How is UBS Art Collection related to its corporate functions?— interview with Deborah Ehrlich

Photo: UBS Art Collection

Photo: UBS Art Collection

UBS holds one of the most distinguished corporate art collections around the globe, and recently presented The Art Market 2017 annual report with Art Basel in Miami. In our post Art Basel Miami report, Deborah Ehrlich, the Regional Manager APAC for the UBS Art Collection shares her view on how the collection is related to the functions and corporate culture of the bank.

To what extent do you see UBS’s relationship with art as something that is functional, in the sense of providing services to clients, and to what extent is it more about branding, attracting new clients to the bank through the visibility of sponsorships and your collection?

It's both. There are a few different areas in the bank that function together as Global Art. There is the Art Competence Center, which is the art advisory arm, and then there's Art Sponsorships, where we have different activations like Art Basel and other different cultural institutional relationships, and then we also have the Art Collection, and Arts Forum, which is responsible for conferences and lectures. There is definitely a branch that exists to serve clients directly if they're looking at building their own art foundation or museum or private collection. That is an important part of the bank, but that's separate from what the sponsorship and collection teams do. They are are all very different forms of expertise.

Do you think UBS brings a particular banking industry perspective to how it engages with and collects art?

We’re collecting contemporary art primarily in areas where we do business, and when we start to put together a strategy for artists that we’re looking for, we’re mostly referencing the kinds of dialogue it will have with existing works in the collection, and what makes sense for the region and for our audience. As a financial institution, we produce a lot of reports on many different kinds of industries, but it is separate from how the Art Collection behaves on a day-to-day basis.

Your work emphasizes education around the collection. Why is that a priority?

Because otherwise it stands alone. Art represents creativity, and creativity is exactly the message the bank wants to relay about the way we do business: that we are innovative, that we think outside the box - whether that's in disruptive technologies or financial products. We all have to think creatively and be open. There’s also the fact that the bank has been collecting for so long, which is another way that we’re demonstrating our commitment to that ethos.

How would you situate the UBS collection alongside the Fondation Louis Vuitton collection, the Pernod Ricard collection, or the Cartier collection?

We’ve never really compared our collection with other collections. It’s not part of the discussion. It’s more about what we are trying to do as an organization. We are a bank that has been made up of 300 different institutions. Many of them had their own different collections, all of which were unified in 2004, so there are very different storylines, from the PaineWebber collection to the Union Bank of Switzerland collection and the Swiss Bank Corporation collection. We are thinking about the context we came from and the direction in which we want to go, but we aren’t necessarily thinking about the contexts of other corporate collections because they serve their own audiences and purposes.