The FT reports that corporate art collections remain far more healthy that advertised. Looking at Deutsch Bank’s collection,
The institution is one of hundreds of companies, typically in financial services, that see art not just as a decorative necessity but also an opportunity to stimulate the thoughts of their employees, support artists through purchases of their work and, perhaps most importantly, to project their desired image to clients, staff and visitors.
About 600 companies have collections, according to Global Corporate Collections, a book published last month by Deutsche Standards. 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 — which 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,” said Stephen McCoubrey, UBS regional curator for Europe and Asia.