Art Curator Lianne Schipper has an unusual job with a financial services group: she curates Aegon’s 1,100-piece art collection, most of which hangs in our offices. ‘We aim to inspire – but art doesn’t have to be aesthetically beautiful to fulfill its purpose.’
From the horrendously ugly to a striking masterpiece, and a thousand opinions in between: that is how people judge art. Aegon employees are no different, and our offices are filled with over a thousand pieces of contemporary art – paintings, photography, sculptures, video and mixed media. Most of the pieces are in Netherlands, with others on display in other offices around the world.
Lianne's role is to curate Aegon's art collection, which means that she uses her expertise to select art pieces for her colleagues, or visitors to Aegon's offices, to view and reflect upon. Lianne: "As the concept of beauty is a subjective and personal thing, the pieces are chosen to reflect the themes, topics and stories that we find important at Aegon. So an art piece that you find not find to be beautiful can still tell an important or interesting story."
Debate and diversion Selecting art for a department is usually done in cooperation with the team that will use the space. Lianne: 'You hear incredible discussions on what people love, why they dislike a certain piece, what they see in a painting or even what they feel when looking at a sculpture, for example. I love that, and usually learn a lot. It's a mistaken belief that art needs to be beautiful: ugly art is infinitely fascinating, since it creates debate and even diversion. Taking a break from work to look at a painting is like taking a short vacation.'
This plays directly into the reason Aegon busy and sells art. Hint: it's not for investment purposes. 'Art inspires debate and creativity; helps people view things in a different light. Studies prove that art even increases productivity for office workers. Compared to plants, art pieces make an excellent investment.' By purchasing art, Aegon also supports young, up and coming artists, although that is not the main rationale behind the collection.
Instead, Lianne is careful about purchasing art that touches on themes that reflect what Aegon does and why: helping people achieve a lifetime of financial security. She also seeks to ensure that communities where Aegon is active also comes into the picture. For instance, Aegon recently purchased of a drawing "the sower" by Dutch artist Tom Heerschop.
Impact of corona Although most of Aegon's offices are currently closed due to the coronavirus, Lianne's work continues. 'I can't visit galleries, but artists and sellers have also come up with ingenious digital ways so I can still scout for new talent. Personally, I've also taken to buying "Pakje Kunst" (art package), which is a unique art piece the size of a pack of cigarettes for just €5. It's another example of the ingenious ways artists think and work. Inspiring Aegon's innovative mindset in equal measure, is the role art plays for us.'
For more about Aegon's collection, including some examples of our pieces here