Every corporate art collection has its' own reason for existence. There are both small and big company art collections. Some have a long history whilst others are recent initiatives. Company art collections have either large or small budgets, thus there are varying degrees of freedom to acquire works of art.
We found four company art collections that were willing to help with this investigation. In this chapter, we will describe the said four: Achmea, DSM, De Nederlandsche Bank and SD Worx. For each, we asked the following questions: what is the nature and extend of the company art collection, is the collection only visible to employees of the company itself or is it open for the public, how long has it been in existence, information about the reputation of the company and many other things will be covered in this chapter. All these elements define, both directly and indirectly, the overall management and strategy of the subject companies. This will also be reflected in the company goals, structure and culture and also determine the nature of each company art collection (as we will see in chapter V). In describing the four different company art collections one after another, the differences and similarities between them will become clear. Chapter VI is entirely dedicated to these variations and parallels and we will discuss in-depth both the similarities and dissimilarities of each in chapter VI.
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The company Achmea was founded in 1995 as an alliance of companies in life insurance, general insurance, healthcare, banking and investment. Until 2005, every company had its own company art collection and thus their own individual art policy. After 2005, Achmea developed a central art collection policy, this being one of the responsibilities of Achmea Facilitair Bedrijf. The first step was to do a stock-take of all the art, from then onwards, the department started to develop a coherent art collection policy for Achmea. The focus of the collection is on contemporary international art, with the emphasis on after-war Dutch works. The works are required to contain one of the three essences that are essential for the company: imagination, innovation or realisation. As Achmea is an alliance of different companies, with each having its own office, the art is spread out over seven different locations. The purpose in the first place is to decorate the spaces, especially the representative common rooms. The art is visible for all employees, and also the visitors of the company. The Achmea Kunstcollectie has approximately 1000 pieces in all disciplines. Only in the head office in Tilburg is it possible to have guided tours; restricted for adults, due to the places where the art is exposed. Children would be considered disruptive to the working environment. The average tour is restricted to once every three weeks. The art itself is circulated between the seven different places, thus every room acquires a new appearance, every so often without the necessity of employing an interior designer. The person responsible for overseeing the changes to the works of art and is also in charge of buying new pieces. In this way, art gives a topic for conversation; it is part of the company. The art collection has its own website: www.achmeakunstcollectie.nl. One finds information about the collection as a whole and the individual pieces too. The website is accessible to everybody; no password is required. Sometimes Achmea holds an auction for its' employees to purchase works from their collection; however, only graphic works are offered for sale. Achmea is extremely open in its' communications. It has no exhibition room, but this can change at short notice. A new office is currently being built in Leiden, the opening due in mid 2011. This building will also have an exhibition space where exhibitions can be held showing the Achmea Kunstcollectie as well as loaned art. At the moment, there is no catalogue or folder concerning the company art collection. The reason for this is that the collection is seen as pure decoration. With an exhibition room in the near future, this will be probably result in such a folder being produced. Achmea stands for innovation. That's why they want to do something with the new technologies. Achmea thinks on kind of iPhone application for the entire art collection.
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Interpolis, part of Achmea, sponsors different cultural activities: Stichting Fundament (Triënnale Lustwarande), the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam and Museum Beelden aan Zee in Scheveningen.
De Nederlandsche Bank
De Nederlandsche Bank's art collection has its' roots in the early twentieth century. At the start, art was acquired to decorate the rooms of executive directors and the other representative spaces. In 1982, the Governing Board decided to give the expansion of the bank's art collection a more structural character. The art collection is located in the head office in Amsterdam, and counts approximately 1200 pieces of painting, sculpture, glass, ceramics, photographs and graphics. An art committee was installed, consisting of employees, and was given a mandate to follow De Nederlandsche Banks art policy on a predefined budget. The purchasing policy is to acquire art by emerging and talented artists from the Netherlands and international countries. The art is employed to give functional enhancement to the building, but also to create a pleasant working space. At the same time, the collection serves to make known to employees the collection of modern and contemporary art. The company intranet permits every employee to choose works from the collection. They can borrow the art work for a maximum period of three years, and give it a place in their office. After this period, the loaned work comes back on the intranet and another employee gets the chance to choose this work for his or her office.
The regularly exhibitions are held in its gallery rooms. By inviting young Dutch talent in this way, the company helps promote current Dutch art. Guided tours are on request. At the start of every year the art committee accounts for its purchasing policy with an exhibition of recent acquisitions. Art lovers on a mailing list are kept informed of the exhibitions at De Nederlandsche Bank on a regular basis.
De Nederlandsche Banks collection policy is formed by different objectives. The main objective is to provide a functional enhancement to the building, spread out a positive atmosphere and stimulate employees' creativity. At the same time, art invites contemplation and reflection. In addition to pursuing internal objectives, the collection also functions in the sphere of social and environmental corporate responsibility, with sustainability and quality as driving principles.
De Nederlandsche Bank does no cultural sponsoring at all. However, they allow loans of the works of art to museums for exhibitions.
DSM is the former state-held coal company, which the Dutch government founded in 1902. When the production of coal was ended in early 1973 and the company developed into one of the world's leading chemical companies, DSM was chosen as the new name, inspired by the English version of the old name (Dutch State Mines).
The basis for the DSM Art Collection goes back to 1952 when, for the fiftieth anniversary of the company, the Organisation of City Councils in Limburg set aside a sum of money to acquire art. Since 1952, when an acquisition committee was set up, DSM as appropriated spends an annual budget for acquisitions.
The DSM Art Collection consists of more than 2000 works in the disciplines of painting, sculpture, photography, glass, ceramics and design. Initially, the emphasis was on art from the province of Limburg, but since 2004 the collection has been expanded with art by other Dutch and international artists. The collection is built around the three themes that are very important for the company: mankind, nature and science and technology. Once a year, special attention is given to an internationally renowned artist from a country in which DSM is active.
The art collection is located in the head office in Heerlen and the office in Sittard. Its primary purpose is to make the working environment more enjoyable, to decorate the office buildings and enhance the representative quality of such. Secondly, to introduce employees to contemporary art and stimulate their interest in this area. The art collection contributes to DSM's image and corporate identity. At the head office in Heerlen DSM organised seven exhibitions a year, at the office in Sittard five or six exhibitions a year, all exhibitions including flyers. These exhibitions feature a variety of contemporary art. Part of the DSM art collection is exhibited in the Heerlen and Sittard offices, open to employees during the office hours and for the public on weekdays between 6 and 9 PM. In 2002, a book about the art collection was published: DSM Art Collection.
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DSM sponsors regularly attend different cultural events or art projects: Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht (2002), Glass Palace Frits Peutz in Heerlen (2003), the restoration of a few Rembrandts of the Mauritshuis (2005). In 2009 the DSM Art Committee commissioned Lucy + Jorge Orta to create a unique art project based on the company's Sustainability Report. DSM X-Factor is a competition (between mid 2009 and October 2010) for young artists from Europe, America or Asia to create a piece of art (a painting, photograph or sculpture) which depicts the X-factor philosophy of DSM.  (Appendix x)
At the general website of DSM a part is contributed to art. Even a small selection of the collection, one will find some information including a photograph. This is also accessible to everyone.
SD Worx specialises in human resources management providing a full-service offer to its clients: payroll, HR and legal advice. SD Worx is a commercial company who focuses itself on the business, without losing sight of the fact that the company also has a social responsibility to the different stakeholders. It is from this point of view that SD Worx for Society supports cultural projects. SD Worx for Society was founded with the aim of promoting corporate social responsibility, particularly in the broader area of human resources management.
SD Worx for Society organises various activities linked to corporate social responsibility. The company works in an environment in which diverse people and organisations be active. It is crucial here to treat staff, clients and suppliers right, as well as considering the broader environment with which SD Worx comes into close contact.
The art collection of SD Worx is split up into three different parts: the icon collection, contemporary works of art and architectural integrated art.
In 1975, the founder of SD Worx bought an icon collection of 450 pieces. He bought it from a private collector who needed the money. Today the collection counts approximately 900 pieces. Since 1985, it has been at the same location, a space on the eighth floor with no widows, a room with no other purpose, but ideal for showing the icon collection. On the website of SD Worx, one finds a whole chapter on this icon collection. This is the only marketing of this particular collection, and there are regularly requests for guided tours. SD is please to grant these requests.
Art integration is the next interest of SD Worx concerning art. The company grew quickly with very little notice. The need for new buildings was urgent. SD Worx wants to be seen as a company that is young, innovative and dynamic. The company feels that art is extremely helpful in communicating this message. With the acquisition of every new building, SD Worx gives one artist the commission to integrate some of his art. The artist gets carte blanch to display the work, with only one restriction: the art made for the building must not require any follow up care. For example, a work of art with light is not accepted, because once in a while the light must be replaced.
The third part of the SD Worx Art Collection is the contemporary collection. This is an environ of 460 pieces, most of them being bought for the purpose of decorating the office walls. The collection focuses on Belgian artists.
On the ground floor of the head office of SD Worx in Antwerp, almost all exhibitions are by a contemporary Belgian artist. Everybody who walks by and who is interested in art can walk into the building during the office hours and see the exhibition, no entry fee being required.
SD Worx does not normally produce catalogues and have no plans to do so in the future, there being one exception. In 2000 SD Worx celebrated its' 55th birthday and four catalogues were made. Each catalogue focused on one aspect of the collection. It was no surprise that people were the main subject of these four catalogues.
We see that every company has its' own motives to create an art collection. In most cases the collection is just grown into the major collection it becomes. However, the motive nowadays for continuing with such art collections has changed over the years. The philosophy behind current collections and the mission or the working of the company is very important.
The criteria for buying the art pieces is mostly based on the intuition of the buyer, or the work of art most relevant to the key activity of the company. Acquisition of the pieces happens with the use of different channels. The accessibility of the art is typical of that particular company and the nature of what their core business is. Every company is proud on its' art collection. They use external communications. The same applies to the disclosure of the collection, the employees do not have any problem with seeing the pieces because they hang on the walls in their offices, it is however, another story for the general public. The companies do not have much stock; they want to display all their art. The collection is present in the head office or the different offices of the company. The communication about the collection happens through internet, intranet, newsletters, catalogues, loans, and other external channels.
We see similarities, but also differences. These findings are a few of which we will discuss more in-depth in chapter VI.