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
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.