BHP Billiton is establishing a new collection of contemporary art as part of its move to new global headquarters in Melbourne later this year.
The new collection will be financed through a Christie’s auction of most artworks from the existing Melbourne collection.
BHP Billiton Chief Legal Counsel, John Fast, said that the relocation to new global headquarters had provided an opportunity to review and re-focus the company’s vision for art collecting.
Mr Fast said the new collection, which primarily would be Australian contemporary work of the new millennium, would focus on the issue of ‘identity’ and would be designed to challenge viewers, both BHP Billiton employees and the general public.
With about 10% of the collection being international art and an emphasis on multiculturalism and ethnicity, the collection would reflect the diversity of the new global corporation, which is represented in about 20 countries and has 38,000 employees worldwide.
“BHP Billiton is a global company and we want the art collection to speak of this in some way. The new collection will be in tune with our corporate identity of being human, global, visionary and intelligent,” Mr Fast said.
The collection’s curator, Natasha Fuller, said the identity vision would be evident in its most literal interpretation - the portrait - through to more abstract concepts of how identity manifests in the portrayal of land or cityscapes.
Ms Fuller said the collection would feature a broad range of contemporary media including photography, digitally created media, mixed media and more traditional forms of art like painting, printmaking and drawing.
She said some specific works from the existing collection that fit the new vision would be retained and included in the new collection.
BHP Billiton has an existing, world-renowned art collection of predominantly South African contemporary art in its Johannesburg offices. This collection documents the socio-political changes South Africa has experienced post democratisation.
The existing Melbourne based collection, which contains significant works by Australian artists including Fred Williams, Brett Whiteley, Albert Tucker, Lloyd Rees, William Robinson, Sidney Nolan and Margaret Olley, will be auctioned by Christie’s in Sydney on Wednesday 27 August.
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