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Corporate Art Adding Life to the Workplace

December 17, 1985

PURCHASE, N.Y. (AP) _ At the world headquarters of PepsiCo Inc., $8 million worth of art on the company’s grounds blends with clusters of maples, redbuds and flowering daffodils.

The PepsiCo Collection of 38 sculptures, exhibited over 140 acres in Westchester County, includes Henry Moore’s ″Double Oval,″ which overlooks a family of Canadian geese; Miro’s ″Personnage,″ which looms over a water-lily pond; and Auguste Rodin’s ″Eve,″ set beside a bank of English ivy.

Corporations such as PepsiCo ″are the modern equivalent of departed royalty,″ says Russell Page, who helped design the pastoral gardens containing the PepsiCo Collection.

And the corporate headquarters of New York and its suburbs are fast becoming some of the nation’s largest and most prominent repositories of art.

Chase Manhattan Bank, prompted originally by former chairman David Rockefeller, has spent $9.8 million since 1959 on an eclectic collection of art by such artists as James Rosenquist and Cristo. Its collection of 10,501 pieces liven the walls and foyers of 300 Chase offices in 87 countries.

″Corporations don’t buy art necessarily as an investment, but because they believe in it, that it enhances the workplace,″ said Judith Jedlicka, president of the Business Committee for the Arts Inc.

Another reason corporations bring in art is that it ″provides a stimulating environment that fosters creativity,″ said Markus Low, curator of the CIBA-Giegy collection. CIBA-Geigy is a Swiss chemicals and pharmaceuticals company with U.S. headquarters in Ardsley, N.Y.

Though no studies have been made to determine what influence art may have on employees, many companies seem to believe it has a positive impact. Almost 900 U.S. corporations, including two-thirds of the Fortune 500, actively collect art, Jedlicka noted.

Low, who believes art influences people’s moods, helped assemble CIBA- Geigy’s collection of 500 paintings, which includes the minimalist works of Philip Guston (″The Actors III″) and Adolph Gottlieb (″Pictograph″) from the New York School that emerged in the late 1940s.

However, the notion of art in the workplace is not new.

In 1903, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway started what is believed to be the first corporate art collection when it commissioned artists to paint the West. The railway, now part of Southern Pacific Corp., offered artists free passage to the West to depict the land, people and history. The results include the four-season Grand Canyon series painted by William Robinson Leigh.

In 1937, IBM Corp. became one of the first companies to assemble a modern art collection.

During the ’40s, the few corporations that collected art concentrated on works by artists commenting on the times. Thomas Hart Benton, for example, was commissioned by Abbott Laboratories to depict the war effort. As a result, Benton painted ″The Year of Peril.″

Since the late 1950s, art has taken a more prominent place at worksites because of art-minded chief executives, such as PepsiCo chairman Donald M. Kendall who has been acquiring art since 1970.

George Weissman, former chairman of Philip Morris Companies, pushed to acquire many of the 280 art pieces in its Manhattan headquarters. Art, he said, ″should be provocative. It should let employees know that management doesn’t want them to be complacent.″

There’s no such thing as complacency in Armonk, where IBM employs 14,000 people. Works by Robert Motherwell and Louise Nevelson are included among the 1,000 paintings and prints on the walls of IBM’s two office buildings in White Plains.

At Reader’s Digest Corp. in Chappaqua, N.Y., its editors and executives work among paintings by Renoir, Matisse, Monet and Cezanne.

Places once considered far from the art mainstream, such as Omaha, Neb., and Des Moines, Iowa, have companies with exciting art collections as well.

Offices, hallways and even bathrooms of the Des Moines-based American Republic Insurance Co. are adorned with 400 works by artists such as Alexander Calder and Andy Warhol.

InterNorth Inc. of Omaha has an exceptional collection of Western art that has been exhibited nationwide, including such works as Karl Bodmer’s ″Pehriska-Rupka (Two Ravens) Chief of the Hidatsa Dog Dancer″ and Albert Bierstadt’s ″Mountain Lake.″

If commitment to art is a measure of a company’s intent, Equitable Life Assurance Society of America, which is spending $7 million to assemble a collection for its new Manhattan headquarters, and PepsiCo could win prizes.

Kendall is awaiting the arrival from France of the last sculpture completed before Jean Dubuffet died in July. Other artists in the PepsiCo collection include Alberto Giacometti and Richard Erdman.

Chase, which budgeted $50,000 to start its art collection, now has made art a permanent part of operations with $1,320,400 allocated in its 1985 budget for art acquisitions, said Merrie Good, director of the Chase art program.

That figure, Good said, produces some complaints from workers either non- plussed by the art collection or upset with their earnings.

″Inevitably, we get some grumbles. Some say the money that Chase spends on art should go to their salary,″ she said.

The company has calculated that it annaully spends $28 per employee on its collection. ″We consider that a bargain,″ said Good.

End Adv Fri Dec. 20

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