Agata Plater-Zyberk

New patron – a new collector? Corporate art collections in Poland. Case study

There can be many reasons why business supports art, and corporate patronage can take many forms. I described one of them: running a corporate art collection. Today, art is purchased not only by patrons as persons allocating funds for art in accordance with their interests and discretionary choices, but also by new patrons – large corporations, with strong capital, image strategies and new art-focused CSR programmes. It is not only a new patron, but also a new collector – art collections of large companies, curators hired to decorate office spaces, books of company art collections and a narrative about support for the art market and artists.

In an online publication by the Arts & Business the question “Why does business sponsor art?” is answered that companies do it neither from an obligation, nor from a sense of a higher, noble commitment or belief that art needs support and deserves it. They do this because in this way they achieve at least one of their many business goals. And the basic goal of corporations is to make a profit – after all, only thanks to this they can survive. Why do corporations collect art? There are four most important motives for such activity, both indicated by researchers and appearing in corporate narratives – a decorative (introducing the ‘category of originality and luxury’ to the company interiors), an image (works of art influencing the ‘authority and perceived status of the company’), desire to revive the workplace and stimulate employee creativity, and investment. I tried to examine which of the above reasons are the strongest and most accurate for the collections I analysed.

Today, corporations have become an important customer on the art market. Mutual relations between business and art have been formed for decades and result from changes in global cultural policy. Many researchers see the genesis of the current form of corporate collections in transformations in cultural policy in the UK and USA in the 1980s, when the creation of collections by companies entered the wider context of commercialization of the world of art during this period. In the world, corporate collecting has been shaped in various forms for a long time, but in Poland it could develop only in the post-transformation reality, that is, in an extremely difficult period for the domestic art market. Companies in Poland are just beginning to notice the potential benefits of such activities, in corporate narratives often referred to as pro-cultural, aimed at supporting national art. The analysed collections are much younger than their international counterparts. This is due to the fact that the art market is not mature enough, and its development was possible only after 1989. This also applies to the collector’s market, a sector that is still developing.

Polish corporate art collections were virtually never studied nor elaborated. Lack of available research and critical studies of this phenomenon and limited access to data on the actual corporate art collections in Poland, as well as limited literature on the subject, have motivated me to undertake my own research. Based on it, I described five Polish corporate collections that I managed to reach: collections of the Hestia Artistic Journey Foundation, collections of the White & Case law firm, the ING Polish Art Foundation collection, the PKO Bank Polski collection and the Europejski Raffles Hotel collection. I took into account issues such as the nature and profile of each collection, the process of purchasing works, employee relations with the collection, and activities addressed to employees and related to the collection. I also analysed narratives about collections in materials related to them, as well as the availability of information about a given collection.

Annex to the work is a kind of illustration. I was interested in the space in which the works from the examined collections function. These are places are not available to everyone – spaces of daily work, not strictly for display. Corporate collections differ in nature, profile and purpose. However, the common part for all of them is to serve the company as an image strategy. Paintings, prints, sculptures and new media installations accompany corporate employees, becoming the background of office work. It was a specific, small-scale attempt to display works from the corridors of offices and hotels. In my book, I transferred works from selected Polish corporate collections to the virtual reality of the archetypal, universal and out-of-time image of the office. The spaces from the visualization do not have their counterparts in reality. The style and method of publication is a reference to office documents, such as reports, and its unusual size is intended as a reference to album books.

Studies at the Faculty of Visual Culture of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (2016–2019). Her interests include theoretical research in the field of art theory, history, and market, and visual culture. Intern at the ING Polish Art Foundation (2019). She collaborates with the Piktogram gallery in Warsaw. Works at the Xawery Dunikowski “Królikarnia” Museum of Sculpture (since 2018).