MOD­ERN DAY MEDICIS

Once the do­main of the priv­i­leged few, col­lect­ing art is now a do­main that sees cor­po­rates at play. Lead­ing bank­ing in­sti­tu­tions, mega ho­tel chains, tech­nol­ogy gi­ants and in­dul­gent al­co­hol brands go all out to col­lect prized pos­ses­sions such as re­splen­den

MillionaireAsia India - - Feature - By Sam Lal & Rama Ahuja

It has of­ten been said that if some­thing ex­ists, some­body some­where col­lects them. Art is no ex­cep­tion to this ex­pres­sion. Art has been col­lected since time im­memo­rial. Some of the world’s ear­li­est civ­i­liza­tions like Egypt, Baby­lo­nia, China, and In­dia re­veal that pre­cious ob­jects and art­works were dis­cov­ered not only in the palaces and trea­suries of kings but also in their tem­ples, tombs and sanc­tu­ar­ies. Some of the most renowned pa­trons in the his­tory of art, were the Medicis of Florence, Italy, known for col­lect­ing as well as spon­sor­ing ne art. Be­gun by the founder of the Grand Duchy of Tus­cany, Cosimo I de’ Medici, col­lec­tion was en­riched by his sons and suc­ces­sors. In ad­di­tion to nest paint­ings, the Medicis’ col­lec­tion in­cluded nat­u­ral-his­tory col­lec­tions, nu­mer­ous math­e­mat­i­cal, nau­ti­cal and cos­mo­graph­i­cal in­stru­ments as well as Greek and Ro­man an­tiq­ui­ties. So im­mense was the re­spect for art dur­ing the 15th cen­tury that the city of Florence boasted of more wood­carvers than butch­ers, re-it­er­at­ing the fact that art was im­por­tant even meat. Home to 54 work­shops for mar­ble and stone, Florence em­ployed 44 mas­ter gold and sil­ver­smiths, at least thirty mas­ter painters, lit­er­ally earn­ing it­self the ti­tle; the cap­i­tal of arts. Such was the power of art col­lec­tors.

In re­cent times, many no­table col­lec­tors have not just sup­ported artists but also given them a plat­form to show­case their art. Peggy Guggen­heim was the daugh­ter of Ben­jamin Guggen­heim, and when her fa­ther died in Ti­tanic, she in­her­ited a fair sum when she was just 21-years-old. With the goal of buy­ing an art­work a day, used her in­her­i­tance to buy Euro­pean and Amer­i­can art, in­clud­ing works by Pablo Pi­casso, Joan Miro Rene Magritte. In­ter­est­ingly, Man Ray and Sal­vador Dali were just un­der­ground artists known pri­mar­ily in Europe. It was she who pushed their ca­reers. To­day, the Peggy Guggen­heim Col­lec­tion Mu­seum in Venice has be­come one of the nest mu­se­ums of mod­ern art in the world and is also Venice’s most vis­ited at­trac­tions.

Another no­table con­tri­bu­tion to the art world was made by the Amer­i­can col­lec­tor cou­ple; Her­bert and Dorothy Vo­gel, who had just one pas­sion; art. Herb Vo­gel, a postal worker from Harlem, and Dorothy Vo­gel, a li­brar­ian at the Brook­lyn Pub­lic Li­brary, as­sem­bled one of the most im­por­tant pri­vate art col­lec­tions of the 20th cen­tury, stock­ing their tiny apart­ment in Man­hat­tan, New York with Chuck Close sketches, paint­ings by Roy Licht­en­stein, and sculp­tures by Andy Goldswor­thy. In 2008, The Dorothy and Her­bert Vo­gel Col­lec­tion: Fifty Works for Fifty States dis­sem­i­nated 2,500 pres­ti­gious and valu­able works of con­tem­po­rary art across the United States of Amer­ica. Each state re­ceived 50 of them.

Amongst cor­po­rates that col­lect art, David Rock­e­feller is the pi­o­neer, hav­ing started his ac­qui­si­tions of art­works in 1959 for fam­ily as­so­ci­ated Chase Man­hat­tan Bank. To­day, the JP Mor­gan art col­lec­tion is amongst the world’s old­est and largest with over 30,000 works. Sta­tis­tics re­veal that the to­tal num­ber of art­works in cor­po­rate col­lec­tions is in the mil­lions, with the value in the bil­lions. Be­sides mak­ing for a sound in­vest­ment, not only does art help a cor­po­ra­tion project a par­tic­u­lar im­age and im­prove re­la­tions be­tween the com­pany and the com­mu­nity, but also adds char­ac­ter to its bare walls while boost­ing the em­ploy­ees’ cre­ativ­ity. Here are a few in­dus­tries known to take their art col­lec­tion as se­ri­ously as their busi­ness, if not more.

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