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Modern Medicis and their art collections at Bonhams exhibition
This definitive book offers a fascinating look behind the scenes into what was traditionally the private world of corporate art collections. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A book that celebrates the great corporate art collections and programmes of the world will be launched at Bonhams HQ, 101 New Bond Street, on January 13th 2014, followed by a two-week exhibition of selected works from leading collections until January 24th.

Authors Peter Harris and Shirley Reiff Howarth have set out to document the best corporate art programmes worldwide - the first time this has been attempted. It has taken them some five years to compile the work, and point out that were the art they examine found in one museum, it would be one of the finest in the world.

This definitive book offers a fascinating look behind the scenes into what was traditionally the private world of corporate art collections. Reviewing progress in the field of corporate art programmes and illustrating examples of best practice, the book explores how art collections are utilized in ever more creative ways, and examines the involvement of business in promoting and supporting museums and artists through a wide-ranging variety of art programmes. It documents how many hundreds of companies worldwide – from major blue-chip corporations to hospitals, hotels, airports and retailers – are using art to benefit both their businesses, and to promote their core values and philanthropic interests to both their staff and to the wider community. In many cases these programmes offer a tantalizing first glimpse of treasures previously hidden from public view behind closed doors.

It is thought that the first corporate collection was formed during the Renaissance in 1472 by the Monte dei Paschi bank in Siena, a collection that survives, and thrives, to this day. By the mid 1990’s half of the Fortune 500 companies and another 2,000 companies in the USA and Europe were actively collecting art. Estimated to be worth billions, some of the many treasures to be found in this fascinating book have been seen by the public on loan to variety of museums in travelling exhibitions, but others have never been seen before.

The authors note that reasons for corporate art collecting are many and various and while investing time and funds into an art programme can be seen to be outside the range of a company’s core business activity there are tangible benefits to them – to se business jargon, corporate art is a ‘win-win-win’ activity:

• The company wins because art in the workplace can boost staff morale and creativity. Art helps a company project it’s corporate identity in a memorable way, and the acquisition of high quality artwork establishes a company as a progressive organization -with a dynamic approach to business.

• The Community wins – both locally and nationally – because it has a local champion endorsing the cultural life of a region.

• The artist wins, because they attract commercial patronage and thus establish greater exposure and new audiences for their work.

The exhibition, to be held at Bonhams recently opened galleries, runs from January 14th to 24th and features paintings, prints, sculpture, photography and video art from a selection of major companies in Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Scandinavia.

The companies represented are: ABN AMRO Neuflize Vie (France), Canary Wharf, Clifford Chance, Fleming Wyfold Art Foundation (UK), EON (Germany),Fundacion Telefonica, Fundacion Mapfre (Spain), Hiscox, HSBC (France), Simmons and Simmons, Statoil (Norway).

The exhibition comprises approximately four works from each corporation, with a predominantly modern and contemporary slant. The loans include a Magritte, a Delvaux, as well as: Cadell, Tracey Emin, George Grosz, Otto Dix, Roberto Matta, Antoine Tapies, Richard Hamilton, Ellis O’Connell and Cornelia Parker.

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