Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Of Art & Money: Q&A on RBC Painting Prize out in today's Post

Oscar Wilde once quipped, "When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss art. When artists get together for dinner, they discuss money." Such were the thoughts that came up for me when I talked to RBC art curator Robin Anthony last week about the RBC Canadian Painting Competition, whose finalists and winners are currently on tour.

Our condensed chat was published in today's Post along with pictures of the winning paintings (first place received $25,000, each of two runners-up $15,000). Here's an excerpt:

Q: Many banks sponsor art awards and maintain corporate art collections. Why?

A: I’m not sure about other banks, but the RBC collection started in the late 1800s — primarily as historical and landscape prints from Halifax and Montreal. As RBC expanded, so did the art collection. Over the years, depending on who’s been chair of the board and what buildings have been built, the collection has grown. Today, there are over 4,000 works spread in reception areas and meeting rooms across the country. The winning paintings in this competition will also become part of the collection: Alexis Lavoie’s first-place painting will hang in our Montreal office, while runners-up Mark Stebbins’ and Jon Reed’s works will probably go in this new RBC centre at Simcoe and Wellington in Toronto.

Q: Don’t Canadian businesses also get tax write-offs for buying Canadian art?

A: That’s not our reason for collecting. RBC collects to support artists and give exposure to artists in our facilities — and then, obviously, to enhance our spaces. RBC Wealth Management is a sponsor of the Toronto International Art Fair this weekend and will be giving exposure at its fair booth to past winners and jury members. So we continue to follow through.

Q: You mentioned wealth management. What advice do you give to investors who hope to make money in the art market?

A: I say that art is an asset that you get to enjoy looking at and living with, and that no one can guarantee whether the investment value will increase. It’s the same thing as the stock market — there are no guarantees. If you do your research, there are artists who have a potential for their work to go up in value. But the main reason for acquiring art should be to live with it, to enjoy it, and to look at it.

Later, Anthony speculates on how the market crash might have been good for art—a POV that's common in the art-crit realm, but less so, I might imagine, in the banking world. You can read on here.

Image of Alexis Lavoie's winning painting for RBC 2010, Restants, from the National Post

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