16. Winner - BNP Paribas and IMMA

Aisling Duggan, BNP Paribas with Siobhán Foran

Launched in October 2016, the IMMA Collection: Freud Project centres around a significant five-year loan of 50 works by one of the greatest realist painters of the 20th century, Lucian Freud (1922- 2011). Renowned for his portrayal of the human form, Freud is best known for his intimate, honest and often visceral portraits.

BNP Paribas is one of the members of the ‘Freud Circle’ of partners that is enabling the project to be so much more than simply a display of artworks, but an all-encompassing centre for research into this seminal artist. It incorporates a programme of special exhibitions, education partnerships, symposia and artist residencies. “We have never had this opportunity to have so many masterworks from a 20th century artist and it is the first time we have dedicated a space to a single artist in this way,” says Andrea Marrinan, corporate development officer at IMMA. “What is interesting for us is to explore what Freud as a traditional painter means to contemporary art and artists today.”

As an organisation with a major connection with the arts globally, BNP Paribas was drawn to the multifaceted nature of this three-year partnership with IMMA and, in particular, what it would mean from a learning perspective.

“The BNP Paribas Foundation in Paris promotes unique cultural efforts, including contemporary dance, new circus arts, jazz and classical music,” says Aisling Duggan, executive assistant to the country head at BNP Paribas. “We had worked with IMMA in the past on a lot of different projects, but saw this one [the Freud Project] as particularly worthwhile. The plan to involve schools in a long-term way was important to us. Each year that children and young people come back to the exhibition, they see something different and their opinions will change.” For example, artist Daphne Wright curated the second exhibition to be presented as part of the IMMA Collection: Freud Project. Entitled ‘The Ethics of Scrutiny’, it investigated a time before Freud was born and looked at the relationship between the artist and the sitter. Sometimes Freud’s sittings might take hundreds of hours. As part of the exhibition, Wright presented the works of other artists who address the complexities of representation on a wider scale.

According to Aoife Flynn, head of audiences and development at IMMA, thousands of schoolchildren are returning with each iteration of the exhibition. “Support from the Freud Circle means our learning and engagement department can produce resources for schools. About 90% of tours requested by schools are now about the Freud Project,” she says. “In addition, BNP Paribas’ commitment ensures free entry for the public every Tuesday, which has provided access to the wider community.”

The learning aspect of the Freud Project was enhanced further in 2017 with three artist residencies as the result of an open call. Laura Fitzgerald, Richard John Jones and a collaboration between artist Bridget O’Gorman and writer and researcher Sue Rainsford each took their own unique perspective on Freud’s work.

“Having these residencies on site really allows us to invest in artists to interrogate Freud from their standpoint over time,” notes Marrinan. “We want this to be an extension of their practice. It is about giving the artists source material and seeing what comes out of it.”

For BNP Paribas, the partnership with IMMA has been effective from an employee engagement point of view. “All of our 600 staff based in Ireland have free access to the exhibition. We have been invited to a lot of different events, including dinners and talks by experts in Freud like Martin Gayford,” says Duggan. “As part of the sponsorship we can use rooms in the main building for holding events. We availed of this opportunity to hold a conference for our securities services division, which involved international teams and clients.”

“With this partnership BNP Paribas is not just investing in an exhibition but the concept of the Freud Project,” says Marrinan. “There are lots of ways for the organisation to give value to the project but also to connect with the collection.”

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