An ice-cool project for The Pension Insurance Corporation.
They wanted to decorate the 11 meeting rooms, and 2 public spaces of their Cornhill office, with art that would be admired by clients, enjoyed by staff, that would be a smart investment and that would extol their values as a company. To PIC, the penguin represents focus, dedication and adaptability- traits they relate to. Every PIC meeting room is named after a different species of penguin, the company logo also comprises two penguins. The project also grew out of then CEO John Coomber's commitment to sustainability, environmentally-conscious business practices and conservation. Enlisting members of the SWLA (Society of Wildlife Artists) who are keen advocates of understanding wildlife in it's natural habitat and any forces such as climate change that may affect that, seemed in line with PIC's brief. Engaging Chris Rose and Bruce Pearson, who have actually been to the Antarctic to draw penguins from life was also a major addition to the project. Several newly graduated artists were also enlisted (enabling PIC to fulfil another of their wants from this project; to support young and emerging artists); and ultimately one artist was commissioned for each space.
Each artist was to interpret their designated species of penguin in their own style. First, they had to learn more about penguins. Chris and Bruce shared their previous experience and research throughout the project, but if ever there were an excuse for a trip to London Zoo, this was it! The artists observed and drew penguins from life, then developed their ideas in a group workshop. The day ended with a drinks reception at the Mall Galleries, where PIC shared the project with their clients. Sketches were presented and SWLA members also gave a presentation on penguins, sharing their experiences of travelling in the Antarctic.
To inaugurate the 33 works of art, PIC held an unveiling event at their office. Guests arrived to find artists drawing penguins on the reception walls (PIC have since decided to leave the drawings there). As the night went on, each artist was stationed in their meeting room, alongside their work, and a few conducted workshops on drawing penguins. The event concluded with a silent auction of artists’ preparatory sketches to raise money for the SWLA (a registered charity). Feedback on the evening, project and artworks was extremely positive.
To commemorate the project PIC produced a coffee-table book The Art of Penguin Insurance which documented the project as well providing illustrations of each artwork.
Work ranged from origami using maps, to bronze sculpture. Dolores de Sade depicted her Humbolt penguins in the library of their discoverer, Alexander von Humbolt. Fran Giffard’s Gentoo penguins were precisely and scientifically recorded, where Chris Rose’s piece was composed primarily of ocean. Eleanor Watson depicted her African penguins in a zoo setting, whilst Anna Ilsley prefered to depict the fascinating South Island, home of the Fiordland penguin.