Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Restricted Access (SIA Only)

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Eric Wolf


As one of the main players in the art market, today’s corporate collections have acquired significant collections at an unprecedent speed and in the last few decades, they have also demonstrated their importance by promoting artists careers to a new height worldwide. Corporate collections originated in the 19th century. In 1959, Rockefeller suggested companies moving into the building might begin an art collection to decorate the offices and inspire its employees. David Rockefeller founded the Chase Manhattan collection, establishing a new practice of corporate art collecting. Within the next decade Rockefeller rallied big business leaders to support the arts through corporate philanthropy.

Corporate collections reached the peak in the 80s and became significant players in the 21st century. The aims of corporate collections also evolved into more spectrums like Corporate Social Responsibilities etc. The increasing globalization also affect the companies refine and reorient their collections and cultural programs, their impact in both the primary and secondary markets becomes ever more apparent. This also the case in China, hanging modern artworks in a company’s public space is a new phenomenon. More companies begin to explore art collections of their own, more private-owned museums and projects are setup and underway.

The Chinese domestic research on the field of art collection is still in its infancy, there are not enough research covered. The old traditions, usually to hang decorative paintings at home or portraits of the founders or leaders of company, to show their place in the company. While nowadays, the mode of corporate art collection tends to try to reflect the future development potential of enterprise brand value and the corporate social responsibility more than the materialistic purpose.

Among all these practices, UBS is the one worth deep exploring. With a total of 35,000 pieces of artworks, a rich collection of paintings, photographs, drawings, sculptures and video art by some of the world’s major artists from 1960 onward, it is recognized as having one of the most important corporate collections of contemporary art. With regards to partnerships, UBS has longstanding relationships with regional and global art partners and its own art capabilities enable the clients and art enthusiasts to participate in the art world. As sponsorship also became an “appropriate avenue for corporate philanthropy.1 UBS is also Global Lead Partner of Art Basel, it has served as the main sponsor of the original show in Switzerland in 1994, followed by the inaugural Art Basel show in Miami Beach in 2002 and Hong Kong in 2014 reaffirming its long and substantial record of engagement in contemporary art. It also serves as an active partner in global contemporary art projects and is a source of information and insight for investors and collectors through its UBS Arts Forum.

Companies like UBS are so dedicated in art collections. While the motive and effectives are somehow pieces of the puzzle, and there might no single and absolute answer for every company, collections take their motivations and inspirations from a variety of sources. Analyse the example of UBS corporate collection to find guidelines for other corporations wishing to establish a corporate collection: i.e. Through the analysis of the history development of UBS art collection, this thesis tries to discuss how UBS manages its artworks - the relationship between selection process of the artwork and its motive; how its external and internal stakeholders’ relationship is affected by art collection and activities; thus, how is the ultimate effect of a corporate art collection to the company itself? In this way, we can see the originality worth absorbing and learning in the process of establishing and operating the art collection and look forward to providing more reference and inspiration for the actual development of the current Chinese domestic Corporate collection.

1. Rockefeller, Culture and the Corporation, 1969