UBS Charts Its Collection in New Book to Debut at Art Basel in Miami Beach

The launch promises to secure the UBS Art Collection as one of the top in the world.

Carroll Dunham, "Large Shape with Bands," 1989. © Carroll Dunham

When UBS opens its VIP lounge at the Convention Center at Art Basel in Miami Beach this year, the works hanging in the lounge (it is their tradition—in the nearly 25 years it’s partnered with Art Basel—to hang works from the collection in their VIP lounge) will be inspired by a new publication: UBS Art Collection: To Art its Freedom. Published by Hatje Cantz, the book includes paintings by Cy Twombly and Alex Katz and pieces from Tracey Emin and Doug Aitken (who was honored this year by Americans for the Arts). It also features artists distinct from the contemporary whirl, including nineteenth-century Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler and Swiss children’s book author and illustrator Alois Carigiet, who, on commission by the Swiss Bank Corporation (which later merged with UBS), created a four-paneled painting called The Falconer, a parable based on his life journey.

“It’s not a chronology,” said Global Head of the UBS Art Collection Mary Rozell in an interview with artnet News. “It’s not a comprehensive overview of the collection. I called it a visual essay. It’s to create an impression of the greater whole.”

With commissioned introductory essays by Rozell and scholar Dieter Buchhart, who helped situate the work in an art historical context, the volume will focus on artworks dating from the beginning of the collection in the 1960s through the present day. In their quarter-century partnership, Art Basel and UBS have focused their collaboration on the market, collecting, and global branding.

“The collection has always been about collecting the art of our time,” said Rozell. “Unlike other corporate collections ours is made up of several collections. The core is three collections, one of which is Paine Webber (which is what we predominantly have here on the 14th floor of UBS in New York), and then there’s the Swiss Bank Corporation and the Union Bank of Switzerland collections.”

UBS Art Collection cover. Courtesy of UBS.

UBS Art Collection cover. Courtesy of UBS.

At the fair, where the book launches on November 30th, UBS will exhibit a selection of artworks, curated by Rozell, under the title UBS Art Collection: A History and a Moment, which is also the title of her written contribution to the publication. Along with the above-mentioned Katz and Aitken, the exhibition will include important works by Carroll Dunham, Mary Heilmann, Wolfgang Tillmans, and a 2016 untitled work by Brooklyn-based artist Israel Lund.

“Experiencing art in a corporate setting is unlike any other encounter with art,” Rozell writes in her essay. “The environment presents a collision of sorts. Intensely personal modes of expression meet the formality of the professional sphere, often unexpectedly.” This statement rings true for corporate realm, and, to some extent, it echoes within the context of the art fair.

Janaina Tschäpe, Glow Worm, 2015. © Janaina Tschäpe, Galleri Bo Bjerggaard

Janaina Tschäpe, “Glow Worm,” 2015. © Janaina Tschäpe, Galleri Bo Bjerggaard.

While the UBS collection is primarily contemporary, focusing on work of the last 50 years, Dieter Buchhart contends in his essay that the paintings and sketches of Ferdinand Hodler—which oscillated between realism and symbolism and date to the late 19th century and early 20th century—exemplify the collection with their seeming references to more contemporary works: the Pop art of Larry Rivers, the portraits of Thomas Ruff, and the photographs of Harry Callahan. Furthermore, he states that the “Swiss origins” of the bank can be discerned from the seven Hodler works in the collection.

A true showcase, the selection of works on view in UBS Art Collection: A History and a Moment stem from the publication, representing what for many present at Art Basel is the endgame: one of acquisition and placement in a prestigious collection. The launch of the book promises to not only secure the UBS Art Collection as one of the top in the world, but it also functions as a document, cataloging a moment of time.

UBS Art Collection: To Art its Freedom, will be available January 2017, and can be purchased through Hatje Cantz directly and select retail stores worldwide.

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