Art and architecture: Swiss Re's corporate culture and identity

Interview with Anne Keller, Head Corporate Citizenship and Art, Swiss Re.

Ms Keller, what are the distinguishing features of art?

Basically, it's the observer that decides whether or not an art work is important. The key aspects for us are emotion and motivation: art touches us, surprises us, reminds us – and we either like it or we don't. It inspires us to pause, reflect and ask questions. Often a piece does not reveal itself at first glance; it raises questions and gives scope for interpretation. And that is precisely one of the greatest qualities of art: it prompts dialogue and requires us to engage with a work of art.

Why is art so important for Swiss Re?

Art has played a significant role in our company for decades. It's a fixed staple of our branding and part of our corporate culture. It reflects our values and contributes greatly to workspace design.

Art is particularly significant for Swiss Re's branding: our products and services are complex, they need to be explained and have little emotional profile. Art and our architecture express this branding aspect. They lend the company a face internally and externally; they are a visible and tangible expression of quality and style.

A company which concerns itself with art usually has a lively, open and future-oriented corporate culture. Architecture and art are integral to our corporate identity, which sets us apart and characterises us.

What is the intended impact on employees?

Swiss Re concerns itself with risk, with assessing the unforeseeable. This uncertainty and the way in which we deal with knowledge calls for employees who have innovative minds, who can look beyond their horizons, are tolerant and unafraid of debate. These are exactly the themes which underlie artistic work, the qualities which are honed through interaction with art and are given a new contemporary twist.

Art in the workplace is a central aspect of this: it should inspire and excite, motivate and help our employees worldwide enjoy coming into the office and regard art as an integral part of their working environment.

What are your criteria when selecting pieces for Swiss Re buildings?

Whoever enters our buildings knows without many words or explanations that they are at Swiss Re – thanks to the distinct atmosphere and mood. This perception is mainly achieved by unique architecture and artistic interventions.

Specific art concepts are developed for entire buildings or certain areas. Our strategy is not to collect individual works; rather we focus on group works from selected artists. We spotlight key works which are integrated into individual concepts as far as possible and which the observer repeatedly encounters in various buildings and rooms.

Over the last decade we focused in particular on commissioning national and international artists to create pieces for us. We deliberately gave them free rein with the interior design so that they can interact with the location and specific circumstances in their own unique way. To date, around 25 large works have been created, some of which are very significant. The individual works are in dialogue with the architecture and reflect the different functions of the various rooms and zones.

What are the artistic demands of Swiss Re Next?

Swiss Re Next really is a great project for us, too. Even the building itself– with its wavy glass façade, elegance and transparency – will appear like a sculpture and will be a fascinating combination of art and architecture.

The chosen art concept consistently features commissioned pieces, which were developed by the artists, architects and us before construction of the building began. This represents a new chapter in the history of the Art at Swiss Re collection: art and architecture, but also materialisations and functional themes – like light and shade – will be taken up artistically and realised.

The underlying aim is to inspire our employees and guests alike and to create a new spatial experience.  Architecture and art will thus continue to contribute greatly to Swiss Re's image and identity.

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