The Societe Generale Collection
Aurelie is unquestionably a banker. She began her career in the trading rooms in London and practiced financial analysis for an American bank and then for Societe Generale. But she is especially passionate about art. A graduate in art history, she did not hesitate to puther career on hold for a year and a half to attend the Christie’s Education training program in Paris. She has been responsible for the continued development of the Collection since 2013, paying particular attention to supporting foreign artistic scenes and maintaining the broadest of audiences.
Tom Carr’s sculpture in the entrance hall of the headquarters building is certainly one of the most imposing pieces. The Societe Generale Collection, which now totals more than 1,200 art-works, has become one of the most important contemporary art ensembles ever assembled by a bank in France. “It was first established in 1995 by our former president, Marc Viénot, when the headquarters moved from the Paris Opera district to La Défense,” says Aurelie Deplus, Head of Arts and Public Relations at Societe Generale. The aim was to add a little soul to the professional world, through a forward looking perspective on change and innovation that was in line with the Group’s values.”
The continued growth of the Collection is a resultof an ongoing acquisition policy. An overview of this eclectic ensemble clearly illustrates current artistic trends. The collection consists mainly of paintings, sculptures and photographs and whilst the abstract dominates the graphic arts pieces, with artists such as Pierre Soulages, Zao Wou-Ki, Aurélie Nemours and Bernard Frize, figurative work is also well represented with François Bard, Romain Bernini and Fahamu Pecou. In the photography collection, there is a great emphasis on architecture, urban landscapes (Stéphane Couturier) and portraits (Jean-Baptiste Huynh, Steve McCurry...). The diversity of geographical origin of the works that make up the collection is also notable, reflecting the Bank’s footprint across the world. “Half of the collection is made up of works by foreign, European, African, American and Asian artists”, says Aurelie Deplus. “It certainly reflects the truly international character of the Group.”
“We buy works by historical figures in the art world, as well as from current and emerging talents,” says Aurelie Deplus. For several years, young talents have increasingly drawn the attention of the Collection, whether they be French artists, such as the painter Louis Granet who first entered the Collection in 2017 and who was the subject of an exhibition earlier this year, or the wider European and, more recently, African scenes, with works by Friedrich Kunath, Omar Ba or Zander Blom. The creation in 2018 of the SGPB Emerging Artist Prize by Societe Generale Private Banking and the launch of the first Swiss award confirms the bank’s ongoing commitment to supporting young, up-and-coming artistic talent. A UK award was launched last February and was won by artist Evan Ifekoya at a ceremony held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
While the Bank’s employees are the first to enjoy the works of the Collection, art lovers from the general public are also welcome. Almost 3,000 visitors are welcomed each year at La Défense. Among them, clients, school groups, the general public and students. Partnerships have been established with many Universities (Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, Essec, Sciences Po). Certain works are as equally impressive and “off the wall”, as on it, such as with the sculpture Pickpocket, by visual artist Julien Prévieux, which is currently on loan, exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) in Marseille. In addition, organised as part of the France-Romania Season 2019, the exhibition “Lux. A Romanian Energy”, at the headquarters at La Défense, featured, until 19th April 2019, the works of seven Romanian artists: Radu Belcin, Mircea Cantor, Oana Farcas, Adrian Ghenie, Flavia Pitis, Mircea Suciu and Bogdan Vladuta. The inter-cultural event will then continue in Romania at the National Art Museum in Bucharest, where works from the Societe Generale Collection are exhibited from April 18th to July 17th, 2019.