RMB spreads the love with Guy du Toit
art competition prizes.
The RMB art collection currently stands at over 1 700 art works, including an extensive sculpture collection, and is one of the most significant corporate collections in the country. The use of the art in the collection to foster conducive conditions for the company’s business culture is emblematised by the Think Precinct – a thoroughfare on RMB’s Sandton campus, bordering a public road, which has become a sculpture park. Here, staff and clients can converse in a thought-provoking space surrounded by commissioned works of public sculpture, including Africa’s Fearless Thinker and a splendid example of one of artist Guy du Toit’s famous and well-loved Hare sculptures.
It is a few of these that provides a recent pertinent example of RMB using its art collection to engage South African society with the company’s ethos and values. Du Toit is a long-time collaborator with RMB, his playful hare figures embodying the agility, resourcefulness and intelligence that the company espouses. One of the Hare sculptures features in the SLOW Lounge at the O.R.Tambo international airport, and before lockdown, was the focus of a competition to engage visiting travellers, who were asked to submit their impressions of the SLOW lounge, which had just been upgraded. The Hare sculpture formed the drop off point for the competition entries. Entrants also gave their impressions of their dealings with RMB/FNB. The winning entries were chosen by committee, and the three winners all received smaller maquette versions of the Hare sculpture. Winner Raoul Ballyram loved the expanded SLOW lounge, and had heartfelt thanks for FMB, while Kathy Berman – an art entrepreneur currently running the Mask4Good campaign for charity in SAs lockdown – described the SLOW lounge as a ‘serene sanctuary…’, where du Toit’s sculpture was ‘uncharacteristically still and calm’. Winner Theunis Kotze has been forced by his mother-in-law’s cancer diagnosis to travel extensively between Cape Town and Joburg, describing the SLOW lounge as a godsend and ‘part of the journey’. Theunis’ partner describes himself as an FNBer for life, and is particularly fond of eBucks and the FNB app.
The competition continued into the recent RMB Turbine Art Fair, conducted online, where two more of du Toit’s charismatic Hare sculptures were given away to impassioned art fans who entered the livestreamed competition at the VIP opening of the Fair. These were awarded to Marcel Klaassen, who opined that ‘creativity is a window to the future. It is the freedom of expression which allows us to harness diversity and culture, as we think differently about problems to find solutions’, and to Anant Kalan.
The competition demonstrates how the RMB art collection engages clients and the public in a business environment. Says Ballyram, ‘Art knows no race, creed, culture or political affiliations. It appeals to everyone in a distinctive way – just as RMB’s service to its clients is tailor-made and personalised.’
This approach to integrating its extensive art collection and outlook on art with its business strategy and practice is unique among the many corporate South African companies who hold art collections. RMB’s art is regularly put to considered and public use in the company’s office spaces, and forms a strong part of RMB’s ethos of solutionist thinking and innovation throughout its business approach. At a time like now, when lockdowns to combat the spread of Covid-19 are having a significant social and economic impact on countries around the world, art, in its many guises, is also a source of inspiration and comfort.
According to recent government research before the current pandemic crisis, the creative economy in South Africa contributes over R90bn to the national GDP, and accounts for about 7% of all employment. Partly as a consequence of understanding the multiplier value that can emerge from this growing sector, RMB’s founders – all passionate art collectors in their own right – decided that the company’s investment into the arts would focus on supporting the growth of this creative economy through young South African talent. RMB’s corporate collection was therefore not built to have a definite monetary value, but rather one that would be true to the ethos of the business — one that would have relevance and meaning.