“Throughout its history, Cartier has been linked with the artistic trends of the day, from the Art Deco movement of the ’20s and ’30s to picking up on influential design trends from Asia, Russia, and India.”
For many companies, aligning their brands with the country’s highest caliber art fair is a smart choice. For the likes of UBS, Cartier, NetJets, and AXA Art Insurance, aligning their brands with Art Basel Miami Beach is the only choice. The companies and the fair share common values-innovation, cosmopolitanism, and excellence in their individual industries-as well as an overlapping client base. Haute Living sat down with the sponsors of the world’s biggest and best-known contemporary art fair to hear what they have to say about business, the arts, and the mutually inspirational relationship between the two.
It was 16 years ago-not that long in the grand scheme of things, but an eon in the art fair industry-that banking giant UBS first underwrote the Swiss edition of Art Basel. In 2002, when Art Basel reached across the Atlantic with its first-ever Miami Beach version (it was originally slated for 2001 but was postponed because of 9/11), UBS’ affiliation came along as well. These sponsorship initiatives grew out of a companywide appreciation for the arts that was already in place by 1992. Werner Peyer, the chairman of the UBS Art Collection, explains that the UBS collection is “headquartered” in 1,400 buildings in cities all over the world. “The point of the collection is to share it,” he says. “We want our clients and employees to be able to appreciate the art collection no matter where they are.” The first pieces were bought in 1971, and the philosophy behind the collection’s continuous growth and importance within the company provides much insight into UBS’ role as the main sponsor of Art Basel. According to Peyer, a direct line can be drawn from the bank’s role as a facilitator of the arts to the bank’s role as a financial institution. “As a bank,” he says, “one of our duties is to assess the present and look to future. This is reflected in our investment in contemporary art. The earliest pieces we have date from the ’50s; we make a conscious effort to keep the collection current. We will sell the oldest piece and use the money from the sales to buy new art; in this way, our collection is self-sustaining.
“Secondly,” he continues, “we consider ourselves the employer of choice for outstanding talent. And by supporting the arts, we are supporting outstanding talent outside of the financial world. We develop long-term relationships with artists, just as we develop long-term relationships with our employees.” Peter Dillon, head of sponsorship Americas for UBS, echoes these sentiments. “By making the operation more cost-effective for participants,” he says, “we are maximizing the potential of the galleries, the artists, and the fair.”
Like UBS, Cartier’s name has long had an association with the art world. Frederic de Narp, president and CEO of Cartier, says, “Throughout its history, Cartier has been linked with the artistic trends of the day, from the Art Deco movement of the ’20s and ’30s to picking up on influential design trends from Asia, Russia, and India.” And, like UBS, Cartier has a formidable art collection itself. Since 1984, the French house of haute joaillerie has worked to promote contemporary art through the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris. A pioneer in its field, Cartier has been developing patronage for almost 25 years. Cartier commissions works of art, organizes exhibitions, and has amassed a collection that now contains more than 1,000 works of art by over 300 artists from across the globe. During this year’s Miami Beach fair, they will present an installation from renowned film auteur David Lynch, which will be the centerpiece of the Cartier Dôme, an exclusive lounge erected across from the Convention Center in the Botanical Garden. The Dôme made its first appearance during last year’s fair. Through his work with Cartier, David Lynch joins a veritable pantheon of 20th century iconoclasts that have collaborated with the Cartier Foundation, including the Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Juergen Teller.
Considering that it’s the world’s leading insurer of fine arts and collectibles, it is understandable that AXA Art would want to undertake such a large sponsorship role. As President and CEO Christiane Fischer explains, the company’s presence at the fair is essential. “I think it is reassuring to our clients that we are there,” she states. “There is a strong concentration of our clients at the fair, and we meet new clients there as well.” In addition to its sponsorship of the main event, AXA throws the International Collectors Dinner-an ultra-exclusive invitation-only event at which the recipient of a $25,000 artist grant will be announced. One such grant is given each year to an artist who has demonstrated outstanding talent. Also, AXA has some sponsorship initiatives that support design in particular. Each year they put together a VIP lounge that honors one designer who has made major contributions to the field. Last year it was renowned American furniture design artist Wendell Castle; this year will be Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi. They will also be holding a breakfast symposium on the topic at the Wolfsonian.
Like AXA, NetJets has a clientele base that overlaps significantly with some of the fair’s most enthusiastic collectors. Seeing the connection between the two, the founders of NetJets decided to take on a role of corporate sponsorship in 2002. Part of this sponsorship includes flying NetJet owners down to Miami and providing the VIP lounge area where busy Basel-goers can decompress, think over a possible acquisition, and meet other VIP attendees. According to Patrick Vega, the events manager of NetJets, the partnership has been good for everyone. “We invite our entire owner base down to Miami Beach, so, in some cases, we do facilitate our clients’ introduction to the fair.”
Attendees are guaranteed to hear plenty of corks popping, given the number of events going on in correlation with the art fair. French label Ruinart is the official champagne of Art Basel Miami Beach. In addition to providing an impressive amount of bubbly, this year they commissioned the talents of Dutch artist Maarten Baas to create a Bouquet de Champagne, which is designed to look like an 18th century Venetian chandelier that has fallen from the ceiling. The Murano glass and crystal piece will also be for sale in Ruinart’s VIP lounge.
Without these sponsors, and the many more who we didn’t mention, the fair wouldn’t be the astounding success it is year after year. These companies not only provide the financial backing that makes the event possible, their overwhelming support of the arts is reflected daily in their offices and their actions.This allows for a greater overall appreciation of the arts by the companies’ clients throughout the world, including those who don’t have the opportunity to experience Art Basel Miami Beach.