Big corporations and luxury brands that support the arts is nothing new. I wrote about it in the past after attending a panel named “Art as a Corporate Value” in which corporations’ representatives explained the different motives of collecting art. I also mentioned the research “The Role of Corporate Art Collection in Corporate Identity Management: The Case of Deutsche Bank” which can give you a deeper look into the motives of corporations in collecting art. While the motives are changing from corporation to corporation, it seems that many of them are taking a more active role in the art world. Not only sponsoring exhibitions, art catalogs, purchasing artworks, supporting artists’ residencies and art fairs, but also taking a new approach by financing the whole artwork production.
One case that has been shown at Venice Biennale, and later on at Art Basel, was the collaboration between Rolls Royce, the car manufacture, and the artist Isaac Julien. During the 56th Venice Biennale, the artist previewed a new commission which was followed one month later in a site-specific installation during Art Basel.
Stones Against Diamonds is the name of this new artwork – a video art installation which was designed as site-specific for the church at Elisabethen Kirche – a neo Gothic Church with a 72 meter high tower, which was built in 1857-1864. Julien, a well-known British artist, created the work after getting to know the Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi. Her letters inspired him to create an art work which explored the architect’s love for semi-precious stones. Rolls Royce, through its Art Program, was the support of the whole production, sponsoring a team of 50 people who traveled to isolated places in Iceland to shoot the project in the cold weather. Before filming in Iceland, the artist visited Rolls Royce’s factories to learn about “the unique blend of peerless engineering and timeless hand-craftsmanship that goes into every Rolls-Royce motor car”. Rolls Royce Art program is the company’s way to reflect its excellence in car manufacturing by supporting art projects, site commissions, art talks and collaborations with artists that are looking to create innovative, new projects.
Richard Carter, Director of Global Communications, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars said, “We are honored to have enabled renowned artist Isaac Julien to create such a captivating work for the Rolls-Royce art program. The scale of the work and inspiration found in celebrated architect and designer Lina Bo Bardi, and her love for spectacular natural materials, resonates with Rolls-Royce Bespoke design – where the finest components come together to create the best cars in the world”.
But besides Rolls Royce, more companies presented art projects during Art Basel. Audemars Piguet, the luxury watch manufacture, through its new Audemars Piguet Art Commission and in collaboration with the artist and composer Robin Meier, presented the “Synchronicity” commission. The art work/installation is “fragile and evocative work in which seemingly unrelated, living, biological entities and technological objects coexist in seemingly harmonious synchronization,” as written on the company’s website which you can read in the following link.
When trying to analyze the benefits of these contributions of the corporations to the artist and the art world, the first and foremost is the benefit of having sufficient financial resources. These large and wealthy corporations have the resources which can include financing, talent and knowledge that can benefit the artist. But what I think we should also take into consideration is their ability to use their network to open doors and bring on board the best people in their fields. In Meier’s case, Audemars Piguet Art Commission established a connection with professionals and organizations such as the Papiliorama Foundation, that belongs to the world Meier was looking to reflect. He got to work with selected group of highly specialized scientific collaborators from the fields of genetic engineering, computer science, firefly breeding, cricket chorusing, bioacoustics and cognitive sciences from multiple countries. Besides these benefits, think about the ability to use the corporations’ media and PR departments to communicate the existence of the artwork. There is no argument that its good for the corporations’ image, but what about the large number of people who didn’t attend Art Basel and still want to learn about and watch these artworks?
I guess these trends will just increase. The question of whether corporations should sponsor the creation of art is arguable. I believe it’s important that artists will be able to create innovative ideas, large projects that explore new fields and challenge our thoughts and world perception. It’s beneficial for all: for the artist, for the corporation and for the public. It easy to disregard the corporations for their financial resources, but just like in Meier’s case, corporations have the ability to foster a better and larger scale of professionalism.