Art as a bellwether for change

Art as a bellwether for change

In conversation with Loa Haagen Pictet, Head of Arts and Chief Curator at Pictet

Loa Haagen Pictet is a Danish art historian and curator who, since 2004, has been responsible for building up the Collection Pictet, Pictet’s art collection of Swiss art from 1805 to present day. With experience within Danish museums such as Statens Museum for Kunst and later KØS, she has curated shows on modern and contemporary art and architecture as well as the first exhibition of Ferdinand Hodler ever held in Scandinavia.

What are some special characteristics of Pictet’s art collection?

Although Pictet is an international Group, the Collection’s exclusive focus on Swiss art acknowledges our roots. Each artwork needs to have a link to Switzerland. The Collection contains pieces by artists from a wide range of backgrounds who, irrespective of their nationality, have forged a cultural connection with Switzerland, through training, exhibitions, commitments or relationships.

We shared the Pictet Partners’ opinion that art could function as a social barometer, to keep abreast of change. Artists are like bellwethers, able to spot shifts and patterns long before we can enter and process data to track trends.

You could argue that, as wealth and asset managers, we at Pictet view building an art collection as an investment reflecting the long-term approach, focusing on preserving assets, that we take in all our work. However, we are also forward-thinking and seek to promote innovation and creativity. In a way, the Collection Pictet provides both a visual overview of banking history and reflects our role as a people-centred, service-focused firm built by successive generations. The artworks in the Collection also add a human dimension to the spaces in which we work, providing aesthetic value and fostering exchange. This ties in with our initial aim of creating a stimulating, dynamic working environment for our colleagues and clients.


Doris, 1989

And where is the collection stored?

The Collection’s artworks are all around us, they adorn our offices and client reception areas.

As a corporate collection, we also feel a responsibility to give back to society by sharing and loaning out our pieces. It is also important to the artists, galleries, art dealers and estates that handle the artworks that they do not vanish behind closed doors. The artworks exist to be viewed and admired by different audiences and in different locations, with exposure ultimately increasing their value. This is why we participate in loans and exchanges.

In the past, private banks rarely displayed their collections to the public. Now, thanks to the emphasis placed by our Partners on the need to operate on an open-source basis and to share the Collection with the world, it is available — in its entirety, along with other information — on our website, The public exposure helps to make artists feel that their work is promoted and valued by the Pictet Collection, strengthening our positive collaboration. It also allows other institutions to view the contents of our Collection and to submit requests for loans, with which we try to comply whenever possible.


carpet, site-specific installation

How many artworks are there in the collection today? Are any for sale?

We have a clear policy, similar to that of museums: the artworks in the Collection are not for sale to clients or any other buyers, and we never sell off existing pieces to acquire new ones. This policy has cemented our reputation as a serious art collector and earned us the trust of artists, galleries and estates, invaluable for ensuring access to the best works. We are therefore very careful about what pieces we add to the Collection. When we decide to work with an artist, we generally try to purchase a series of pieces by that artist, to build up a body of work. Today, the Collection consists of just over 1,000 pieces by approximately 175 artists.


Color Lab Study with dots, 2012

To Be Titled, 2005-2008

What do you consider when acquiring a new piece?

It is of paramount importance to purchase key works by major artists. While the Collection does contain some video or other digital art, they are not as prominent as the works that hang on the walls in our offices.

As the pieces in our Collection are integrated into our working environment, we have clear guidelines about what work can or cannot be added to the Collection. For example, given that we have colleagues and clients from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, art featuring violence would be unsuitable, and could potentially cause upset. While there are limits to what art we will include in the Collection, we still try to push boundaries on occasion.

In general, art grows on people, and colleagues become attached to the artworks present in their working environment.


vierundzwanzigsteraugustzweitausendundeins, 2001


Grosser Himmel mit Wolken über Kontinenten, 1964

Does the art collection bring clients closer to
Pictet? Is art a point of resonance for them?

It is important to recognise that not everyone is interested in art, and we have no wish to be didactic or to force everyone to know about and to love art. Instead, we aim to stimulate thought and creativity.

Clients with a knowledge of and interest in art can see how we acquire, curate and install the works to make them resonate in a specific space, a qualitative way to display art.

This creates a talking point with clients who are prominent art collectors themselves. We also take part in dialogues and exchanges at major events and art talks.

A shared passion for art can provide a lot to talk about, strengthen connections and build friendships among colleagues and clients.



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