‘Sharing the wealth’: Wells Fargo’s art collection
Wells Fargo’s art collection includes about 10,000 pieces — including some by Andy Warhol — and has been shared in more than 100 communities.
When people think of working for a bank, they probably wouldn’t think of managing artwork. But that’s exactly what Piper Hutson does. Hutson is the curator for Wells Fargo’s Corporate Art Resources department in St. Louis. The department is responsible for managing Wells Fargo’s art collection, and its duties range from bringing the art into local communities, to inventorying pieces, to placing art in high-visibility locations for customers and team members.
“If art is involved, it’s usually through us,” Hutson said. “Everything is in-house. We pick the pieces, condition them, map them, frame them, and sometimes write materials that go with them.”
Hutson estimates there are about 10,000 pieces across Wells Fargo. About half of the artwork came when Wachovia, now Wells Fargo, merged in 2007 with A.G. Edwards & Sons, a brokerage firm in St. Louis. In the 1980s, the company hired a curator to inventory and manage the art. During that time, artwork was loaned for public displays, and in 1991, a formal loan program was established.
As Wells Fargo merged with other banks or downsized and closed buildings, the Corporate Art Resources department has been responsible for inventorying the pieces. Over the years, the artwork has been shared with more than 100 communities across the country.
“I believe it’s incredibly important to have the educational component,” Hutson said. “It always comes back to sharing the wealth. It always seems like the right thing to do.”
“I believe it’s incredibly important to have the educational component. It always comes back to sharing the wealth. It always seems like the right thing to do.” — Piper Hutson
While Hutson said she does not typically know how many people see the exhibits featuring Wells Fargo’s artwork, she estimates each attract several thousand people.
Some of the pieces in the collection are shared in several Wells Fargo museums. “Having the art gallery in the Wells Fargo museum in Des Moines has allowed us the unique opportunity to not only showcase pieces from Corporate Art with the community, but to start conversations with visitors who otherwise might not have a chance to engage with art in their daily lives,” said Kate Levasseur, associate museum manager for the Wells Fargo museum in Des Moines, Iowa. “It is a pleasure to see the excitement on a visitor’s face when they realize they’re standing in front of a piece by an artist they recognize or because they’ve discovered a new favorite. That unique experiential component elevates the visitors’ experience and also makes the stories we tell richer and more multidimensional.”
Andy Warhol exhibit
Corporate Art Resources is currently loaning four pieces by artist Andy Warhol for a traveling exhibition at the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia; the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City; and the Tacoma Art Museum in Tacoma, Washington. The exhibition, “Warhol and the West,” focuses on Warhol’s interest in the American West. Wells Fargo is loaning three prints from Warhol’s sunset series and a painting of actor Dennis Hopper. The company’s historic stagecoach is also on display at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
The exhibit’s co-curator, Faith Brower, said she was aware of Wells Fargo’s art collection and reached out to see which of Warhol’s works were in the collection. “Warhol is a household name, but it is not well known that Warhol had a passion for the American West,” Brower said. “Some of his earliest works were western theme. Following his death, it was revealed he had a large collection of Native American art and artifacts. We’ve pieced together it all to show Warhol’s lifelong fascination with the American West: paintings, prints, and western film and photographs.”
Warhol and Hopper were close, and they spent time together in the west, Brower said. “One of Warhol’s first gallery openings was in Los Angeles,” she said. “Dennis Hopper was very supportive, so this portrait illuminates their personal relationship and Dennis Hopper’s own importance in western art. Thematically, the works Wells Fargo is lending are so incredibly important to the theme of the west.”
Artwork like Warhol’s painting of Hopper came to the collection from different mergers, Hutson said. Before this exhibit, the Hopper painting was in an office and not displayed to the public. Now, three museums and their visitors are able to enjoy it.
“We hope people will learn about this understudied aspect of Warhol’s career,” Brower said. “Western art can be relatable to modern audiences. We are extremely grateful that Wells Fargo is able to lend these very important artworks to the exhibition.”