Corporate collections on display

Kitty McConnell

In 2011, the Elijah Pierce Gallery of the King Arts Complex hosted a breathtaking exhibition of nearly 40 works by 20th century Pop Art masters. The works by Warhol, Lichtenstein, Frank Stella and Jasper Johns weren't on loan from a contemporary art museum: They were selections from American Electric Power's permanent collection.

AEP approached the King Arts Complex with a request to host the exhibition, and the public response was tremendous, says Demetries Neely, the complex's executive director. "They were excited to see these major artists in our gallery."

Corporations often showcase their fine-art collections in gallery exhibitions or online galleries in order to share the works with their communities and the general public. The Huntington Bank collection, as listed in the 1998 International Directory of Corporate Art Collections, displayed its collection of roughly 600 works throughout company headquarters in order "to enhance the quality of life for the employees," customers and the community in general. Purchased by a retired CEO in order to keep the collection in the Midwest, Huntington gave many of its most expensive pieces to museums in its footprint in 2002.

In 2000, the Kennedy Museum of Art at Ohio University hosted "Currier & Ives: Selections from the Nationwide Collection," an exhibition featuring 74 Currier & Ives lithographs from Nationwide's permanent collection. Neely, a former Nationwide employee of 22 years, says the collection surprised and pleased her. Art is a means by which corporations can develop soft skills and creativity in highly analytical workplaces, she says.

"You have to wake up the juices of creativity and innovative energy," says Neely.

The King Arts Complex is in early talks with the Hilton Columbus Downtown in the hopes of curating a similar exhibition of the hotel's permanent collection.

Retail tycoon Les Wexner first learned about fine-art collecting in the early 1970s during a business lunch in the home of shopping-center developer Alfred Taubman. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Wexner says his former landlord "suggested I start going to galleries and museums to see what appealed to me. That was daunting."

Four decades on, the Wexner family collection of masterworks by Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, and Jean Dubuffet will be on public display for the first time during the 25th anniversary season of the Wexner Center for the Arts.

"It's a very rare collection not just for its quality and its caliber, but because it is consistently about the human condition," says Sherri Geldin, director of the Wexner Center. "It spans the entirety of the 20th century and focuses on these artists who really defined the art of their time, almost reinvented new visual language and whose inspiration and legacy continues to this day among contemporary artists."

"Transfigurations: Modern Masters from the Wexner Family Collection" will be on view from Sept. 21 through Dec. 31.

Ron Pizzuti collects art for pleasure, not for the profit. In a January interview with Forbes, the chairman and CEO of the Pizzuti Company said that collecting for profit is "the wrong way to go about it, and if you do that you're going to get burnt."

Pizzuti and his wife, Ann Pizzuti, have spent the past 40 years building a collection of work by international artists. Selections from the family's collection are featured in exhibits at the Pizzuti Collection gallery in the Short North.

"NOW-ism: Abstraction Today," featuring more than 100 works by emerging artists and established local, national and international artists, will be on display at the gallery from Sept. 6 through June 20, 2015.