Banks have great treasures behind their marble veneers, as demonstrated by their art collections.
UBS own around 40,000 art objects, including works by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, and JP Morgan Chase is known for having a significant collection, established 50 years ago by David Rockefeller.
It was also notable that, as Lehman Brothers assets were sold off, they included a major collection of art works from Roy Lichtenstein to Damien Hirst.
The value of such collections is unfathomable, having been built up over so many years, so I was particularly intrigued to pick up a book from Standard Chartered at the Eurofinance conference last week called: “Banking on People: a Visual Expression of the Standard Chartered Culture”.
Front Cover artwork: Miao Girl with Silver Necklace by Shen Ming Cun
The book is all about the artworks that adorn Standard Chartered’s Head Office at One Basinghall Avenue, London.
The art hangs in their hallways and foyers for all to see, and most of it is modern portraits.
Painting: Girl reading on a Bench, by Michele Del Campo
The book tells the story of how previous CEO’s and Chairmen collected a lot of old world art. For example, Sir Patrick Gillam, Chairman from 1993 to 2003, bought a piece of art by Edward Lear in 2000 to celebrate the opening of StanChart in Lebanon.
Guess what he bought?
A piece by Edward Lear called A distant view of Beirut, with Mount Lebanon above from 1866.
The thing about such art is that it’s expensive to buy – most Edward Lear landscapes sell for over $20,000 a piece – and so when Sir Patrick was succeeded by Mervyn Davies, a new approach was taken based upon buying new works of art that reflected the culture and history of the bank.
The theme is therefore people.
Zhang Ziyi, by Eleanor Reed
Many of the paintings have been sourced from the UK and the BP Portrait Awards, but more recently has diversified to allow paintings to be hung acorss the bank’s 1600 global offices.
How the decisions are made is really interesting.
Peter Sands the CEO and David Stileman, CEO of Standard Chartered Americas, are the key decision makers.
In the book, David is quoted as saying:
“Tom (Tempest-Radford, Curator) sends me images and I look at them on my iPhone and decide at once. It sounds awful but in fact looking at something on a small screen gives you a good sense of its visual impact. If a picture works on an iPhone, it is probably going to be able to make an impact in a busy office space.”
There are over 100 artworks in the book by artists ranging from Corinne Dalle-Ore to Li Yueling, Shen Han Wu to Jane Lewis and more.
Here are just a few:
Harriet White's Bob (left); and Josie McCoy's Cate Blanchett
Two Sean Henry sculptures:
The Dreamer, by Valery Koroshilov:
p.s. on bank-related art and history matters, you may remember that a wee while ago, I visited HSBC’s archives in the East End of London, a massive warehouse of history.