In a previous post I mentioned a professional panel I attended during Arco Art Fair.  . The panel’s main subject was “why companies collect art.” I have to confess that it was exciting to learn why companies are collecting art and I decided to search for more information. I came across research that was published in 2007 in the International Journal of Arts Management. The research “The Role of Corporate Art Collection in Corporate Identity Management: The Case of Deutsche Bank” established the assumptions based on previous researches and tried to examine these assumptions on Deutsche Bank.

Deutsche Bank’s art collection is probably the biggest art collection in the world. In their collection they have more than 60,000 artworks, more than leading museums. Though I will use Deutsche Bank results I won’t focus here on the implication of the research on Deutsche Bank but rather on the assumptions that were presented in the research. If you are interested in reading the full research you can purchase it here.

Cashflow by Olaf Metzel, Deutsche Bank Collection in Frankfurt.  Image courtesy of Deutsche Bank

Cashflow by Olaf Metzel, Deutsche Bank Collection in Frankfurt. Image courtesy of Deutsche Bank

The three main motives that come up regularly are financial causes, an influential CEO who is passionate about art and the desire to create a positive image. These motives can be elaborate and expand to others such as:

  1. Investment or other financial benefits – these can be tax-related such as tax deduction of donations and reduction of capital by investing in art. Though the tax-related aspect is common in the discussion one can’t ignore the capital gain from having an art collection. Art prices are increasing in value over time and one stunning example: art prices rose for almost four decades in a row – from 1940-1986 (Goetzmann, 1993).
  2. Corporate management is passionate about art and therefore dictates the policy of collecting art.
  3. Support the company brand and increase the corporate image among the public and its stakeholders – having an art collection imposes a certain image of the brand on people inside and outside the organization. By having an art collection, and especially contemporary, the corporate signals to its employees “we are updated, we are young, we live in the present.” Deutsche Bank’s engagement with contemporary, experimental and innovative art sends the message that Deutsche is “about new products, new business, moving forward, young people, creativity and being where it’s at,” as mentioned by one of its managers.
  4. Philanthropy or social responsibility – many companies refer to support of art as a way to support the community.
  5. Customers’ and employees’ stimulation by enhancing the work environment – art creates a more aesthetic and beautiful environment for both the clients and the employees. Deutsche Bank for example allows its senior employees to choose the artworks for their offices. There are regular art tours for the employees, an online magazine and lectures about art. “Seeing artworks every day will have a creative effect on the minds of the staff,” as one senior manager at Deutsche said.
  6. Boosting sales by impressing customers – customers perceive Deutsche Bank as a big, powerful institution that has a high degree of sophistication and clout and as such it is a trustworthy bank you can do business with.
  7. The owner’s influence – the owners (and not necessarily the management) are the ones who are passionate about art and they push their companies to collect art (see for example the case of Abi Rosen, the founder of RFR, a real estate firm).
  8. Corporate hospitality in the sense of creating a better and nicer environment.
  9. Transmitting a message about the corporate’s culture such as values of diversity and modernity as perceived in the Deutsche case
  10. Business competitive advantage – business companies and especially financial institutions can use their knowledge in art to expand their services and offer art buying and selling consultancy services to their customers.

The motives for collecting art as we see are varied but whatever the reason for collecting art I believe that the existence of the art in business companies is what matters. Art is an intellectual space that can foster innovation, out of the box thinking, critical thinking (you should check this post!) and creativity among employees. Moreover, engaging with art, I believe, develops sensitivity and understanding for the others. If you are not convinced about supporting the arts try reading “10 reasons to support the arts” to see why it is good.

Business owners, are you convinced to start your business art collection? And as an employee, what do you think? Is it exciting for you to have art in your workspace? I would be happy to get your thoughts and experiences. Contact me.

Inside Deutsche Bank’s art collection by Financial Times:

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