Swiss Re Art Commissions: In Close Collaboration with Artists

In the business environment, where it is often difficult to establish a perception of why one company’s products are better than another, a company has to find a way to stand apart from its competitors.   Swiss Re, the Swiss re-insurance company, has established its image by integrating art and architecture and focusing predominantly on commissioned art projects.

We recognize both art and architecture for having aesthetic and symbolic value and for significantly contributing to the company’s brand positioning and corporate identity.”

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Sloping Progress, Wall mural by Sol Lewitt, 13 x 23 meters, © 2016, ProLitteris, Zurich. Image copyright Sefan Altenburger

Swiss Re’s art collection includes about 4,000 works, placed in company locations around the world. It includes a wide range of formats and media: paintings, photographs, sculptures, drawings and graphic art. The most prominent projects and installations are in Zurich, Adliswil, Rüschlikon, London and Armonk/NY.

Initially the collection was devoted exclusively to recent contemporary art in Switzerland. Following the growing international activities of the company in the 1990s, acquisitions soon branched out into international contemporary art.

One of the hallmarks of Swiss Re’s collection is the commissioned art that has been produced in close collaboration with the artists. These works have a direct link to architecture and make a geographical reference to the locations. They are all displayed in accessible public areas of Swiss Re’s buildings — in reception areas, meeting rooms as well as offices.  Invigorating and inspiring, these works create synergies between staff members and forge new links between employees and their working environment.

Commissions include artworks by Carl Andre, John Armleder, Angela Bulloch, Olafur Eliasson Robert Irwin, Sol Lewitt, Tatsuo Miyajima, Anselm Reyle, Ugo Rondinone, Adrian Schiess, Martha Schwartz, Nicole Toroni, Sylvie Fleury, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Olivier Mosset

The company understands that art says different things to different people, stimulates discussions and inspires people to see things from unusual angles. So the reason for promoting art internationally is to encourage a dialogue — all acquisitions and art-related projects are based on this core belief. Swiss Re commissions and seeks artworks that meet specific objectives and suit concrete office situations, while ensuring that new projects always complement and extend the primary focus of the impressive collection.

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Set of 4 transfer prints on Trevia textile, 170 x 210 each, by Shirana Shahbazi, 1974. Image copyright Stefan Altenburger. Swiss Re Collection

The innovative architecture and design of Swiss Re’s Centre for Global Dialogue reflect its function as a platform for open and stimulating dialogue. The Centre is home to fine examples of visual arts –the most notable, are the installations that blend the neo-Baroque villa and the natural beauty of the surrounding property. One of the most recent additions to the collection is Concrete Landscape by the Swiss contemporary artistic duo of Peter Fischli and David Weiss commissioned to commemorate the Centre’s 10th anniversary in 2010.     (  Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue. See http://cgd.swissre.com/about/centre/art/   )

The art committee is made up of Swiss Re senior executives and well known external art experts: Walter B. Kielholz, Chairman Swiss Re and Chairman Art Committee;   Anne Keller, Head Art & Cultural Engagement, Swiss Re.

Swiss Re is one of the world’s leading reinsurers and the world’s largest life and health reinsurer. The company operates through more than 70 offices in over 30 countries. Swiss Re has been in the reinsurance business since its foundation in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1863.

About the Sol LeWitt mural: 

Vast thick bands of bright, vibrant colours − yellow, red, purple, green, orange and blue sweep, swirl and undulate in gracious, serpentine lines from ceiling to floor across the large wall of the entrance hall of the Armonk office of Swiss Re. This has a powerful visual presence for anyone passing through the foyer.

The wall drawing was made after his death, using a set of instructions (a central aspect of his oeuvre). His work has often used the elements of simple forms − the square, the cube, the line − to produce what he called “logical systems”. Despite these seemingly rigorous parameters, LeWitt always enjoyed the fact that his instructions to be followed by those making such wall drawings always allowed for personal interpretations, the result being, as he noted, “different people make different work.”

LeWitt liked how the art became part of the architecture, and through this, more accessible to those who see it and, in a sense, are part of it. As LeWitt said: “Anyone who understands the work of art owns it.”

The mural was created through the collaboration of Vick Art Advisors in New York City.  An interesting film is available is available that shows the creation of the work.  See on the Vick Art Advisor website at:

http://vickartadvisors.com/portfolio_page/swiss-re/

Additional Information:

Swiss Re has an excellent web site with images of many of the commissioned works, and demonstrates that the art program develops  concepts tailored to specific buildings and concrete workplace situations.  http://art.swissre.com/

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