Businesses and large corporations investing into collections of fine art is a tradition dating a few centuries back. Early banks during the Italian Renaissance were often patrons of the arts, and the first corporate collection is considered to be the collection by Monte dei Paschi bank in Siena formed during the Renaissance in 1472. At first, art served only as a decoration for the walls, but over time, corporate art collections have grown into a status symbol. Continuing to the 20th century, the American plutocrat David Rockefeller decided in the late 1950s that Chase Manhattan Bank should start acquiring art, and by the mid-1990s half of the Fortune 500 companies and many more in the USA and Europe were actively collecting art.
Many corporations invest in art in order to shape and boost brand image, since many feel the art gives the business personality. Many companies feature contemporary art, as they consider it represents the company as dynamic and active. Some experts even think artworks in the workplace inspire creativity and intellectual stimulation in their employees. Businesses often invest in art by local artists, positioning themselves as the patrons of the art and emerging artists. There is usually a lot of publicity regarding these collections, and pieces are often displayed for outside visitors and presented by company’s curators.
The benefit for the displayed artists comes down to money, recognition and exposure. In order to get featured, artists should make contact with interior designers and PR firms, as they often have the influence on the choice of artworks. Some of these collections are managed by their curators, while others rely on outside advisers. Some are open to the public, and some are reserved only for the employees. As many companies have built impressive and historically important collections over the years, we present you some of the finest corporate collections in the world.
Editors’ Tip: Global Corporate Collections Hardcover by Gérard A. Goodrow (Author)
Explore further about the best corporate art collections in the world. This publication featuring rich illustrations presents 100 of the fines active corporate collections from all around the world. Coming from different industries and different artistic focal point, this selection is hand-selected by a high profile advisory board. The project is supported by AXA ART insurance, Art Finance (Gazprombank Group) and Sotheby's. The book is edited by Friedrich Conzen (Managing Director, Werkladen Conzen Kunst Service, Duesseldorf), Max Hollein (Director, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frank- furt/Main) and Olaf Salié (Managing Director, Deutsche Standards, Cologne). Chief copy-editor is Gérard A. Goodrow (Free-lance author and curator, former Director Art Cologne). Featuring comprehensive essays by renowned art personalities, the publication promises to provide “unparalleled insights" into the art patronage of several multi-national corporations from over 25 countries.
Featured image: UBS Art Collection, via forbes.com; UBS Art Collection, via youtube.com; The works on show in the AXA ART Lounge, via group.axa.com; Deutsche Bank Art Collection, via zoltobiala.info; Daimler Art Collection, via art.daimler.com
The Swiss bank UBS has one of the most impressive corporate collections in the world, owning 35,000 pieces of modern and contemporary art. The collection includes paintings, photographs, drawings, prints, video works and sculptures from the last 50 years, including many masterpieces such as paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lucian Freud, Roy Lichtenstein, Brice Marden and Christopher Wool. As the business has grown, the global diversity of the artists in its collection has increased. Parts of the collection have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Tate Modern in London, but majority is displayed in employee only areas. The collection is part of the company’s public identity, and they tend to collect in a way that benefits artists rather than dealers and auction houses.
Featured image: UBS Art Collection, via atpdiary.com
Deutsche Bank is another company with a very impressive art collection. First starting collecting art in 1979 in order to support young and emerging German artist, the company now owns more than 57, 000 objects. Each floor of the bank’s New York headquarters features different artistic themes, such as photography or sculptures. Deutsche Banks considers art as part of its identity and feels that supporting art is an important part of being a good citizen. The collection includes pieces by Berenice Abbot, Gerhard Altenbourg, Francis Alÿs, Horst Antes, Hans Arp, Richard Artschwager and Christina Assmann.
Featured image: Deutsche Bank Art Collection, via loveartinsurance.co.uk
The auto insurance giant Progressive owns one of the most extensive contemporary art collections in the corporate world. The main reason for this is that company feels art encourages its employees to think creatively. They see art as a cultural investment, not a financial investment – an investment in the people who work there. The main staircase of their offices in Mayfield Village in Ohio features the installation by artists Petah Coyne, creating the feel of a haunted ballroom. The collection's highlights include major pieces by Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, Kerry James Marshal, Kehinde Wiley and Shirin Neshat.
Featured image: Progressive Art Collection, Jerry Can - Love Gasoline (Animating Elements), 2006, via forbes.com
Flemming Art Collection owns notable pieces of Scottish art, and is now displayed in the Flemming Collection in London's Berkley Square. It was started by the merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co in 1968 just to decorate the empty walls, but now the collection features around 800 works from 300 years of Scottish art. Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation, a Fleming family-backed charity, bought the collection after the bank’s acquisition in 2000 and continues to build on to it. Flemming collection is probably the finest private collection of Scottish art in the world. The highlights of the collection are pieces by Samuel John Peploe, Anne Redpath, Allan Ramsay, William McTaggart and the Glasgow Boys.
Featured image: Jacob More - Lake Albano with Castle Gandolfo, 1787, from The Fleming Collection, via wsimag.com
The Bank of America Collection is one of the largest and finest in the world, and its main focus is contemporary art. The collection reflects the diversity of artistic expression in America and internationally. The works are displayed in several public galleries that the bank owns, as well as in their corporate offices. The collection is now enriched from more than three thousand legacy banks. The bank decided to use the collection to support communities where it does business.
Featured image: Women Photographers in the Bank of America Collection, via museums.bankofamerica.com
The Microsoft Art Collection first started in 1987 and it now includes around 5000 works of art displayed in more than 180 buildings globally. The collection serves only for the enjoyment of the employees, guests and customers. Its main focus is contemporary art and it includes paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, ceramics, glass, multimedia works, prints, collages, drawings, fiber art, metalwork, mixed media, and associated archival materials. The collection includes pieces by Chuck Close, Takashi Murakami and Cindy Sherman, among others.
Featured images: Katz Frey, Microsoft Art Collection, via michaelkleinarts.com
The Daimler Art Collection first started in 1977, and now it represents an important spectrum of major 20th-century art developments and pictorial ideas, primarily in the field of abstraction. The collection of abstract art ranges from the avant-garde tendencies associated with the German Bauhaus movement and classic modernist art, Concrete Art, Constructivism and post-1945 Art Informel, the European Zero movement, Minimalism and Conceptual art, Neo Geo, post-minimalism and conceptual tendencies within international contemporary art, car-related art, international photography, video art and public sculptures. It features masterpieces by Andy Warhol, Heinz Mack, Jeremy Moon, Josef Albers, Hanne Darboven, among others.
Featured image: Daimler Art Collection, via art.daimler.com
The Russian Gazprombank first started assisting Russian art collectors, but afterwards, it decided to start a collection of their own. The main focus of the collection is Russian contemporary art from the 1990s till present, and it includes all media and genres, comprising paintings, graphics, photography, sculpture, installation, objects, documentation of performance, book-art and video-art. Combining the most representative works of the last decades of the Russian art history, the Gazprombank Art Collection aims to preserve the integrity and the initial idea of these works. Apart from buying art, the bank commissions new works specially made for the collection.
Featured image: Gazprombank Art Collection, via iaccca.com
The Statoil Art Programme was founded in the mid-1980s, and the collection now features contemporary artworks of all disciplines from Norway and fine art photography, video and new media artworks from the rest of the world. The Statoil Art Collection includes pieces from Richard Billingham, Lynne Cohen, Pieter Hugo, Vik Muniz, Tom Sandberg and Jone Kvie.
Featured image: Preparing for the exhibition, Statoil Art Collection, via statoil.com