McDonald’s Corporate Collection

Mali Anderson

Christopher Pelley, By the Sweat of the Brow, oil on canvas.

The relationship between businesses and art has grown steadily with the rise of industry. As the establishment of corporate collections peaked in the 1970s and 1980s, an important collection was launched: the art collection of the McDonald’s Corporation.

Today, the McDonald’s corporate art collection is nearly 4000 works strong. The art is displayed in all the domestic corporate office locations including 30 regional and satellite offices.

“Though a few pieces were purchased in the early seventies, the collection did not begin in earnest until 1978 when Fred Turner hired Susan Pertl to purchase art for the new corporate campus. The majority of the artwork is by American artists,” says curator Cheryl Ogilvie.

Turner served as CEO for the McDonald’s Corporation from 1974 until 1987 and replaced McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc as Chairman in 1977. He is now Honorary Chairman of McDonald’s Corporation and a life trustee of Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Robert Winslow, Continuity, Black Granite.

Although the collection includes such esteemed artists as Dale Chihuly and Norman Rockwell, the focus of the collection is on supporting emerging artists. In fact, Chihuly was an emerging artist when McDonald’s purchased his work in 1988.

“The collection was built on the work of emerging and mid career artists. It has been gratifying to watch so many artists as their work has evolved and become more widely recognized,” says founding and current curator Susan Pertl.

Located in Oak Brook, Illinois, McDonald’s corporate campus has won awards for its respect to local communities and surrounding natural environments. The Lodge and Hamburger University opened in 1984 and 1983 respectively; the corporate offices were constructed in 1988 and are enhanced with eleven outdoor sculptures on the wooded grounds. The pieces, eleven of the 500 sculptures within the collection, include Richard Hunt steel sculpture “From the Sea” and Robert Winslow’s black granite sculpture “Continuity.”

A further exploration between art, business and stimulating employee creativity through sculpture is demonstrated in McDonald’s commission of Robert Winslow’s “Totem.”

Tom Czarnopys, Birch Hunting Suit, mixed media.

“’Totem,’ which is made of black granite, was carved on campus grounds. Creating the work on site provided an opportunity for employees to watch the progress of the sculpture and to interact with the artist,” continues Pertl.

Though McDonald’s is not currently making acquisitions, regional, national and international art was purchased for the collection. Acquisitions were made through artists, galleries and both M.F.A. and B.F.A. programs. Interested in courting corporate buyers? The curators of McDonald’s collection recommend maintaining documentation of pieces throughout a career. The documentation “provides prospective buyers a sense of the evolution of the work.”

Employees and corporate guests appreciate the entire collection. There are only a few pieces that are not on daily display. Occasional group tours are provided to arts and/or community organizations and the organization has loaned pieces of the collection to museums for public view.

UPDATE: Just last night I saw this on TV…