UBS Is Hosting a Major Exhibition of Lucian Freud Works

The financial services company has accumulated an impressive art collection over the decades.

Oil painting of man lying down next to small dog
Lucian Freud, Double Portrait, (1988-90). © The Lucian Freud Archive/Bridgeman Images/Courtesy UBS Art Collection

UBS, a Switzerland-based global financial services firm, is drawing from its art collection to show more than 40 works by British painter Lucian Freud. The pieces will be collectively displayed for the first time in the U.S. in Lucian Freud: Works from the UBS Art Collection, which opened yesterday (Feb. 1) at the firm’s New York gallery.

Known as one of the great portraitists of his era, Freud specialized in figurative art and is the grandson of psychoanalysis founder Sigmund Freud. The UBS show is largely dominated by his late etchings. Created by Freud using an unconventional process that involved propping up etching plates on easels, they range from still lifes and landscapes to portraits and nudes. Two of the artist’s oil paintings, his 1990 Double Portrait and 1999 Head of a Naked Girl, are also included in the exhibition.

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“We are pleased to share with the public this exceptional body of work, which defies perceived norms of corporate collecting,” said Mary Rozell, global head of the UBS Art Collection, in a statement. “Like most of Freud’s oeuvre, the artworks on display are uncompromising and challenging to view, and we hope they will spark both conversation and introspection.”

Oil portrait of a woman's face
Lucian Freud, Head of a Naked Girl, (1999).

The free exhibition is taking place in the UBS Art Gallery, which is in the lobby of the firm’s New York headquarters on 1285 Avenue of the Americas. Opened in 2019, the gallery is home to permanent installations with work by artists like Frank Stella, Sarah Morris, Fred Eversley and Howard Hodgkin and hosts three to four annual rotating exhibitions.

In addition to its Freud works, the UBS Art Collection contains more than 30,000 contemporary pieces by artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha and Cindy Sherman. Having first started collecting contemporary art in the 1960s, the firm now often loans out its work to major institutions including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and London’s National Portrait Gallery.

UBS has been managing $5.5 trillion worth of invested assets since its 2023 acquisition of Credit Suisse (CS), which had its own 10,000-piece corporate art collection. In addition to the pieces hanging in its gallery, UBS displays its art holdings across its global offices to both boost morale and impress clients. It is also affiliated with art fair behemoth Art Basel, acting as its global lead partner and co-publishing reports on the art market and collecting activity.

Outside view of colorful lobby of large corporate building
The UBS Art Gallery is located in the lobby of the company’s New York headquarters. Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Financial service companies and corporate art collections

While UBS’s vast collection of contemporary art might come as a surprise, financial service companies have long been some of the most active art patrons. The modern corporate art collection as we know it was pioneered by David Rockefeller. In 1959, while serving as president of Chase Manhattan Bank, he began accumulating artwork under the “Art at Work” program. Now known as JPMorgan Chase (JPM), the company’s collection is among the most well-established of any financial services company and helped create a new way for banks to display their ability to manage wealth.

“What’s most important about our collection is not how much we’ve accumulated, but what, in the process of living with art for the past four decades, we’ve learned,” wrote William B. Harrison, Jr., then Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of JP Morgan Chase, in the forward of Art At Work: Forty Years of the JP Morgan Chase Collection.

From the Royal Bank of Canada to Spain’s CaixaBank, corporate art collections have become a globally accepted cultural phenomenon. One of the more significant holdings includes the 60,000 works owned by Bank of America (BAC), which focuses on contemporary artists and has hosted shared exhibitions with nearly 200 museums worldwide. Deutsche Bank (DB) houses much of its 57,000-piece collection in the Deutsche Bank Towers in Frankfurt, where art is arranged by region and entire floors of the 60-story towers are devoted to singular artists. And that’s not all. According to the International Art Alliance, there are more than a thousand major corporate art collections around the globe.

UBS Is Hosting a Major Exhibition of Lucian Freud Works