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Corporate Art Collections: Chicago’s Invisible Market

Art storage at the CAMK

Art Storage at the CAMK

The art world already hosts an exclusive reputation and is often considered small, intimidating, and transient. When the general public wants to see some art, a museum is the obvious solution. For more seasoned spectators, braving a gallery opening is intriguing. For buyers, selecting a dealer is often more spellbinding than finding the art, while auction houses can service this need as well. Deduction in the art market continues into innumerable, smaller brackets. Anyone who wants it knows art is less for the public than a commodity dressed up in some cases by price but mostly by where it is hidden. Hidden is the operative word; displayed artworks fall into the first category. In fact, a great deal of highly valued art is only seen by a few people. Every major museum stores three times what is hung in their permanent collection. Private collectors lend, donate and sometimes exhibit their pieces in museum-like spaces, much like the Rubell’s new DC gallery, but for the most part, enjoy the said privacy of the collection. Corporate art collections are another sect of this intriguing practice, most likely claiming ownership of most of the art-owned-but-unseen in the world. Microsoft, UBS, and JP Morgan Chase have long and fruitful traditions of collecting art and own many precious and extremely expensive pieces. Like private collectors and museums, very few people are able to view these corporate collections (or even know about them), but unlike the others, corporate offices are much more inclined to share information when asked for it. After all, the art’s appreciation will fail to increase the cash flow of any of these companies, but the philanthropic exposure and notoriety for the company’s interests and standards can skyrocket with a press release highlighting a commitment to Outsider art or Mexican muralists, for example. Chicago Art Collector’s online magazine has begun an investigation into the rich culture of Chicago’s corporate art collections. Stay tuned for a guide to the practice in general, a consulting firm leading this niche industry, and spotlights on several collections that have been sitting right under your