How Millennials Are Changing Corporate Art Collections

Image: Google’s Dublin office. Photo via Google.

For centuries after Siena’s Monte dei Paschi bank founded the first corporate art collection in 1472, the direction of these programs was primarily dictated by the personal passions of the boss. Even in the 1960s, when companies like Chase Manhattan and IBM began to fill their offices with works by Barbara Kruger, Sam Francis, and Eric Fischl, corporate collections were still primarily offshoots of the CEO’s artistic tastes.

Throughout the following decades, as interest in corporate collecting swelled, things began to change. Instead of the boss’s pet project, a company’s trove of art became a public relations tool that communicated prestige and good taste to clients. Since the early 2000s, corporate collecting has shifted its focus inward once again. This time, however, the art is meant to serve the workers by enhancing the office environment and reflecting company values. And for employers hoping to cater to younger recruits, the focus is increasingly on a millennial-friendly ethos of social responsibility.

According to a 2014 Brookings report, 63% of millennials want their employers to contribute to meaningful social or ethical causes. By comparison, about half the members of older generations share this stipulation. As millennials begin to dominate the workforce, the report notes that these proclivities “are already changing consumer markets and forcing corporations to change their workplace practices.”

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