THE IDB ART COLLECTION
Since its inception in 1959, the Inter-American Development Bank has accumulated fine artworks, as well as a variety of decorative objects, to reaffirm the Bank’s commitment to link artistic expression with social and economic progress.
The IDB Art Collection, formally established in 1992, represents the artistic and intellectual heritage of the Bank’s 48 member countries and contributes to a better understanding of the diverse creativity of the region. The aim of the institution is not simply to invest in art but to acquire works of recognized aesthetic value to maintain the important cumulative value of the collection, while activating the workspace to transform our office environment into spaces that unleash curiosity, creativity, and innovation.
In the past few years, the acquisition of new artworks has shifted to focus on building a collection that reflects the mission and goals of the institution. Today, our art collection comprises nearly 1,700 pieces, and includes paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, and photographs.
With a clear conviction that art can transform our impression of reality and invite us to explore new ideas, the IDB Art Collection exists to harness the power of creativity to positively impact development. By pushing the boundaries of our own preconceptions, art can be an effective tool for innovative thinking as we work to build a better future for our communities.
Through our most recent acquisitions, the collection has focused on incorporating works that respond to our mission to generate new thinking, dialogue, and solutions to development challenges in the region through art and creativity. How have we achieved this? Put simply, by ensuring the diversity of artists and voices included in the Art Collection. The acquisition of new artworks has expanded beyond the historical male vs. female artists disparity to address gender identification and race as well.
As being representative of a development bank, the IDB Art Collection wants to show the vast artistic richness and invaluable diversity of the countries that make part of the Bank. Our purpose is to transform the IDB Art Collection into a vehicle for learning and understanding, and to create new avenues to discuss issues of diversity in a civil and constructive way. Through the acquisition of artworks by artists -and communities- traditionally underrepresented in the art world, we continue to explore and offer new ways to broaden our horizons and increase our emotional capacity, while contributing to the promotion of their artistic careers.
Art collections are important tools for inspiration and communication, and not merely decorative objects. While encouraging their employees to think creatively, corporate art collections have become a core part of an institution’s identity and a means to connect with their audiences and clients. This is completely different than traditional collecting practices, that most of the time are little more than furnishings or luxury decorations.
Corporate art collecting as we know it today began to take off in the 1960s when corporations started using art to reflect their prestige and importance through their support of the arts, among them Chase Manhattan Bank and Deutsche Bank. But in the past few decades, corporate art collections have slowly become an integral part of the office environment as a means to reflect upon their office culture and their purpose. As a result, private companies and banking institutions are now investing in art that will be motivating and inspiring for their employees, and not just buying art to impress their clients and business partners.
Today, corporate art collections are more diverse and subject matter centered, as well as workplace friendly, and this shift has meant that office culture has been forever changed because of the art hanging on their offices’ walls. Furthermore, companies have opted for buying and investing in art that will increase in value in the future rather than spend small sums on an asset that like the furniture will eventually look outdated and loose relevance for their institutional vision.
For us at the IDB, art is one of the most powerful tools for transformation and can inspire new ways of thinking about ourselves as members of a global community. Despite significant progress, the region still faces several challenges it must overcome to become more prosperous and inclusive, like creating more and better jobs, promoting social inclusion and gender equality, and achieving economic growth and integration, among others. These challenges are the motor behind a purposeful, diverse, and uplifting art collection for us to share with the outside world.
The growing presence of corporate art collections has created an interest in the potential impact of works of art in the workplace, and as centers of research and knowledge creation, universities have been studying this relationship with very interesting and encouraging results.
For example, a study from Harvard University revealed that because art elicits an emotional response, it can create opportunities for more open communication and interpersonal connections in the workplace. This is especially important as Millennials, a generation heavily focused on the use of technology and social media, enter the workforce in the upcoming decade and will be presented with the challenge of becoming more social at the office.
A series of experiments with office workers, allowed researchers from Exeter University to demonstrate that workers in an “enriched environment”, meaning spaces with art on the walls and other decorative elements where they also provided their personal input, can be up to 32% more productive than those in more bare and functional environments. For example, a particular experiment to measure speed and accuracy showed that individuals in these enhanced spaces were 17% faster in performing their tasks than their counterparts in lean spaces.
Aside from creating a more uplifting and motivating environment for our employees and visitors, the IDB Art Collection also seeks to challenge the viewer to learn about the artist’s experience and viewpoint, as well as to expand their comprehension of the challenges and problematics that these works of art intend to portray. Their presence and image help us establish better relations with our clients, improve the productivity and enrichment of our employees, and provide significance to our mission as a development bank.
Health, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is a “state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” But despite the many examples and much evidence of the beneficial impact that the arts can have on health and wellbeing, modern medicine is still largely focused on dealing with disease and infirmity than with a holistic approach to human wellbeing.
However, things have been steadily changing in the last few years as governments and cultural institutions alike have started to recognize the powerful contribution the arts can make to health and wellbeing. Among the multiple intersections of art and health, the concept of social prescription has caught the attention of museums and healthcare providers and resulted in collaborative programs that aim to support public health efforts.
In 2018, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts became the first art institution in the world to receive patients that have been prescribed a visit to the museum as a complementary treatment to deal with a wide variety of physical and mental-health problems. A collaboration between the Museum of Modern Art of Buenos Aires and Argerich General Hospital, in Argentina, created a program in which patients, mental health professionals, and museum educators work together with artists and engage in creating art around a specific topic selected by the participants. The outcome was an art exhibition of the works created by patients and professionals at the Museum of Modern Art in 2019.
According to a 2019 report from the World Health Organization, there is evidence of the contribution of the arts to the promotion of good health and the prevention of a range of mental and physical health conditions, as well as the treatment or management of chronic health conditions. According to WHO, human response to the arts can be assessed at the psychological level (e.g. enhanced self-efficacy, coping and emotional regulation), as well as physiological (e.g. lower stress hormone response, enhanced immune function and higher cardiovascular reactivity) and social (e.g. reduced loneliness and isolation, enhanced social support and improved social behaviors). This means also benefits at a larger scale, beyond specific programs designed by the healthcare and cultural sectors in coordination: individuals in general have responded to different studies and surveys to convey the benefits of visiting museums and attending cultural events.
Among them, a study commissioned by the Arts Council England that examined 1,756 responses to a survey found that nearly two-third of respondents said that arts and culture were good for their personal well-being. And 4 out of 5 individuals said that they enjoyed “greater wellbeing” after engaging with the arts in the 2017 Inquiry Report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing in the UK.
The IDB Art Collection is also intended as a vital resource for aligning the arts with the wellbeing of our employees.