Milan/Moscow 2 new venues for art;Corporate Art

Contemporary Art

In an article for DesignCurial, Shumi Bose visits OMA’s new galleries in Milan and Moscow: the Fondazione Prada and the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art. Noting that “the mythologies [between OMA and Miuccia Prada] have become inextricably intertwined” over recent years, “the purpose of [the Fondazione Prada] was to produce a range of spaces for the creation, display of and engagement with art; what results is the built realisation of a particular ethos, affording the protean OMA a return to form. And it was always going to be stylish.” Bose’s flowing description of the building and its spaces, which she ultimately praises as “a place which will bear return,” leads into an equally compelling description of Garage for which she recognises its clear “contribution […] in supporting, indeed composing, the very narrative of Russian contemporary art.” Read the article in full here (on four pages). —————-


JUST beyond the turnstiles of Deutsche Bank’s London reception sits a large object resembling several giant dollops of creamy Plasticine. As the viewer comes close, it turns out to be a sculpture made entirely of dice. “Secretions” by British artist Tony Cragg, a trained scientist, tackles questions about the structure of the universe. But some might find the frisson of gambling it evokes entirely appropriate for the lobby of a global investment bank. The piece, which sits alongside a polished metal sphere by Anish Kapoor and one of Damien Hirst’s “spot” paintings, is part of a collection of about 60,000 works owned by Deutsche Bank. The institution is one of hundreds of companies — typically in financial services — that see art not just as a decorative necessity but an opportunity to stimulate the thoughts of their employees, to support artists through direct purchases of their work and, perhaps most importantly, to project their desired image to clients, staff and visitors. About 600 groups have collections, according to Global Corporate Collections, a book published last month by Deutsche Standards, and many of the biggest are focused on contemporary art. Banks’ art-related activities have expanded in recent years. Deutsche and UBS sponsor big international art fairs — Frieze and Art Basel respectively — that they use as an opportunity to gather their most important clients in one place. The draw for wealthy clients is that the banks can smooth access to the most sought-after gallerists, bypassing the need to “prove” their credentials as big art buyers. But shareholders do not expect their capital to be used to place bets on the art market — especially not at today’s prices. SO IN order to avoid accusations of speculating, corporate collectors typically shun auctions or the secondary market, instead going directly to artists or their dealers. UBS, which has about 35,000 works, decided 10 years ago to buy art exclusively from the primary market. “That means that whether we make a good acquisition or not, we’ve still supported the artist,” says Stephen McCoubrey, UBS regional curator for Europe and Asia. In fact, companies’ willingness to buy direct and hold on to artworks for many years can work in their favour on prices: gallerists trying to establish an artist’s career hate to see their work “flipped” for a quick profit. McCoubrey, for instance, says he had bought art works in the heated Asian market at “far below auction prices”. Contemporary art has increasingly become the preferred medium of such collections, as businesses try to align themselves with cutting-edge, innovative and creative work. Friedhelm Hütte, global head of Deutsche Bank Art, says contemporary art has become a much more important part of people’s lives. “We have more new museums and art magazines, art fairs, biennales and festivals. People have more interest in museums and a lot of artists are treated almost like pop stars.” Prices for this segment of the market have soared past those for other types of art in the past decade, their upward trajectory checked by the crisis but quickly recovering since 2010. According to the Tefaf Art Market report by Arts Economics, values of postwar and contemporary art rocketed by 600% in the past decade to 2014. In the 19th or early 20th century, corporate collections might have reflected the aesthetic whims of a powerful founder or CEO. But these days most companies put in place formal processes for selecting and buying work and curatorial teams to oversee it. There is also an onus on lending work for public display, running tours or using collections for education. Loa Haagen Pictet, chair of the International Association of Corporate Collections of Contemporary Art, says: “The important thing is that companies run a collection professionally. They manage it, show it, and have a proper database inventory and conduct activities directed at the public.”

MOST corporate curators disavow selling works purely for profit. Nonetheless sales regularly happen: Sotheby’s sold $75m of corporate art in 2014 (minus the buyer’s premium). There are several motives. Even in good times companies may decide to put works on the market to fund new acquisitions or because, after buying another company, they find themselves with a collection that does not suit their preferred public image. After buying US asset manager Scudder Investments in 2002, for instance, Deutsche sold off works from its collection, typified by Midwestern agricultural landscapes. Purchases of art largely ground to a halt in 2008 and 2009, but curators say this was because the financial slowdown halted banks’ plans for new corporate buildings, whose decorative needs remain the primary motive for a buying spree. Hütte of Deutsche Bank Art says: “Stopping acquisitions was never a serious option. Of course, there were times when we spent less or more. But it depends which projects are on the agenda — new buildings, exhibitions or other programmes.” Acquisitions have since recovered: UBS, for instance, started buying again in 2009 and its purchases are now back to 2007 levels. After decades of collecting contemporary art, some companies have accumulated highly sought-after works. Most will loan them out for public exhibitions when asked, usually without a fee. But the bigger collections will sometimes put on more ambitious temporary exhibitions of their own selected works: UBS has held shows at MOMA in New York, London’s Tate Modern and Beijing’s National Art Museum of China. Companies promote the social responsibility of their art activities but corporate collecting also remains what it has always been: good for business. As Kai Kuklinski, CE of insurer Axa Art Group, wrote in his foreword to Global Corporate Collections: “Broadly speaking, the nature of the patronage afforded to art by both private and mercantile wealth hasn’t fundamentally changed since the height of the Medici age.” Most big corporate art collections are held by financial services companies but some industrial businesses have built up sizeable troves of their own. Statoil, the Norwegian oil and gas producer, has 1,350 works acquired since the early 1990s. These are not only displayed in its administrative offices: on its Grane oil platform, a monumental portrait of a woman by Anne-Karin Furunes stands beside the helicopter pad, fashioned from perforated aluminium to withstand the rigours of the North Sea. Others build public galleries for their work, such as Shiseido, the Japanese cosmetics company, which owns 2,500 modern Japanese paintings, sculptures and installations. Its works are put on revolving display at the Shiseido Art House, built in 1978 and free to the public. For most companies, contemporary art is à la mode, but some set narrower criteria: Ritter Sport, the German maker of square chocolates, has assembled more than 1,000 works in a blocky public gallery near its Waldenbuch headquarters. They are either in the shape of a square or explore the idea of the square.