What effect is the economy having on corporate art collecting?
There is no doubt that the slow economy has been having considerable impact on corporate art buying. It varies somewhat from country to country, but the global trend is still obvious.
In the case of private collectors, there is growing interest in buying art because it is viewed as a “safe” investment like gold and silver during times of economic turmoil. But for companies, buying art for investment has rarely been a motivation.
Many companies, particularly in Europe, have recognized that there are great benefits to using art in the workplace. Various reasons include that art can enhance the company’s images, that it creates a stimulating and inspiring environment for the employees, that art can act as a social connector in the workplace, and it can help a company to further community relations.
All of these factors ensure that art will continue to be considered a useful addition to the working environment.
In the past, when there were periods of economic growth, many companies started or expanded existing art collections and programs. So, in looking back at the 20th century, it appears that the peak of collecting activity was during the 1980s and 1990s.
Recessions and the recent downturn have had a major impact on art programs. But while there is a slower buying pattern, creating art programs and sponsoring of the arts has not ended – it has just changed its players and emphasis.
The countries that have been less affected by weak economies such as Brazil, Turkey, India, China, and to some extent Russia – are areas where ownership of art has been rising. In Russia, corporate art collections are just beginning to appear and there are already a number of serious collections.
In general Russian companies are relying on the experience of their colleagues overseas. Deutsche Bank, for example, with its huge collection of about 60,000 works, has about 200 works of art in their Russian office by both German artists and Russian. The bank is also purchasing works by young Russian artists.
The Russian section of the Unicredit Bank collection features art of the 1920s and 1930s and has over 100 works by Russian artists, with rare works by Russian post-avant-garde artists.
The development company Capital Group collection has been in existence for nearly 15 years and began to be formed through the initiative of the Chairman of the Board of Directors. In addition to art by Russian artists, it has been expanded with works by well-known foreign artists. And artworks by Anish Kapoor and Frank Stella are in the public areas in their business center.
In Brazil, the Itaú Unibanco corporate collection contains more than 13,000 works of art, that includes paintings, engravings, sculptures, photographs, films, videos and installations, as well as rare editions of literary works and other items of cultural heritage. The focal point of the Itaú Unibanco Collection is Brazilian art, although it is composed of works by both Brazilian and foreign artists.
In Asia and the Pacific there is a good amount of activity going on. New collections are starting up in China. These include a large collection of contemporary art by Chinese artists being assembled by the China Mensing Bank and the Poly Art Museum, founded in 1998 and co-funded by the China Poly Group Corporation and Poly Technologies, Inc. The Taikang Life Insurance Corporation, Ltd, China’s fifth-largest insurer by premiums, has created an ambitious program known as Taikang Space. The program has supported many contemporary Chinese artists. Taikang’s goal is to build a collection that shows the development of art history from 1942 to the present, and to build a museum to show this evolution and to promote contemporary art in China.
The website for the Taikang Art Space is at http://www.taikangspace.com/encol.aspx
As South Africa has emerged into a post-apartheid environment, the country has seen a surprising surge in diverse art programs, expanded to include sponsorships, art competitions and educational programs. Six corporate art programs from South Africa are included in our International Directory of Corporate Art Collections.
Along with this, there has been a desire to tell the story of South Africa’s artistic heritage, rather than trying to mimic European and North American models. As the South African economy continues to grow and demonstrates increasing stability, these activities will no doubt continue and evolve.
Has there been much of a change in the main business sectors….
In the past, Banks have traditionally been the largest collectors of art, closely followed by other financial institutions such as insurance and financial-services companies…. and this still appears to be the case, as nearly 40 percent of the companies featured in the International Directory are banking institutions.
A growing sector in the corporate art world has been the expansion of law firms that have been assembling art collections and that is also continuing to be an important art collecting sector as more lawyers are viewing art as a “safe” investment, both financially and to enhance the firm’s image.
More and more companies in the travel and tourism industries are expanding their art purchases. As cruise ships get larger and more luxurious, art has also become part of the attraction for the growing numbers of passengers. Several cruise lines have been building up impressive collections, and some commission top artists for site-specific works.
Hospitals and healthcare centers have been assembling art collections for many years. Art is often used as part of a larger trend to use the creation and appreciation of art as a form of therapy or to assess the psychological health of a person. This use of art will continue to expand in the future.
For additional information about some of these collections and art programs, the latest edition of the International Directory of Corporate Art Collections provides detailed descriptions of over 500 art collections in the workplace and other non-traditional spaces. You can order it now at a 40% discount using the link here: