More Chinese Companies Investing In Corporate Art

Domestic Chinese Companies Following International Counterparts In Building Art Collections — Primarily Chinese

Image: CIB / SOHO China

Image: CIB / SOHO China

Mainland Chinese art collectors may still be somewhat new on the art scene, but in recent years another group of highly motivated, well-funded entrants has also joined the party: domestic Chinese companies looking to invest in corporate collections. While major financial corporations like JP Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank and UBS boast some of the oldest and largest corporate art collections in the world, having invested hundreds of millions of dollars in recent decades to amass and display an impressive array of works by top artists, Chinese companies — many of them inspired by their international counterparts — are just getting started.

Much like the individual Chinese collectors who have made a splash in the global auction world over the past two years, Chinese companies building corporate art collections appear to be motivated equally by investment soundness, patriotism, and a desire to “humanize” company image while still gaining face.

As a China International Business article points out this week, Chinese companies — many of which are looking to catch up to their international counterparts — and joint ventures are investing heavily in new art collections, most of which are predominantly Chinese contemporary pieces by local artists. From the article:

Displaying paintings and sculptures in lobbies, offices and boardrooms is meant to demonstrate that corporations do have beating aesthetic hearts; even people indifferent to art can appreciate that a colorful and imaginative display livens up dull and bland corporate décor.

Hanging adventurous modern work in a company’s public space is something of a new phenomenon in China, partly brought about by the increasing numbers of international companies setting up shop, some of which are energetic promoters of art. In the past, if a company in China did have an art collection it was probably because the chairperson had a taste for a particular genre and wanted to show off his or her taste – and wealth – to underlings and visitors.

Deutsche Bank has already road-tested the concept by displaying an exhibition of cutting-edge art at the Beijing headquarters of Zhong De Securities, a joint venture between the German company and Shanxi Securities. The works on display, by young artists based largely in Songzhuang, the artistic community on the edge of the city, are provocative, edgy and distinctive; there isn’t a scrap of traditional calligraphy, or a misty mountain scene, in sight.

“This is an innovative venture between the financial community and the arts community, and is aimed at having a platform for the exchange of views,” says chief executive officer Charles Wang. “It will be helpful for inspiring a sense of innovation in the financial community and providing a tasteful working environment by creating an artistic atmosphere.”

The article goes on to mention other companies that are putting a premium on collecting artwork both for investment and pride, listing Beijing’s Opposite House hotel, Ogilvy & Mather’s O-Gallery, Minsheng Bank (previously on Jing Daily) and others among the most adventurous and motivated collectors of Chinese contemporary art.

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Art & Auction, Culture