As­sets Class

Swiss bank UBS, spon­sor of Art Basel in Hong Kong, Miami and Basel, has one of the largest col­lec­tions of cor­po­rate art­work, which they in­creas­ingly source from Asia, re­ports

Hong Kong Tatler - - Life -

rt is a touch­stone of the cul­ture that pro­duces it and re­flects who we are—as a so­ci­ety, as an in­di­vid­ual and as an in­sti­tu­tion. It re­minds us of our col­lec­tive her­itage and hints at our fu­ture.

Thou­sands of com­pa­nies col­lect art, but only the elite make an art out of col­lect­ing. The aim isn’t al­ways fi­nan­cial re­turn, ei­ther. Pos­sess­ing art has be­come cen­tral to cor­po­rate iden­ti­ties—a cul­tural in­vest­ment as much as a fi­nan­cial one. Swiss bank UBS boasts one of the world’s most im­por­tant cor­po­rate col­lec­tions of con­tem­po­rary art from the past 50 years. Some of the works also came from cor­po­rate col­lec­tions built by two of UBS’S ac­qui­si­tions: Paineweb­ber, founded in 1880, and SG War­burg, in 1946.

As a re­sult, UBS holds work by icons of the 20th cen­tury such as Roy Licht­en­stein, Ed Ruscha and Lu­cian Freud, along with Alex Katz, Cy Twombly, Anselm Kiefer and Sig­mar Polke. The bank has also been buy­ing more Asian art. “Forty per cent of our an­nual art bud­get is now spent on Asian art,” says Stephen Mccoubrey, the Asia-pa­cific cu­ra­tor of the UBS Art Col­lec­tion.

UBS has snapped up works by Main­land

Stephen Short

China’s Yang Fudong, Hong Kong’s Wil­son Shieh (left), South Korea’s Haegue Yang (be­low) and In­done­sia’s Christine Ay Tjoe. The medium has shifted, too—the bank has also bought video works by Chen Chieh-jen, Cao Fei, Hi­raki Sawa and Qiu Anx­iong.

“Anita Mui in the 1980s is a per­fect work to add to our Hong Kong con­tem­po­rary art col­lec­tion,” says Mccoubrey of one of the city’s most iconic pop stars. “The work shows Anita as a genre of her own and con­firms Shieh as a quin­tes­sen­tial Hong Kong artist.” He con­tin­ues, “Many of Haegue Yang’s works are huge sculp­tures, too large for us to dis­play. How­ever, her won­der­ful work with STPI in Sin­ga­pore, dis­played at Art Basel in Hong Kong last year, was a rev­e­la­tion. The highly con­cep­tual but hand­made se­ries is closely al­lied to ’60s pop art, with pack­ag­ing and la­bels as its sub­ject. It is cen­tred on the his­tory of Sin­ga­pore and its trad­ing ports as the home of the spice trade. The pa­per and the ink that make up each print are made of the spices within the packages which they rep­re­sent.”

The larger spice work in the same se­ries by Yang was bought by the Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art in New York last year. “We have since bought an­other col­lage work by the artist, which will be dis­played in the UBS VIP Lounge at Art Basel in Hong Kong this year,” says Mccoubrey. See you there.

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