Corporates open the door to their hidden art

By Josie McNaught

William Somerville and Bruce Hassall of PwC with Mode by Denise Kum. Photo / Michael Craig
William Somerville and Bruce Hassall of PwC with Mode by Denise Kum. Photo / Michael Craig

The money guys running Lehman Brothers were spectacularly clueless at making money, but perhaps they should have listened to their art buyers.

Their art collection realised US$12 million ($14.5 million) when it was auctioned after their fiery demise following the global financial crisis.

Corporate collections here don't reach such giddy heights but the ones open to the public next week as part of Auckland Art Week have grown to a healthy figure on the asset registers.

Simon O'Connor, managing partner at Ernst and Young in Auckland, said the firm had supported visual arts here and overseas for more than 20 years. That included sponsoring exhibitions and pro-bono activities.

"We are proud of our brand in the arts which allows us to engage with our people and broader communities," O'Connor said.

At accounting firm PwC, a desire to collect the new, unknown and sometimes odd-ball drove William Somerville to put together its collection between the early 1990s and when he retired in 2002.

Somerville said prices were significantly lower. "I never paid more than $10,000 for a work but the collection is worth considerably more now than when I put it together."

The BNZ is another opening its doors and has 500 pieces, including 10 McCahons.

See: www.artweekauckland.co.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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