Cakes and Ale, Paintings and Sculptures: Directors’ Duties and Corporate Art Collecting

  •  Elizabeth Harris    
  •  Bede Harris    


Corporations spend significant amounts of money on art collecting and art sponsorship, but little research has been done on the question of whether such activities are permissible in light of directors’ duties. This article addresses that issue by examining whether corporate expenditure on art collecting and sponsorship is consistent with the duty to act in the bests interests of a corporation, the duty to exercise powers for a proper purpose and the fiduciary duty not to make improper use corporate information or position. This is done first by examining the scale of corporate expenditure on art and then by analysing the case law on various directors’ duties, before discussing whether corporate art collecting is legitimate in light of those duties. The article examines the most important reasons why a corporation may collect art – as an investment, in furtherance of corporate social responsibility goals and in order to enhance the psychological well-being of employees – and concludes that while art collecting for such purposes does not amount to a breach of directors’ duties, this is subject to the requirement that a corporation put into place safeguards contained in a formalised art collecting and sponsorship policy, the key principles of which are stated at the end of the article.

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