Editor’s Choice: The 18 Best Corporate Art Collections of 2017

Here is our selection of this year’s 18 best Corporate Art Programs around the world.

From an analysis  of the 700+  programs described in the latest edition of the 2017 International Directory of Corporate Art Collections . . .

Our 2017 selection is based on how the corporate art program is managed – how the art is being exhibited and featured, if it is accessible for viewing, are there education programs for employees and how active is the participation. In other words, is the art program part of the fabric of the company’s mission and has the art become part of the employee’s lives.

There are over 700 art programs that are described in the International Directory of Corporate Art Collections, and many include works of works of unparalleled rarity or importance in the history of art …… But often these are installed in private museums or viewing areas. The collection may be a source of pride and prestige for the company, but it does little to affect the people working in the company and their environment, and has virtually no impact on the workplace or community.  Our selection is based on the way the art programs have been integrated and the art is viewed.

Because in the final analysis, that is the purpose of fine art – to be seen and appreciated — not just held as an investment, hidden away in board rooms and blocked from being viewed except by a handful of people. Art is a global language that builds bridges between people, and stimulates creative and critical thinking. It awakens the imagination and intellect, and allows employees to better communicate with each other with new insights and ideas. It goes beyond the pictorial, and truly challenges the mind.

So our list of the 18 Best are those art programs that have been supporting the creation and appreciation of art in the workplace and in the community – whether it is regional, national or worldwide. The companies selected have successfully accomplished this goal. They have made art a part of the lives of those that work there, as well as those that visit the company and through its integration into and support of the surrounding community.

Some of the criteria that have been considered in our selection are the following:

Employees: can employees relate to the collection and are they learning about the art through educational programs.

Accessibility: is the collection accessible for viewing by visitors and the public through tours or self-guided visits

Publications:  are there published catalogues or information on line about what is in the collection.

Loans and Exhibitions: are the artworks available for loans to one-man or museum exhibitions, or does the company organize exhibitions from their collection for tour

Community: are there community education programs, artist-in-residence programs, or support for the arts projects, for example in conservation, art competition awards, regional exhibitions, museum sponsorships, etc.

Consistency: is there a consistent integrated philosophy behind the collection or is the management subject to changes in the economy or business interests

So here are our picks for the 18 Best Corporate Art Programs Around the World in alphabetical order

Banners by Norman Catherine, Medium: Tufted wool, 20m x 1.8m, © Absa, Norman Catherine

ABSA, South Africa

One of South Africa’s largest financial institutions, ABSA is an amalgamation of four financial institutions that took place in the early 1990s. Today, Absa is a highly reputed financial institution on the African continent, whose parent company is Barclays PLC.   The Absa art collection is extensive, consisting of just under 20,000 artworks. The majority of the collection is South African,with artworks dating back to the early 1900s, and it provides a narrative of the evolution of the visual arts in South Africa from the turn of the last century until today. In some cases there may be up to 40 works by key artists. The majority are displayed in offices and reception areas, and there is an art gallery in the head office.

When Absa Towers North was built in 1999, the major artworks were commissioned at the same time, and this architect/artist collaboration ensured the successfully integrated visual impact. Two merit award prizes are also offered; a two-month residency on the island of Sylt, the northernmost island in Germany, and a one-month residency in New York through the Ampersand Foundation.  Through the Absa Gallery, exhibitions are given to artists and young curators trying to make their careers and build their reputations in the visual arts. They are invited to curate a show in the Absa Gallery. For the past 28 years, Absa has been sponsoring the Absa L’Atelier Art Competition in partnership with the South African National Association for the Visual Arts. The competition is open to young and emerging artists aged 21 through to 35. The prize includes a cash component, a three- to six-month residency in a studio apartment in the Cité  Internationale des Arts in Paris, and a solo exhibition in the Absa Gallery.

AXA, France – Germany

A French-owned insurance company, AXA operates around the world. Its art program has three elements: collecting;  conserving and working with museums.   AXA has contributed €48.3 million over the last nine years to safeguarding French heritage, and has enriched public collections with numerous masterpieces. Conservation has been a recurring theme in the company’s activities worldwide.

There art collection in Germany, AXA Konzern AG, was initiated in the mid-1980s and now consists of some 3,200 works by more than 1,200 artists working in a wide range of media and the artworks are displayed throughout the company’s  buildings. AXA supports many exhibitions and art fairs including Art Basel Miami in 2006, and the company has an active conference and cultural event program for its employees.

The exhibition ‘Great Masters of Folk Art of Iberoamérica’ in 2012 in Palacio de Cultura Banamex, Palace of Iturbide, Centro Histórico, Mexico City. Photograph: Arturo González de Alba, Fomento Cultural Banamex, AC

 

Banamex, Mexico

Over 4,000 examples of Mexican art and artifacts from colonial to the present. All media are represented including buildings, folk art and furniture. As the oldest private bank in Mexico, Banamex is part of the worldwide Citibank financial network, but the art collection is administered by the Fomento Cultural Banamex, a non-profit affiliate founded in 1971 to purchase and exhibit art, and promote and protect the artistic heritage of Mexico.

Banamex has preserved several historically important colonial buildings – Casas de Cultura Banamex – such as the Palace of Iturbide, 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, educational workshops, consultation, and video and multimedia rooms.

Banamex has 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 Mexico’s 31 states, with 21 indigenous cultures represented. The program provides support for artisans and collects, preserves and promotes folk art. Activities also includes the recovery of the original design, and on urban improvement – comprising the remodeling of facades, as well as educational programs and outreach.

Education program and tour for Banco Santander

Banco Santander, Spain

The Fundación Banco Santander is a private institution with a cultural commitment that forms part of the policy of corporate social responsibility of the Santander Bank. Among its  projects, the Foundation manages, conserves and promotes Santander’s art collection, organises exhibitions and lectures, supports educational programs related to the arts, and contributes to the heritage of the world through its activities with museums and cultural institutions.

The art covers centuries, with works by El Greco, Van Dyck, Tintoretto, Rusiñol, Miro, Picasso, Chillida and Serra among others. . The company recently moved its headquarters, with some 8,000 staff, to Santander City near Madrid and included a 3,000-square-metre art gallery in its design. There is a website and a book about the collection, and it is represented on Google’s online Art Project.

CaixaForum in Barcelona. Photograph: Olga Planas Jiménez. © Fundación La Caixa

La Caixa, Spain

One of the leading art programs in the world, La Caixa Foundation is based in the bank’s headquarters in Barcelona. The large institution sponsors a great variety of programs and its activities contribute to the heritage of Spain.

La Caixa Foundation has different collections; among them are two public ones and the rest of the collections are internal — In total there are around 9,500 works of art.

The Art at Work program has several collections formed throughout the last 100 years. These works hang in the offices and workplaces of the staff. Plans include a joint venture with MACBA, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona, which will lead to joint projects between a private collection and a public one. The resulting educational activities will reinforce the existing work of La Caixa Foundation.

The company has created the concept of cultural centers in architecturally important buildings, including a converted 1912 factory in Barcelona and a purpose-built Caixa Forum in Madrid. There are Caixa Forums in Lleida, Tarragona and Girona, with plans for more.

Clifford Chance, United Kingdom

Clifford Chance activities are modeled on museum practices, and an associated program promotes and supports the printmaking community. There is a dedicated art intranet site for the staff, with in-house lectures and exhibitions, exhibition guided tours, ten-minute discussions and ‘Meet the Artist’ sessions offered to the 700-plus members of its Art Club. The firm sponsors local community art organizations, such as PhotoVoice and Autograph, as well as running postgraduate printmaking and sculpture awards, and it welcomes artists-in-residence.

Deutsche Bank, Germany

Started more than 30 years ago, the art collection of 56,000 works by around 5,000 artists, concentrates on the medium of paper including photography.. Deutsche Bank’s Group Head Office in Frankfurt houses works by more than 120 young artists from all continents, and nearly 90 per cent of all the works in the collection are on view in more than 900 Deutsche Bank locations worldwide and in exhibitions or on loan to 28 museums. 600 masterworks are on permanent loan to the Städel Museum. Exhibitions have toured Europe, the US and South America The current focus of collecting is on emerging artists from all over the world, with an emphasis on South America, Africa and Asia.

To promote young artists the Deutsche Bank and its Foundations have initiated several art prizes.The Artist of the Year award, which was founded in 2010, is devoted entirely to introducing the public to an engagement with new art. Employees of Deutsche Bank are offered a wide range of programs, including selecting work for their environment and taking part in tours and talks about the collection. There is a comprehensive website and a variety of catalogues of the collection.

Itaú Unibanco

Itau Unibanco, Bazil

This Brazilian bank is among the 10 largest financial institutions in the world. In 1987 it founded the Itaú Cultural Institute, an independent non-profit organization devoted to the development of emerging Brazilian artists. The Institute is also responsible for managing the art collection of 12,000 works that begin chronologically, with the first documents and iconography from the Portuguese colonial era of the 16th century. These works make up the Brasiliana Collection. Many of the works are located in the company’s headquarters and can be viewed in the general public areas and in temporary exhibitions.

Since the collection makes a significant contribution to the history of Brazilian art up to the present day, the ongoing plan for the future is to acquire works that will fill in gaps in the collection.  Staff is involved through an intranet and guided tours, and works are loaned to museums, some of which have sponsorship. The Rumos Project organises community-education programs. There are three books on the art programs and a website.

Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Italy

It is believed the collection started in 1481 when Benvenuto di Giovanni del Guasta was commissioned to paint Our Lady of Mercy, making it the oldest corporate art program, and certainly one of the best examples of a contribution to the heritage of Sienese art.

The Bank’s art program rests on a magnificent collection of over 27,600 works of art including paintings, drawings, lithographs, sculpture and fine furniture, dating from the 14th century to the 20th century. In addition there are a further 1,851 works belonging to the Chigi Saracini Collection which is also owned by the bank and displayed in Chigiana Music Academy.

The core of the collection constitutes Sienese works from the 14th to the 17th century. In the 20th century, the bank has continued the spirit of patronage and the resulting works are located in offices in Siena and the rest of Italy. Through its acquisition of other banks the company has broadened the collection The collection is extensively catalogued and guided tours are offered to the museum and other works can be viewed by appointment. Given the importance of the collection, the company has organized and supported many important exhibitions and loans to museums.

J P Morgan Chase, United States

The JPMorgan Chase art program oversees more than 30,000 objects in 450 corporate offices around the globe. Modern and contemporary painting, sculpture, works on paper and photography continue to be the collection’s strength.

The collection has grown through the merger of several different corporate collections that included Chemical Bank, The First National Bank of Chicago and Chase Manhattan Bank, among others. Perhaps the most renowned part of the collection has its roots in the former collection of the Chase Manhattan Bank established by David Rockefeller in 1959. By integrating artwork with the architecture of new buildings and incorporating an enlightened approach to acquisitions, this forerunner of the modern corporate collection became a model for other companies, particularly in North America.

The JPMorgan Chase has an active museum loan program, originates traveling exhibitions, provides educational programming for internal and external audiences and supports the company’s worldwide philanthropic and sponsorship activities. The bank believes that arts and culture are the lifeblood of vibrant communities, so the wide range of programs and events foster creativity, provide access to the arts to under-served audiences, promote self-expression and celebrate diversity.

Samsung, Ho-Am Museum and Heewon. Photograph: HyunSoo Kim © Ho-Am Art Museum

Samsung, South Korea

Certainly one of the most impressive in the world, Samsung’s dynamic art program 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.

The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art opened in 2004 and is the only art institution in Korea where visitors can appreciate works of art ranging from Korean traditional art to international contemporary art – all in one location. It consists of two buildings designed by Mario Botta and Jean Nouvel, along with the innovative Samsung Child Education and Culture Center designed by Rem Koolhaas, which architecturally reinterpret traditional art and international art and compose a multifunction art space. The diversified educational programs include lectures, family workshops, teachers’ programs and tours.  The Ho Am Art Museum opened in April 1982, and this private museum was founded as the permanent home for traditional Korean works of art collected over about three decades. Formerly known as the Rodin Gallery, the PLATEAU, has become one of the central institutions in the Korean contemporary art scene.

Saxo Bank, Denmark

One of Saxo Bank’s core values is ‘Pride’ – pride in one’s job, one’s accomplishments and one’s employer. The bank’s investment in and commitment to innovative architecture, design and visual arts have been central to this goal. As a natural extension of this, Saxo Bank has created a working environment that is welcoming and inspiring.  After completing its impressive and award-winning design by 3XN architects, in 2008, Saxo Bank began assembling a striking new collection of art that has become one of the largest and most significant corporate art collections in Denmark.  The architecture of its head office in Copenhagen takes Saxo Bank’s cutting-edge profile as its point of departure. In its impressive central atrium, visitors can see several floors of artworks, readily visible from different angles in the immense space.

The Bank has a tradition of sponsorship activities and supports initiatives in arts and literature. In addition to publishing special editions of books that have had a profound cultural influence, Saxo Bank also sponsors innovative artistic projects that stimulate discussion as well as entertain. Saxo Bank believes that art – including fine art, music, literature etc – is the barometer of a culture and that it makes it possible for all individuals to reach their personal goals. Through a comprehensive website, the artworks in the bank’s head office in Copenhagen can be viewed as a virtual visit.

Société Générale, France

The art program began in 1995 when the company moved its 13,000 employees into a new headquarters in La Défense, Paris. It has collected over 1,000 works — 350 paintings, sculptures and photographs, with the remainder being limited-edition original prints. The focus of the collection is artworks by both emerging and established artists.

The company has an active art program for employees that includes an art club with about 600 members, and regular exhibitions with curators, conferences, art days, and educational activities plus a staff photography competition. The art program also features an excellent website, a catalogue of the collection and a significant budget for additions to the collection. Société Générale art program has an emphasis on working with young and older children and students. . The collection is open to all young people with creative documentation and games for the youngest ones to discover contemporary art.

The museum is on the top floor of Sompo’s headquarters in Tokyo, Japan

Sompo, Japan

The Seiji Togo, Yasuda Kaisai Museum of Art, forerunner of the present Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Museum of Art, opened in 1976 when the company included the purpose-built museum on the 42nd floor of its new headquarters in Shinjuku,Tokyo. The museum has developed many exhibitions and educational programs for the staff and children, and the museum is open to the public. Loans are made to other museums and the Foundation also sponsors and provides a number of awards. There are a series of catalogues, an excellent website, and a book about the collection. Sompo Japan makes a major contribution to art heritage in Japan.

Telenor, Norway

Telenor’s art collection features international and Nordic contemporary art, andr has been collecting works since 1998. In September 2002, Telenor ASA officially opened its new Fornebu headquarters, designed by architect Scott Wyatt. The company budgeted £3.55 million for artistic decoration, viewed as essential aspects of the new building. The complex has a unified design, while each block and building has its own distinguishing features. Some of the artists who were commissioned to create site-specific sculptures or artistic decorations included Daniel Burén, Jenny Holzer and Richard Wright.

Art, architecture and design are an integral part of Telenor’s work environment. Telenor creates its own cultural concepts and stages its own productions, bringing together musicians, artists and performers from all over the world. The Telenor Culture Programme has been acquiring a more international profile. In 2007, eighty-six concerts were organised. and Norway, Russia, Montenegro, Thailand, Hungary and Ukraine have all enjoyed concerts staged by the Culture Program. Since 1995, the Telenor International Culture Prize, has given awards for outstanding performances in music, film, literature, visual or performing arts..

Telkom, South Africa

A history of contemporary art in South Africa can’t escape the very politicized socio-economic conditions under which South Africans have lived. The Telkom Art Collection shows work by a range of artists representing different aspects of the spectrum in terms of personal circumstances and opportunities within the recent and local past.  Part of Telkom’s business philosophy is a passion for the preservation of the country’s unique artistic heritage. The Art Collection promotes South African art in collaboration with partners in the arts that includes individual artists, academics, community based art organizations and industry bodies such as Business and Arts South Africa (BASA).

Telkom employees’ children participate in paper-making workshop facilitated by Phumani Paper on 29 August 2009.

The art collection is displayed in Telkom buildings, and the gallery at the company’s headquarters in Pretoria showcases the artworks and other art-related projects. The collection also runs art education programmes for employees and their families. These include workshops on printmaking, paper recycling and making crafts from waste, as well as art therapy workshops, lunchtime talks and exhibitions. Since 2002, hundreds of Telkom shareholders, employees and their children have explored and experienced different art forms at hands-on art workshops. In addition to sponsoring exhibitions,Telkom was also involved in Artists in Conversation, where previously untold stories about South Africa’s artistic heritage have been brought to light through the oral history project. In addition to work by contemporary artists, the collection also includes work by three special areas, unique to South Africa:

USIKO artworks: Rural-based artists were commissioned to re-create indigenous beadwork from over 150 years ago.

Proudly African Ceramics: Ardmore ceramics, started in 1985 and showing the integration of traditional cultural skills with the advantages of Western technology, has led to the development of a unique art form.

Bead Art: Czech glass beads were imported and a 1.8m x 1.2m replica of the South African national flag was created by 12 skilled traditional bead workers. brought in from the Zulu homelands. Using 438,000 beads, the flag is one of the largest beaded items made in South Africa.

UBS, Switzerland

UBS has a rich history of actively collecting art and supporting artistic endeavours 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 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.

The UBS Arts Forum enhances the experience of contemporary art with internationally recognised authorities from all fields of the contemporary art scene, such as artists, institutions and markets. Some of the topics covered have been The Art of Collecting; Changing China: New Perspectives on Contemporary Art; Art Houses, Art Structures, Art Institution; Global Players: Stakeholders in the Art World

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.

Unicredit, Austria

As a result of the merger of several Italian banks and the addition of Bank Austria and Germany’s HVB, the art program of UniCredit, encompassing a selection of over 60,000 works of art, is noted for its commitment to culture over time, with art that spans from ancient artefacts to works by Old Masters and modern masters. In 2004 the emphasis of the art program evolved to focus on contemporary art. UniCredit’s excellent exhibition program has been developed to include artists from many countries in Eastern Europe (Russia, Austria, Poland, Turkey and Germany). The evolving website features a virtual tour, and numerous catalogues have been published. Many artworks can be seen by the public through tours and displays in public areas of the bank’s premises. The art program’s community activities include working with art fairs such as Artissima. There are several UniCredit programs. ‘Art at work’, displaying the artworks in the main branches and offices of the group. UniCredit is committed to supporting the cultural and artistic expressions of the territories in which it operates

Further information about these art programs is available in the latest edition of the International Directory of Corporate Art Collections..  You can order it now at a 30% discount by clicking  here

 

 

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E.ON Corporation: Sponsoring Exhibitions in Germany

From the E.ON Collection. By Daniele Buetti, Arabesque on hand (from the series Good Fellows), 1996/2001, Colour photograph on aluminium dibond, 180cm x 120cm. © DACS 2013

E.ON is a German energy company now based in Essen, Germany, which for many years has made a significant commitment to supporting art. 

For over 15 years, E.ON has helped museums to create large exhibitions and many cultural highlights. From the first Caravaggio retrospective in Germany to a Caspar David Friedrich exhibition,  to artists in the classical modern genre, such as Paul Klee or contemporary artists such as Jeff Koons and Thomas Demand – E.ON has sponsored exhibitions showing art by old masters up to contemporary artists and positions.   The most popular were retrospectives of Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Paul Cézanne. The show “From Monet to Picasso” drew more than one million visitors.

In a cultural public-private partnership with the city of Düsseldorf, E.ON facilitated and participated in the revival of the Kunstpalast originally constructed in 1902.

The “Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast” (Museum Foundation) was founded in 1998 in conjunction with the city of Düsseldorf. After extensive modifications and renovations, the new ‘Museum Kunstpalast’  opened in 2001 with the first grand exhibition: “Altars – art that brings you to your knees.”

During the past 18 years, E.ON has sponsored the Kunstpalast with around 60 million Euros, 42 million of which was donated for the museum’s ongoing operation and sponsorship for exhibitions.

E.ON’s initial 10-year commitment to the museum foundation was renewed several times, but at the end of 2017, the company will not renew its membership in the foundation, primarily because the company recently relocated from Düsseldorf to Essen. However, E.ON will sponsor one exhibit in 2018 and another in 2019. 

In 2014, E.ON decided to sell Jackson Pollock’s Number 5 (Elegant Lady) (1951), a painting which the company had owned since 1980, at a Christie’s auction to keep funding the Museum Kunstpalast. Pollock had swapped it in 1954 with New York gallery owner Martha Jackson for the convertible in which he had a fatal accident two years later. In 1980, Ulrich Hartmann, head of VEBA’s corporate board office, pushed for the purchase from art dealer Alfred Schmela. The acquisition was considered to be the foundation for E.ON’s art collection of more than 1,800 works.

Until December 2016, the E.ON headquarters was based in Düsseldorf in a building designed by renowned architect O.M. Ungers.  In several benefit exhibitions, art could be purchased directly from the artist or galleries. The last and largest benefit exhibit was the exhibition “Kunst für Obdach. 20 Jahre fiftyfifty” (http://www.kunst-fuer-obdach.de/en/home/) at the end of 2015. Here, E.ON and the non-profit organization fiftyfifty” were able to successfully acquire works by 80 new, established or acclaimed artists, e.g. Gerhard Richter, Imi Knoebel, Thomas Ruff and Katharina Sieverding, who  donated important art works for the cause.

Fiftyfifty was able to raise over 2 million Euros for the homeless of Düsseldorf at the exhibition, and few days after the event, part of the funds raised was used to buy a tripartite house in Düsseldorf.

Since the company relocated to Essen in January 2016, art has been displayed in a new way at the headquarters. At the entry lobby, employees and guests are welcomed by a major work by Rupprecht Geiger and a steel object from 1989, “Riroriro Pongo”, by the American artist John Chamberlain. The cafeteria showcases a 30-part work entitled “Grace Kelly” by Imi Knoebel and a photograph by acclaimed photographer Candida Höfer. In total, over 300 works from the E.ON art collection can be viewed at “Brüsseler Platz” in Essen. The works cover a broad range and their diversity reflects the company’s history and  long-standing tradition with art.

Essen is home to one of Germany’s most important exhibition spaces, the Folkwang Museum.  In 2016, E.ON supported a contemporary exhibition for the first time, with major works by the sculptor, Katharina Fritsch.

E.ON’s extensive E.ON art collection, includes over 2,000 works by 700 artists, displayed in the company headquarters and many offices.  Some of the more important works are on display in public areas.  the main focus of the collection is on post-war and contemporary German art, and most art works were acquired during the 1990s.   All media are represented and artists represented include Tony Cragg, Jackson Pollock, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin and Andreas Gursky.

Note:  E.ON is a German energy company / European holding company, based in Essen, Germany. It runs one of the world’s largest investor-owned electric utility service providers. The name comes from the Greek word aeon which means an age.   It operates in over 30 countries and serves over 33 million customers and is one of the 30 members of the DAX stock index of major German companies

The website about the E.ON Collection is at:

https://www.eon.com/en/about-us/art-and-culture.html

Information on the E.ON collection and art programs of  20 other collections in Germany are described in the latest edition of the International Directory of Corporate Art Collections, now available for a New Year 40% discount.  See information here:    http://www.corporateartbrief.com/?page_id=270

 

Corporate Art Collecting: Looking Forward to 2017

Scholars Watching Mountains, ink and color on paper by Zhang Daqian. In the Taikang Collection.

 

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: 

http://www.corporateartbrief.com/?page_id=270)

 

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