in traditional cities and small communities of Mexico. These activities focus on the recovery of the original design, and on urban improvement – comprising the remodelling of facades, lighting, underground wiring and signage – as well as educational programmes and outreach.

UBS – Switzerland

UBS has a rich history of actively collecting art and supporting art activities around the world, focusing on promotion, collection and educational activities in contemporary art. The bank’s impressive art collection of over 35,000 objects includes thousands of contemporary works by some of the newest emerging talents as well as some of the most important artists of the last 50 years.

The present UBS Art Collection is the result of the merger of several different and important corporate art collections, each with an important history of its own:  Union Bank of Switzerland, Swiss Bank Corporation, Paine Webber and SG Warburg.

The comprehensive art program includes a global partnership with the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation, launched in April 2012, and long-standing commitments to the international art fairs Art Basel, Art Basel Miami Beach and Art Basel Hong Kong.


Max Bill, Pavilion Sculpture, 1983, Black Forest granite, 63 blocks, 20m x 5m x 4m Zurich, Bahnhofstrasse 45/Pelikanstrasse Commissioned by UBS and donated to the city of Zurich.

The UBS Arts Forum enhances the experience of contemporary art with internationally recognized authorities from all fields of the contemporary art scene, such as artists, institutions and markets. Through its Culture Foundation, UBS promotes the advancement of cultural activities and artistic creativity, communication and exchange between artists and society, and the diversity of cultural expression. The Foundation supports Swiss artists, foreign artists with permanent residence in Switzerland, cultural projects by professionals that focus on Switzerland as well as the acquisition of significant works by art or cultural-historical museums in Switzerland.

The information in the article has been excerpted from our new book on the 100 best corporate art programs around the world.  Further information and ordering is available at

Further information on over 700 corporate art programs are available in our International Directory of Corporate Art Collections.  Further information and ordering is available at    .