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Societe Generale supports artistic creation through its Collection

Since 1995, Societe Generale has been building an art collection which today brings together more than 1,200 contemporary works. They are exhibited in the premises in Paris and abroad, reflecting the group’s presence in different countries. What was initially the wish to give more soul to the Parisian offices has become a real mission to support artistic creation in the world.

We met Aurélie Deplus, head of the Contemporary Art Collection, artistic patronage and public relations. She told us about her journey from finance to the world of culture and shared the many artistic initiatives of the Group.

Terencio Gonzalez, Let’s go, 2017, collage papier, peinture en spray et acrylique sur toile, 146 x 130 cm – Collection Société Générale

Hello Aurelie. Can you tell us about your background and what brought you to this role within Societe Generale ?

Aurélie Deplus: I studied commerce and finance after which I worked in banks in London and Paris. At the same time, I was involved in art on a personal basis.

Then in 2006, I took the opportunity to study art history and work at Christie’s. At the end of this experience, Societe Generale asked me to join the communication then the patronage department 8 years ago with the mission of taking care of the Group’s art Collection, coordinating patronage actions and to increase the visibility of these initiatives.

I also take care of the public relations for the cultural projects of the Group, in music or the Saisons Croisees with the French Institute (Editor’s note: events bringing France into dialogue with more than 100 countries on arts and culture, education , research, sport, etc.).

What is the history of the Collection?

AD: The Art Collection started in 1995 following the Group’s change of location, from the heart of Paris to La Defense. The management wanted to give more soul to the buildings with works intended for common living spaces. The Collection began with mainly large sculptures and abstract paintings. A few years later, there was the desire to continue this process with the establishment of an acquisition committee and the desire to show it, to collaborate with cultural institutions. Since then, we have set up a mediation team which welcomes the public to show the Collection. Of course a little less lately, but it continues. We welcome a wide variety of audiences, whether associations, schools, employees etc.

Can you tell us about the cultural initiatives you lead?

AD: Despite the context, we managed to carry out several initiatives. For the exhibitions, we work with exhibition curators who bring us their expert view and we have, for example, focused on the Romanian scene in collaboration with the Fondation Francès and the Valérie Delaunay gallery.

We also support prizes which, beyond acquisition, help artists for the production or setting up of exhibitions. We wish to continue to support both young and more established artists.

Laura Tolen, L’éveil, 2020, encre et crayons de couleur sur papier, 76 x 140 cm – Collection Société Générale

What are the current or upcoming events for this year?

AD: This year, we are working with curator Marie-Ann Yemsi, who is very active on the African continent and in Europe and who currently has an exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris (Ed. Ubuntu, a lucid dream). This collaboration is an exhibition entitled Transport Commun in two parts with works from the Collection and guest artists. The second part (visible until April at Societe Generale in Puteaux) was a call for projects from the Fine Arts of Paris and the exhibition is a dialogue between artists from the Collection and these young artists. Of course, we have other projects that will be announced soon.

Louis Granet, Untitled, 2017, acrylique sur toile, 197 x 135 com – Collection Société Générale

How is the selection of artists to join the collection carried out?

AD: The selection is made by the acquisition committee, made up of outside experts and passionate team members. The proposals are then made to the general management.

The line of the Collection is around painting, sculpture, photography and more occasionally drawing. We are committed to supporting artists with varied backgrounds and we ensure a balance between female and male artists. The Collection is international because the group is. The Collection reflects this presence, particularly in Eastern and Central Europe, Africa and Asia.

In the case of international collections or awards, the focus is on the local scene. There is a very fine collection in Morocco, Tunisia, the Czech Republic or more recently Ivory Coast. The jury is also made up of local experts and I am often a member of it.

What is the role of online tools for sharing your initiatives?

AD: We were doing artistic conferences for collaborators and with the pandemic, we went online, which was very successful because we reached a wider audience.

We also make online visits of the Collection with our mediators with routes on, for example, the works in situ. The objective is to share and explain the works. Of course, we also use social networks to share the work of artists from the Collection and communicate on news.

Nothing replaces the experience in person, however these online tools are very relevant to democratize access to these works.

To visit the collection and find out more:

Photo Credit: cover Pixabay and by courtesy of Societe Generale


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