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Posts Tagged ‘bank art collections’

Why do banks buy art and will they continue to? BBC podcast

Posted by artradar on December 15, 2009


ART PATRONS BANK COLLECTORS 

How has the 500-year-old tradition of art patronage by banks changed, particularly after the events of 2008? Why do banks collect art? Will they continue to collect after the Financial Crisis and if they do will their reasons for collecting change? Razia Iqbal asks art advisors and staff of banks including Deutsche Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland in a Wise Buddha production made for BBC Radio 4. 

Turning the World Upside Down Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor, Turning the World Upside Down III, Deutsche Bank Collection

Art has been bought by banks for all kinds of reasons over the centuries. In the Middle Ages art patronage helped banking families wash away the sin of usury and gain social status.  In more recent times art was bought to decorate boardrooms and for investment. Pre-recession banks came full circle and art collections were actively used for image management again. The events of 2008 have now created a double pull for banks with art collections: should they sell which would help their image of prudent fiscal management or should they keep and share their collections with the public who now own many of them.  Iqbal’s programme hints at intriguing echos: there may no longer be a need to atone for Christian guilt but corporate guilt is perhaps another matter. The podcast is no longer accessible but here are some snippets. 

Bank collectors buying wider range of media 

Alex Heath, Managing Director of Independent Art Consultants which sources art for Barclays Bank amongst others says that the type of works which banks are interested in buying have changed in the recent past. “It is now less about straight painting and prints” and more about bringing “variety into the workplace”‘ with other media. 

Art now part of marketing mix 

In the past many banks bought works for decorating public spaces and board room he explains and over time the pieces accumulated into collections. More recently though he says that art is used consciously as part of the marketing mix. He describes how, in his work with clients, the marketing department or agency is his first port of call where he will ask “‘What do you want to say about the bank?” and from there he will generate art ideas which will complement the marketing message. 

Deutsche Bank recognised by peers 

Asked if he thinks that banks are cautious in their purchasing decisions, favouring traditional over contemporary works, he explains that there are banks which are taking leading positions as collectors of contemporary art and particularly singles out Deutsche Bank as “‘doing very well” at this. 

Art for staff, art to stimulate intellectual curiosity 

Alistair Hicks adviser to Deutsche Bank, which has a collection of over 56,00o pieces, shows Iqbal some of the works in the Deutsche Bank lobby, corridors and board rooms and explains the bank does not buy for investment.  Deutsche Bank’s primary purpose in buying art which began in the 1970s as an initiative called “Art in the Workplace” is to stimulate the intellect of its staff. “A good banker has to be curious about what is going on in the world and artists play a leading role in expressing current ideas”. 

In the lobby an early spot painting by Damien Hirst is reflected in an Anish Kapoor sculpture called “‘Turning the World Upside Down”‘. Iqbal is invited by Hicks to come around and inside the “almost spiritual” sculpture to experience its echo effect. Artwork is so intimately integrated into the environment of the office that boardroom are named after artists and Kapoor’s sculpture, affectionately known as ‘The Silver Ball’, has been adopted as a meeting point “We are in the Freud room. Meet you at the Silver Ball in 5”.

Art atones for sin 

Banks have traditionally been patrons of the arts with the first significant example occurring in Italy in the 1300’s when a banker commissioned a chapel containing religious artworks to atone for the sins of the family who had gained their wealth as bankers at a time when money-lending with interest was regarded as sinful by Chrisitians. 

Art for social status 

Iqbal explains that the Medicis in the fifteenth century, developed the concept of patronage considerably but used art not to atone for the family’s sins but rather to elevate its status. Artworks funded by gains from the prosperous Medici bank became a means to help the family gain public prominence, access and power and eventually noble status. 

What will banks do with art collections after the Financial Crisis? 

In an interview with the management of the Royal Bank of Scotland which since the Financial Crisis 2008, is now almost entirely public-owned, Iqbal learns about their strategy for the Barclays art collection going forward.  

Acknowledging that the trust of the public has been lost and taxpayer money needs to be refunded, the art collection strategy of RBS comprises three parts: art of historical importance will be retained, loaned out and made accessible to the public, some art will be retained for decorative purposes and the strategy towards the remaining part of the collection is to become “net sellers”. 

Though the reasons why banks buy art may change over time, Iqbal points out that banks’ tradition of collecting art stretches back over 500 years so probably won’t change any time soon. Do you agree? Leave your thoughts below. 

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KCE

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Corporate art collecting in decline since the eighties – Wall Street Journal

Posted by artradar on October 17, 2008


CORPORATE COLLECTORS TREND

Corporations in distress sell art collections

Another bankrupt corporation, another corporate art collection on the block. Actually, no one quite knows what Lehman Brothers, the financial services firm that filed for bankruptcy protection on Sept. 15, will do with its 3,500-piece art collection, but with works by such bankable artists as Jasper Johns and Andreas Gurky, it is likely to be on sale at a major auction house near you.

Companies in trouble sell whatever can raise them money, and art collections are but one more asset. Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm brought down by the Enron scandal, for instance, turned two floors of its Chicago offices into a gallery showroom in 2002, selling more than 2,000 artworks over a five-day period. In 2006, the New York futures broker Refco Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection the previous year while under investigation for hiding $430 million in debt, sold 321 photographs for $9.7 million at Christie’s auction house over a three-day period.

“The major sales of corporate art collections that I’ve been involved with have been distressed situations,” said Joshua Holdeman, senior vice president at Christie’s, who in 2003 had also helped both Enron and Seagram sell artworks from their collections when he worked at Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg. At other times, corporate consignors of art at the auction houses are not identified out of fear that the sale “may be seen as a sign of distress,” he said. “In the grand scale, of course, no one’s art collection will get it out of trouble.”

Mergers and acquisitions, office moves are other causes

Corporations get rid of their art collections for other reasons than doom and gloom, of course. Mergers and acquisitions bring in new leadership that simply doesn’t want the old stuff around. Or yesterday’s art doesn’t work in today’s new building.

Take Unilever. In 1982, the company had bought a 92-work collection of black-and-white museum-quality photographs for its then-new headquarters on Chicago’s Wells Street. Assembled quickly by an art consultant, the collection included such renowned photographers as Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, André Kertesz, Irving Penn and Alfred Stieglitz.

By 2003, however, the company was ready to move again to a somewhat smaller building on North Michigan Avenue, and so it was time for the art to go. “The old space was classical and elegant, with muted colors, and the black-and-white photographs worked,” said Jessica Jolly, facilities manager at Unilever. “The new building had a different design idea, and people wanted bright colors.” In fact, they didn’t want art at all but large-scale photographs of the company’s products splashed about on the walls. “We show images of Suave shampoo, Ragu bottles, tea packages — images employees can connect to.”

Deaccessioning by gift to public alternative to sale

To Unilever’s credit, the company held a public sale of the 92 photographs, raising $400,000 that was donated in full to the Marwen Foundation, which provides free art classes to Chicago’s disadvantaged youngsters in grades six through 12.

More recently, Altria, which had changed its name from Philip Morris Cos. in 2003, disposed of half of its 700-piece art collection when it relocated its headquarters to Richmond, Va., from New York City’s Park Avenue last March. “Our Richmond headquarters now features a lot of Virginia artists,” a spokesman said. The move ended the company’s 25-year-long relationship as a branch of the Whitney Museum of American Art, but its parting gift to the city was almost 200 works from its collection (featuring pieces by Jennifer Bartlett, Romare Bearden, Philip Guston, Betty Saar and Andy Warhol) to 10 institutions, including the Whitney, the Studio Museum of Harlem, the Brooklyn Museum of Art and El Museo del Barrio.

Heyday of corporate collecting over

Once proud buyers of A-list art, corporations are taking a second look at collections. Amid the corporate downfalls and takeovers, we are seeing signs that the heyday of corporate art collecting is over, replaced increasingly by budget-priced decoration.

Volatility a cause

“The 1980s was the high point in corporate art collecting, but the crash at the end of the ’80s started the process of killing it off,” said David Galenson, an economics professor at the University of Chicago and the author of the 2006 book “Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity.” “Company executives found out that the art market could be a very volatile thing that they didn’t want to be part of.”

Astronomical prices another factor

Other factors contributed as well. The prices for top-flight art have risen to astronomical levels, draining corporate resources, and the type of art that is expected to appreciate in value “costs money to maintain, in terms of storage and climate control and state-of-the-art facilities in which to display it,” said Mary Lanier, former director of the Chase Manhattan Bank art collection and now a private corporate art adviser. Shareholders and board directors have less and less tolerance for major art expenditures, according to Princeton University economist Orley Ashenfelter, who noted that “firms, especially when the economy starts to sour, recognize their need to stick to their core business.” The result has been a 20-year-long disposal of one corporate art collection after another.

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