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HN: Czech banks collect art, mostly not as investment

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Prague, Dec 29 (CTK) – Czech banks often have valuable art collections, but they consider their keeping a protection of the cultural heritage rather than an investment, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) wrote Tuesday.

However, the banks mostly do not promote their art collections and only few people know of them. Ceska sporitelna, which has its own gallery in Prague´s centre and which organises exhibitions all over the country, is one of the exceptions among the banks.

“The art collection of Ceska sporitelna was developed from the 19th century to the mid-1990s. Originally, it was for social reasons. Thanks to the situation in the art market it is turning into a financial investment as well,” Klara Pacesova, from the bank´s press centre, told the paper.

She said the collection reflected social life, the orientation of the bank´s clients and the position of artists in the country for more than a hundred years.

The collection was created by municipal, professional and cooperative savings banks, which merged into Ceska sporitelna in the late 1940s. It consists of about 900 works by artists from the 19th century to the early 20th century, including landscape paintings by Antonin Slavicek, Antonin Chittussi, Julius Marak and Vaclav Spala.

Ceska sporitelna now wants to sell the art that it has been keeping in depositories, for various reasons. The Internet auction of 195 works of less known authors will end on January 7.

Erste Bank, the majority owner of Ceska sporitelna, has an art collection in Vienna, too, focusing on contemporary conceptual art.

The CSOB bank has 2600 works from several hundred authors, including Czech painters Antonin Hudecek, Jan Preisler and Antonin Prochazka and sculptor Frantisek Bilek, its spokeswoman Pavla Havova said. This art is used to decorate the bank´s offices and commercial premises, she told the paper.

The art collection of Komercni banka bank was established in 1995, same as the collection of Societe Generale, its parent company.

Komercni banka currently owns 3500 works of art, including over 300 works by significant contemporary artists such as Karel Malich, Jan Merta, Jiri Sopko and Adriena Simotova, said Michal Teubner, from the bank´s public relations section.

A part of the collection was exhibited in Prague in 2006 and in Brno in 2012.

UniCredit Bank Czech branch spokesman Petr Plocek said the bank owns several hundred of paintings, mainly from the early 20th century and the 1990s. “Collecting art and investing into it is one of the traditions of our parent group, UniCredit, and our predecessor, the Zivnostenska banka bank,” Plocek said.

The UniCredit collection includes pictures by Preisler, Slavicek and Simotova and a floor made by Stanislav Kolibal. UniCredit is the first bank to offer Art Banking to clients in the Czech Republic, or assistance in creating their own art collections, HN writes.

The J&T Banka focuses on modern art and it supports young Czech artists in the long term. It annually organises exhibitions in cooperation with the Jindrich Chalupecky Award. In 2014, the bank started a collection that is to show the development of present art in the Czech Republic and it began to issue the J&T Banka Art Index, the bank´s PR manager Monika Vesela said.

The PPF financial group bought 270 Czech paintings from the Ceska pojistovna insurance company in 2014. This “golden fund” was developed for nearly two centuries and it includes well-known authors Mikulas Medek, Alfons Mucha and Jakub Schikaneder as well as contemporary artists Tomas Cisarovsky, Merta and Sopko, PPF Art director Jan Rehak told the paper.

Rehak said PPF Art wants to maintain this valuable collection and further develop it.

PPF Art also has a collection of Czech art photography including classical works by Frantisek Drtikol, Jaromir Funke, Emila Medkova and Josef Sudek. There are 1777 pictures in this collection now, Rehak said.

The Czech National Bank (CNB) has approximately 1200 paintings and graphics. The bank had created a big collection in the 1930s, but only fragments of it have remained, Tomas Zimmermann, from the CNB press section, said. The collection has been developed again since 1993, he added.

The CNB originally wanted to buy quality art from the late 19th and the early 20th centuries that would fit into its collection, but this turned out to be too ambitious a plan as these works are expensive. In cooperation with the National Gallery, the CNB then decided to focus on Czech authors who started making art in the 1970s and the 1980s. This acquisition from 1999 includes paintings by Vladimir Kokolia, Michael Rittstein and Jan Smetana. Some of these works can be seen when the CNB opens to the public once in a few years, HN writes.

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