Date published: 10/09/2015

Having artwork in a State or National archive is one of the highest accolades given to artists, as it is a sign that their work is an essential part of art history and will be conserved for future generations. Collectors choosing work for public collections consistently make timely and appropriate acquisitions, as well as commissions, of artworks from mostly established mid to late career artists. Often, there is a conservative, well researched and consistent approach applied to public art collections which enables them to portray an image of unparalleled cultural value. Their role is essential in the preservation of cultural history and identity of a place.

At the other end of the spectrum, private companies and corporations, collect art to fill meeting rooms, offices and foyers. Internally to the company, this art collection creates a vibrant, creative and often most importantly, desirable workplace. In the private sector the reason to collect art can be as simple as an enthusiastic high-level executive with a love of art, or as complex as a mandate in a reconciliation action plan, expression of company values, or more commonly, the desire to portray a good public image. Regardless, these collections form a hugely important role throughout art scenes internationally. Purchases for private collections are often driven by a specific interest in the artwork; a fascination with a specific type of art or demographic of artists.

Aside from common misconception, corporates do not buy art simply for financial return – purchasing artwork by emerging or mid-career artists is often a very risky investment. The Swiss banking giant UBS holds a collection of over 35,000 artworks by mostly young and emerging artists. Their mantra of “supporting living artists at an integral stage of their career” summarises the ideology behind many of the world’s most significant corporate art collections today. The inception of this model dates back to 1959 when David Rockefeller opened the first dedicated corporate art collecting program at the Chase Manhattan Bank.

Buying art without a financial objective does not restrict corporate collections from spending a huge amount of time and resources in what and when they acquire. Support to raw and evolving art movements is an investment in the future of arts excellence that will empower and progress creativity in its purest form. As time drives on, and consistent smart purchases are made, the collections themselves become important historical resources. Top corporate collections that reach this level fulfil another important cultural role by maintaining a steady flow of loaned artworks filling major public art institutions the world over.

Words by Jack Pam

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