Brian Siegel, Global Arts, Culture & Heritage Executive, Bank of America, tells Arts & Collections how the financial institution brings art to its local communities
For more than 50 years, Bank of America (BofA) and our predecessor institutions have been collecting art as way to enhance our corporate offices and to demonstrate our connection with the local communities we serve. Today, that collection has grown to more than 30,000 works of art, including paintings, fine prints, photography, sculpture and more.
Since the early days of the collection, we have maintained the belief that companies should collect art so that it can be appreciated – not to simply to watch it appreciate. We believe art is something to be shared and celebrated and, in that spirit, we not only use the collection throughout our many offices and financial centres, but we also lend artwork from our collection to museums through a program called Art in our Communities®.
Established in 2009, the Art in our Communities program has loaned complete exhibitions at no cost to more than 170 museums and nonprofit galleries around the world. Currently there are a more than a dozen different exhibitions available including Andy Warhol Portfolios: A Life in Pop, which includes rare complete portfolios and individual prints by Warhol, starting with iconic works from the mid-1960s to the series of monoprints Vesuvius, created in 1985; Luces y Sombras: Images of Mexico, more than 100 photographs spanning more than 85 years of Mexican culture and history; The Wyeths: Three Generations, exploring 74 paintings and drawings by artists from three generations of the Wyeth family; and Vision & Spirit: African American Art, composed of more than 100 paintings, prints, drawings, photographs and mixed-media works by 48 artists born in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; among others. We also have exhibitions focused on the environmental movement, and a wonderful collection of portraits of artists developed by other artists.
Art in our Communities helps institutions generate revenue while offering the public an opportunity to experience important works of art. But it’s about more than just making the artwork available. By incurring shipping and other costs, we enable organizations to retain any revenue generated through the presentation of these exhibitions.
For example, last summer the Denver Art Museum hosted our Modern Women/Modern Vision exhibition, which celebrates women’s bold and dynamic contributions to the evolution of photography in the 20th century. Thousands of museum visitors were able to view and engage with the exhibition during its tenure, and we are proud to have been able to partner with the museum to make this special opportunity happen.
Equally important as sharing our collection is making sure it reflects the rich and diverse nature of our employees and the communities we serve.
Like many museums and institutions, we have begun the process of identifying artwork that can be sold so that we can redirect those funds to enhance our collection with new works. Moving forward, our focus will be on continuing the conversation between the many post-WWII artists represented in the collection and subsequent generations. Priority will be given to acquiring unique, contemporary art by emerging, mid-career, and underrecognized artists. In the past year alone, we have added representation from Korean, Argentinian, African American, Native American, and Jamaican artists.
In addition to lending art, we also focus on promoting cultural sustainability by funding the conservation and restoration of important works of art as part of our Art Conservation Project (ACP). Established in 2010, the ACP program has provided funding for more than 225 projects in 40 countries on six continents. By investing in the preservation of these important cultural treasures, we celebrate the heritage and shared experiences that unite us all.
Last year, we were privileged to support the restoration of an artwork by one of the world’s most renowned and fabled artists: Michelangelo. A team in the British Museum in London has been using cutting-edge technology to repair damage on the Epifania (1550-1553), a cartoon executed in black chalk on 26 joined sheets of paper. The piece is one of the great treasures of the British Museum’s Prints and Drawings Department, and once the conservation is completed, the artwork will be part of a major exhibition.
As stewards of one of the world’s largest corporate art collections, we have a responsibility to not only care for the works of art we own but also to share them with our communities so that they can be celebrated and appreciated.
We believe in helping cultural institutions thrive and in supporting them as they seek to educate and enrich the lives of their visitors.
And, we are called upon by our values and our commitment to diverse communities to continue building a collection that honours and recognizes all people, cultures, and traditions.