A European approach to corporate culture
The EPO's art collection has its origins in the relationship between contemporary art and the working world. Accessible to all staff, the collection's artworks hang or stand in conference rooms, foyers, cafeterias, corridors, stairwells and other areas open to EPO staff in the various office buildings in Munich, The Hague, Berlin and Vienna. In its conceptual substance and objectives, the collection has, over the years, consistently gone beyond mere decorative embellishment.
The decision to acquire an art collection was a conscious one on the part of the member states of the European Patent Office to give the newly founded European institution a cultural face. Since the ratification of the EPC in 1973 the contracting states have been instrumental in establishing an international organisation which at the time was unique in Germany.
This extraordinary commitment also led to the initiative to patronise art within the EPO, a scheme that was strongly promoted by the first President of the EPO, a Dutchman named Johannes Bob van Benthem (1921-2006). Mr van Benthem understood sponsorship of the arts as a prime responsibility of the member states and thus paved the way for the involvement of the EPO as an art collector. To the present day, one of the principle cultural activities still is to continue this work in the spirit of the Office's pioneering years and to present the collection to the public.