For private equity hacks, very few territories are as unfamiliar as contemporary art. Ditto gourmet food (unless you count the crayfish sandwich from Pret).
So a recent invitation from Deutsche Bank to spend an evening enjoying the delights of the Frieze Art Fair in London’s Regent’s Park, followed by dinner at Lima Floral (sister restaurant of Michelin-starred Peruvian restaurant Lima), was as welcome as it was unexpected. First Round remains unclear what value it was expected to add to the evening. But never one to turn down a chance to expand its mind (or its waistline), it was there like a shot.
The exhibition, which showcases pieces by more than 1,000 of the world’s leading artists, was vast, elbow-bashingly busy, and wholly bewildering.
Thank goodness First Round was in the eminently capable hands of Alistair Hicks, Deutsche Bank’s art advisor and curator, who led a small group on a whistle-stop tour of the best the pop-up fair had to offer. Otherwise it would genuinely never have known that a tower made of skirts was actually a feminist take on Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column. And it might have remained blissfully unaware that the seemingly innocuous cardboard box in the corner was in fact a bronze sculpture.
Now if you’re anything like First Round, you may be wondering why a German financial services behemoth has its own art curator. Well, apparently Deutsche now has works by more than 5,000 artists on display in its global network of offices, including 4,000 in the UK alone. One of them, a mind-blowing installation called ‘The Arc of the Day’ – an exhibition copy of which was on display in the bank’s hospitality tent at Frieze – consists of 13 clocks representing different cities, with the numbers replaced by emotions. Because, you know, art.
Following some dangerously potent Pisco sours and a meal to die for, a grateful First Round trotted home armed with its goodie-bag – much fuller, but arguably not really any the wiser. Then again, Deutsche’s a bank, not a miracle-worker.