With over 5,000 pieces of art in its collection, the Julius Baer Art Collection has become a desirable destination for emerging Swiss artists. Fostering young talent is a mission the bank proudly accomplishes. Its objective, then and now, is to buy and display contemporary Swiss art with the purpose of supporting artists who, at the time of a first purchase, are not yet firmly established, but clearly have a great deal of potential.
For Hans J. Baer (1927-2011) art was not something to be shut away but something to be appreciated daily, allowing it to become integral to the culture and environment of the company. Much of the bank’s artwork is off-limits to the public, but can be seen on the walls of the Zurich, Switzerland headquarters or in one of the other offices spread across five continents and in over 25 countries and more than 50 locations. Sometimes the Julius Baer art team runs special tours, exhibitions and events, and lends its pieces to museums.
As one would expect, the artworks are excellent conversation starters when clients come in, adding some flavor of Swiss heritage to everything the bank does.
“Our clients are very interested in art. I believe that after guiding a client through the collection that they will connect very differently with the company thereafter,” said Barbara Staubli, Julius Baer’s art collection curator. Staubli joined Julius Baer in 2011, after working at the world-renowned Hauser & Wirth gallery. Before that she studied art history at the University of Zurich.
In order to be put on the watch list by the Julius Baer Art Committee, an artist must either have been born in Switzerland or live in the country. The bank is on the lookout for art at public exhibitions in art galleries and museums, and the young talent is purchased by the bank.
The Julius Baer Art Committee believes that this kind of support is what an emerging artist needs the most as he or she creates confidence to move forward, and of course, it helps with the cash-flow too. The bank then follows the artist through their career and forges closer ties with them. Today, the bank boasts the works of Roman Signer, Pipilotti Rist, Ugo Rondinone, Dieter Roth, John M. Armleder, and Lutz & Guggisberg.
If the bank is strict about an artist having close connections with Switzerland, it is much more open about the form of art itself. The collection contains paintings, drawings, photography, installations, video art, and objects created with new technology. In 1995, the committee purchased its first audio and video installation ‘Edna’ by Pipilotti Rist, which is part of a series of videos titled ‘Yoghurt on Skin-Velvet on TV’, today considered one of the collection’s gems.
Collecting art has a very long tradition at Julius Baer and dates back to the 1930s. In 1981 Hans J. Baer decided that the collection strategy should be precise and reflect the values of the bank itself. This is when the underlying theme – quintessentially Swiss art through the eyes of contemporary artists – was established. It was also when the Art Committee was formed. Unlike other banks, this particular Art Committee includes actual employees who get to see the artworks on an everyday basis. The committee also includes relationship managers, a head of strategy research, and, interestingly, no one from senior management. “It’s very important,” said Ms. Staubli, “as it reflects that art is something for all employees and a vital part of our corporate culture.”