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Book Review

A Celebration of Corporate Art Programmes Worldwide

By Sandra Lang, Associate Professor
Director, Visual Arts Administration MA Program
Department of Art and Art Professions
Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development
New York University

Who said, “Corporate Art Program(mes) are dead!” ?  A new book titled  A Celebration of Corporate Art Programmes Worldwide by Peter Harris and Shirley Reiff Howarth refutes this statement and then some.  Turns out it’s a global activity.  In a deluxe 292-page large format publication with beautiful color illustrations, the authors demonstrate the variety and vitality of corporate art programs from Morocco to Japan, Australia to South Africa, Brazil to Korea, the United States and Europe.

The book is a testament to the fact that these art programs are more than just the acquisition and display of art in a corporate setting.  They are “the all-important and driving force for a much more comprehensive – and often community orientated – series of art programmes, sponsorships, competitions and events.”

Extensive and well researched with a full bibliography and website citations, in the first three chapters Harris and Howarth expound on the why, how and what of corporate art collecting, followed by projections for the future in the fourth.

Companies are collecting to enhance their images, serve their employees, improve their brands and further community relations.  The surprise is the myriad ways in which they achieve these goals, from in-house display and curatorial selection methods to collaborations with museums and cultural centers, and direct support for artists and communities, which are all documented with specific examples.

The fifth chapter features in-depth descriptions and images from 100 of the best collections, ranging in size from a few hundred pieces to more than 60,000 artworks.  What comes across fully is how collections are deployed in ways that are consistent with the values, histories, economic and social conditions of the various countries in which they are located.  Japan has a tradition of corporate foundations with established museums.  Corporate foundations also exist in Spain, Korea and the Netherlands.  Heritage-related collections are on the rise in the BRIC countries.  South Africa’s programs include educational and sponsorship activities aimed at supporting its artists and culture.  With forerunners like monarchies and the Medicis, collections are well established in Europe and the U.K.  Ditto in the United States, although ever practical, American companies began collecting art for advertising purposes before expanding to art for art’s sake.  In all cases, corporate art collections align with the purpose, practice and direction of a company’s business interests.  And the myth that corporations collect for investment is soundly put to bed.

A Celebration.. is filled with pertinent statistics: – of the 100 corporate collections selected, 90% of the artworks are on display in the companies’ offices, 55% are in Europe and the UK.  93% of these companies collect regionally.  55% collect exclusively contemporary art, but fewer than 10% have no contemporary art, and collecting contemporary photography is on the rise.

Harris and Howarth are well suited to the challenge of this publication.  They have both been in the field of corporate art for more than three decades, Harris as a international advisor and arts organization board member and Howarth as an academic, former museum director and curator, and founder of the International Directory of Corporate Art Collections.

A Celebration of Corporate Art Programmes Worldwide is essential for anyone who is interested in the intersection between art and business.  Corporations may not be people but they are run by people.  The breadth and diversity of this book is a tribute to the wealth of culture extant across the world as well as the ingenuity of mankind to incorporate the visual arts into all aspects of our lives in a myriad of ways.  Corporate art programs are alive and well!

Sample pages, table of contents, author bios, and information on ordering the book is available at the website:

Additional Comments

I am extremely impressed with how much thought and attention has gone into this groundbreaking book. It not only celebrates global corporate art collecting but also introduces readers who are new to this field, to the concepts and practices involved in corporate participation in art.   For those already knowledgeable  about art, this book will be a
huge treat because it shines a new light on the familiar, reveals the unfamiliar, and opens a world, literally, of new ideas and experiences not commonly available in the normal literature or in the museum and gallery circuit.Laura Miner, Instructor, New York University.
“The Art Dealer in the 21st Century”
Founding President, National Association for Corporate Art Management,  (NACAM)
( merged with APAA, the Association of Professional Art Advisors)

What both the exhibition and the book reveal is the remarkable scale and breadth of the art that has been collected by corporations since the Renaissance, when the Monte dei Paschi bank in Siena decided it needed nice things for its walls and established what is thought to be the first corporate art collection, in 1472.

Mark Brown, “New show reveals quality and breadth of corporate art,”
from The Guardian, Sunday 12 January 2014

The usually private world of corporate art collecions from around the world will be opened up for the first time thanks to a new book which has taken five years to compile.  The book also looks at corporate art programmes and how, in many cases, these can give a first glimpse of treasures previousy hidden from public view

Tom Derbyshire, “New Book sheds light on the corporate art world”
from The Antiques Trade Gazette, January 11, 2014

A new book, supported by research from auction house Bonhams, celebrates the seemingly symbiotic relationship between fine art and big business. If you put all the prestige art works belonging to corporate collections in one big space, it would make quite a museum.

The lustre of aged and dignified masterpieces is one thing but the contentious arena of contemporary art is quite another. Here’s the surprising thing: of the 300 companies covered by the handsome book, half are concerned exclusively with collecting contemporary art. Fewer than 10 per cent of the companies collect no contemporary art at all.

My favourite quote from the book comes from Robert Hiscox, founder of Hiscox Insurance, who is described as “renowned for his good eye, and has amassed an excellent collection, some of which he has sold and realised significant gains, funds that he has reinvested in new work.” “I love modern art,” says the plainspeaking Hiscox, “and selling insurance for it.”   A man   who truly knows synergy when he sees it.

Peter Aspden Culture, “When Worlds Collide,”
Financial Times, January 11, 2014

Peter Harris, co-author of new book ‘A Celebration of Corporate Art Programmes Worldwide’, likens these businesses to great patrons of the past such as the Medici family in the Renaissance. At a time when funding cuts are deep and sweeping, continued investment in emergingartists and new practices from the corporate sphere is
essential to the vitality of the art world.Rebecca Jarvest, “Bold Choices by Big Business:
Corporate Art Surprises at Bonhams,”
The Sloaney  17 January 2014

Art consultants Peter Harris and Shirley Reiff Howarth have spent five years researching the best and most important works in corporate collections, and how they are used to inspire staff, polish a firm’s public image, and foster goodwill in the community. They now feature in a new book, and some, including works by Picasso and Tracy Emin, have gone on show at the London headquarters of auctioneer Bonhams
.Louise Jury, Chief Arts Correspondent
“Exhibition showcases art collections of major firms,”
London Eveniing Standard, 14 January 2014

The book is impressive. It pays as much attention to the art itself as to the question of why companies should be involved with the arts. The ROI of art investments is spectacular, but I don’t think most CEO’s are aware of this. I say: this book should be on the table in every board room around the globe.  Congratulations with this achievement!
Ries Roowaan, Corporate Art Advisor and Author, Amsterdam