The usually private world of corporate art collections from around the world will be opened up for the first time thanks to a new book which has taken five years to compile.
Authors Peter Harris and Shirley Reiff Howarth have produced A Celebration of Corporate Art Collections Worldwide, featuring works ranging from pre-Columbian gold and Renaissance paintings to Contemporary art from the likes of Tracey Emin.
The book is being launched with an exhibition at Bonhams' newly redeveloped New Bond Street headquarters running from January 14-24, titled Modern Medicis and their Art Collections.
It is thought that the first corporate collection was formed during the Renaissance in 1472 by the Monte dei Paschi bank in Siena, a collection that thrives to this day.
By the mid 1990s half of the Fortune 500 companies and another 2000 companies in the USA and Europe were actively collecting art. Estimated to be worth billions, some of the many artworks to be found in this book have been seen by the public on loan to a variety of museums in travelling exhibitions, but others have never been seen before.
The book also looks at corporate art programmes and how, in many cases, these can give a first glimpse of treasures previously hidden from public view.
The Bonhams exhibition features paintings, prints, sculpture, photography and video art from a selection of major companies in Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Scandinavia. Firms represented are: ABN AMRO Neuflize Vie (France), Canary Wharf, Clifford Chance, Fleming Wyfold Art Foundation (UK), EON (Germany), Fundacion Telefonica, Fundacion Mapfre (Spain), Hiscox, HSBC (France), Simmons and Simmons, Statoil (Norway).
It includes about four works from each corporation, with a predominantly modern and contemporary slant. The loans include a Magritte and a Delvaux, as well as work from Cadell, Emin, George Grosz, Otto Dix, Roberto Matta, Antoine Tapies, Richard Hamilton, Ellis O'Connell and Cornelia Parker.
Peter Harris has been working in the field of corporate art for over 30 years and was chairman of International Art Consultants for much of that time, advising companies worldwide on the benefits and best practice of corporate art programmes. He is also chairman of the Wapping Arts Trust.
Shirley Reiff Howarth has been researching the field of art in corporations for 30 years as the creator and editor of the International Directory of Corporate Art Collections, published biannually since 1983.
• The 296-page book, with 320 illustrations, is being published this month by Wapping Arts Trust. ISBN 978-0-9926448-0-2