x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Financial institutions banking on fine art

Financial institutions are banking on fine art

Tobias Meyer auctions a piece by Robert Longo from the Lehman Brothers' collection at Sotheby's in New York. Michael Nagle /Getty Images / AFP
Tobias Meyer auctions a piece by Robert Longo from the Lehman Brothers' collection at Sotheby's in New York. Michael Nagle /Getty Images / AFP

When the going gets tough, the rich start shedding assets. The same goes for the banks, some of whose art collections, amassed over generations, are substantial and require a dedicated team of curators to manage them. Almost exactly two years after Lehman Brothers collapsed, triggering worldwide economic panic, the bank put more than 100 contemporary works under the hammer at Sotheby's New York at the weekend, including pieces by Andy Warhol, Anish Kapoor and Damien Hirst.

The auction raised $12.2 million (Dh41m), all of which will go towards paying off Lehman's creditors. A drop in the ocean it may be, but the money will be boosted by the proceeds of a further sale of the bank's art collection at Christie's in London tomorrow. Among the items for for grabs will be works by Lucien Freud, Gary Hume and Samuel Walters. Ever since David Rockefeller started buying works of art in the 1960s for employees and customers of Chase Manhattan in New York to enjoy, banks have come to play an increasingly prolific role in the world of art acquisition.

Deutsche Bank's collection reportedly consists of around 56,000 pieces. While in the UK, Barclays, HSBC and RBS's portfolios are all substantial (all but 300 of RBS's 2,200 pieces apparently hang in branches or offices). Lehman Bros could do with the kind of coup achieved by the German Commerzbank in February, when it sold a Giacometti from its collection for £65m, almost six times the estimate and the highest price achieved for a work of art at auction worldwide.