If you think RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) is just a financial institution, think again.
RBC is artsier than you may assume. Case in point: the RBC Corporate Art Collection.
The corporate art collection is quite an impressive undertaking – comprised of more than 4,000 works by 1,500 Canadian artists. RBC’s collection was established in 1929, and underwent its largest expansion in the 1980s to include contemporary artists in a variety of mediums and stylistic approaches.
The RBC Corporate Art Collection curatorial department consists of a dynamic duo of women – Robin Anthony, Art Curator, and Corrie Jackson, Assistant Art Curator – who have extensive education and experience in the art world. The curatorial department works with artists through acquisitions and publication support. It also loans work to public institutions for exhibition.
Basically, Jackson gets to discover the best emerging artists in Canada and help them develop their careers and talent. No big deal.
And let’s face it: young artists need all the help they can get.
That’s why there’s the RBC’s Emerging Artist Project, which supports artists as they bridge the gap between academic and professional life.
“Most of our acquisitions are from emerging artists,” said Jackson, who is constantly on the lookout for talented up-and-coming artists across the country.
Many contributions are also from artists recognized through the coveted RBC Painting Competition. As you’ll recall, the RBC Painting Competition is a highly regarded competition that raises the profile of 15 young artists from across Canada each year, with the winner and two runners up receiving significant prizes. Not to mention, the winning artworks become part of the RBC Corporate Art Collection, showcased by the bank on conference floors, in executive offices, and within client-facing spaces across Canada and internationally.
That’s pretty great exposure for artists who may have otherwise remained undiscovered.
“I think that it is the breadth of stylistic approaches represented in the painting contest this year is what impressed me the most,” says Jackson. “There’s such a range of ways in which the artists have touched their canvas and engaged their subject matter. It offers an overview of how young artists across the country are pushing boundaries.”
It’s a major door opener to win the competition, no doubt. But the exposure alone is also huge for all of the participants. Only a few weeks ago, their work was on display at Art Toronto, one of the country’s largest contemporary art fairs, and win or lose, they also benefit from the seasoned wisdom of the jury.
“We look for diverse perspectives and experiences when it comes to our jury. We like to make sure they’re really engaged in their community and are aware of what young artists are doing. If you look at the jury members, there’s such a range – there are art dealers, gallery directors, and artists,” says Jackson. “Hopefully they’ll be able to pass on their experience and knowledge to the competing artists, both through the jury process and our symposium, where finalists meet jury members and receive feedback on their work.”
The competition offers a chance for exposure and networking in an otherwise challenging industry.
“I think access to materials and studio space, as well as feedback from art professionals is a big challenge for many young artists,” said Jackson. “So we try to help in those areas. We allow the artist to see their work in a professional gallery, this year the Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG) in Vancouver. This kind of opportunity can have a huge impact when you’re starting out.
Jackson cites a career highlight as seeing young artists succeed and gain large-scale recognition.
“One of the exciting things I have been able to work on here is a commission with Vanessa Maltese for the new RBC building at 88 Queen’s Quay,” says Jackson. “Vanessa was a RBC Painting Competition winner in 2012, and it was nice to be able to commission her for the project. We reached out to a number of artists across the country and the selection jury for the commission was very impressed with Vanessa’s proposal. Her work really resonated with the jury, and it was the first major commission for the artist. It was really exciting to be there with her for the installation and working with her in a different environment throughout the experience. It was very different from working in a studio – and I hope it challenged her in a really good way.”
Even if you’re not an artist yourself, you’ve probably already started purchasing your first pieces of art. Jackson offers some advice for new art collectors:
“The first thing is that you need to be passionately engaged and do your research,” says Jackson. “Collectors who are very successful and love the art they live with take time to talk to gallery owners, asking if they can do a studio visit with the artist to see what they’re creating based on the work that speaks to them. Collecting art is not just an investment, but something that can reflect personal taste and interests, and hopefully lets the collector learn more about themselves in the process.”
Turns out you can bank on RBC for more than just money management.