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Corporations do more to put art on public display

Published: Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST
Caption
(Mel Evans)
A woman walks near a large painting by Robert Swain that is displayed in the world headquarters of Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, N.J. on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. Corporation art collecting has a long history that can be traced to the 1400s when European banks commissioned artists to create murals. But using art as part of a company's business plan is a modern concept in North America that emerged at the turn of the 20th century.(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Caption
(Mel Evans)
Two prints from Sharon Sutton's Space Time series hang in the office of the CEO of Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, N.J. on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. The prints are part of the art collection displayed throughout the world headquarters. Corporation art collecting has a long history that can be traced to the 1400s when European banks commissioned artists to create murals. But using art as part of a company's business plan is a modern concept in North America that emerged at the turn of the 20th century. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Caption
(Mel Evans)
A large painting by Robert Swain is displayed in the doorway to a dining room at the world headquarters of Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, N.J. on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Caption
(Mel Evans)
Henry Moore's bronze sculpture, Draped Reclining Mother and Baby, sits outside Johnson & Johnson's I.M. Pei-designed world headquarters in New Brunswick, N.J. on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Caption
(Mel Evans)
Johnson & Johnson's exhibitions coordinator, Heather Cammarata-Seale, stands on a balcony overlooking artwork displayed on different levels of the company's world headquarters in New Brunswick, N.J. on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. Corporation art collecting has a long history that can be traced to the 1400s when European banks commissioned artists to create murals. But using art as part of a company's business plan is a modern concept in North America that emerged at the turn of the 20th century. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Caption
(Mel Evans)
A person looks at her computer as she sits near a display of artwork from Matheny's Arts Access program in the world headquarters of Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, N.J. on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. The program, from the Matheny Medical and Educational Center, empowers individuals with disabilities to create art without boundaries. Most corporate collections are accessible to the public by appointment only. Some companies have their own galleries. Johnson & Johnson has two at its headquarters in downtown New Brunswick, one for special and touring shows and the other for New Jersey artists. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Caption
(Mel Evans)
People stand near a display of artwork in the world headquarters of Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, N.J. on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. Most corporate collections are accessible to the public by appointment only. Some companies have their own galleries. Johnson & Johnson has two at its headquarters in downtown New Brunswick, one for special and touring shows and the other for New Jersey artists. Like other companies, it has a policy that allows employees to choose pieces from the collection for their work space. "Not only can employees select the art for their office, they can have a conversation with an art historian about what the art is and what it means," said in-house curator, Michael Bzdak, adding that 90 percent of the collection on display. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Caption
(Gloria Rodriguez)
In this June 6, 2012 photo provided by Weber Shandwick, a woman looks at the painting ìKitzsteinhorn Vî by Walter Niedermayr at an exhibit from Bank of America's collection in Madrid, Spain. (AP Photo/Weber Shandwick, Gloria Rodriguez)
Caption
(Julio Cortez)
This Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 photo shows a sculpture, center, by Hans Van de Bovenkamp at the Neiman Marcus store at the Garden State Mall in Paramus, N.J. The department store is among more than 1,500 corporations in the world with art collections. The majority are banks and financial institutions. Well over 100 have substantial collections numbering 800 or more objects. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Caption
(Julio Cortez)
This Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 photo shows a piece entitled "Compostion I", right, by Roy Lichtenstein next to a suit by Isaia Napoli at the Neiman Marcus store at the Garden State Mall in Paramus, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Caption
(Julio Cortez)
This Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 photo shows an installation by Dale Chihuly at the Neiman Marcus store at the Garden State Mall in Paramus, N.J. Neiman Marcus is among more than 1,500 corporations in the world with art collections. The majority are banks and financial institutions. Well over 100 have substantial collections numbering 800 or more objects. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Corporate art buying in North American has fallen off since the boom days of the 1970s and 1980s, but even as the economy improves, some companies are buying less art but doing more to put their works out for the public to enjoy.

There are about 1,500 corporations in the world with art collections, with some of the largest held by banks and financial institutions, according to the International Directory of Corporate Art Collections.

Shirley Reiff Howarth, the editor of the directory, said that since 2000, the percentage of collections listed as “ongoing,” or still being added to, has dropped from 55 percent to about 40 percent. Many corporations are limiting new purchases for new buildings, expansions or renovations.

“While the volume of buying has been reduced, educational programs have increased and the collections are used for more than simply enhancing the walls of the company and its image,” Howarth said.

Bank of America, with more than 30,000 artworks created from several mergers, has one of the largest collections in North America.

Instead of buying new art, it focuses on the arts programs it has created, including Art In Our Communities, which has lent fully curated exhibitions to 60 museums worldwide since 2008.

“This is something that resonates with the communities where we [lend] the exhibitions,” said Allen Blevins, who oversees the bank’s collection and art programs.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based company currently has 16 traveling exhibitions, representing 2,500 works. Among them is a show at the Museo del Novecento in Milan of Andy Warhol’s most important silkscreen portfolios.

“The level of appreciation has become more about education,” Howarth said.

At Johnson & Johnson’s sprawling I.M. Pei-designed headquarters in New Brunswick, there are two galleries that feature continuous exhibitions, one for special and touring shows and the other for New Jersey artists. They are open to the public by appointment.

Like other corporations, the medical and pharmaceutical giant also lends its artworks. A drawing by Alice Aycock was featured in a retrospective of the artist at a Long Island museum and a George Segal sculpture was included in a major traveling exhibition.

It also has presented other programs based on employee or community interest, including a show on New Jersey actor, opera star and civil rights activist Paul Robeson that traveled to several U.S. cities.

At Neiman Marcus, one of the few luxury retailers to boast an art collection, the art-appreciation concept is extended to its customers by turning all 42 of its stores into galleries.

At its Paramus, N.J., store, a Roy Lichtenstein screenprint decorates the men’s department and a whimsical display by glass sculptor Dale Chihuly dominates its store windows.

The retailer has about 3,500 pieces in its collection, which was started in 1951 with the commission of Alexander Calder’s large-scale mobile “Mariposa,” now on display at its Chicago store.

Neiman Marcus’ in-house curator Julie Krosnick said the idea from the beginning was to give customers “something that is culturally stimulating and thought-provoking, something that is not about buying and selling merchandise.”

On a recent shopping trip to the Paramus store, Esther Seiger of Monsey, N.Y., said, “You see all this pretty art and it puts you in a buying mood.”

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