Jackie Wullschlager shows how to do corporate collecting right in the Financial Times with this review of the Fleming Foundation show of Scottish Colourists:
Lehman Brothers favoured dynamic American prints: following the company’s collapse, works by Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana that once adorned its offices were sold off at auction in November. The Royal Bank of Scotland’s collection, the largest corporate art holding in Britain, speaks of a 250-year-history of dignity and canniness pierced with 21st-century ineptitude: from rare portraits by Johann Zoffany to David Hockney to a Callum Innes painting discarded after a cleaner doused it with ammonia, and a Frank Auerbach sold because it was deemed too difficult for employees to live with. Following RBS’s rescue in 2008, the future of its 2,000 art- works, most never shown publicly, is uncertain.
A model of corporate excellence in acquiring, showing and conserving art is the Fleming Foundation. In 1968, David Donald, a director of Flemings Investment Bank, suggested brightening up new City offices in London’s Crosby Square with a few pictures. Unhampered by business plans, budgets or committees, he concentrated on Scottish pictures – a nod to the bank’s Scottish roots – and bought staggeringly well. Chase Manhattan acquired Flemings in 2000 but the Fleming family preserved the collection in a Mayfair gallery that has become London’s unofficial embassy for Scottish art. This month, it celebrates its 10th anniversary with a complete display of the jewels of the collection: 30 Scottish colourist works acquired when Samuel Peploe, John Duncan Fergusson, George Leslie Hunter and Francis Cadell were still the rock-bottom-poor relations of British modernism.
A Prime Selection of Scottish Colourists (Financial Times)