For contemporary art collector Lisa Baker, it’s hard for her to pinpoint precisely what draws her to a particular piece.
“If it stays with me in my mind overnight, and I can’t forget about it, then it’s right,” said Baker, the director and chief curator of the HBC Global Art Collection. It’s an assemblage of more than 3,000 pieces — paintings, photography, videos, etchings and sculpture from around the world — displayed in Hudson’s Bay Co.’s corporate offices in Canada, Germany, Belgium and the U.S., as well in many of HBC’s department stores.
Baker and her husband Richard Baker, who is chairman of the Hudson’s Bay Co., on Tuesday hosted a dual-purpose party at HBC’s new headquarters at Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan — to show off the new facility and expose the 300 guests to much of the collection. The location brings the Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks Off 5th, Lord & Taylor, Gilt and HBC corporate and shared services teams together under one roof and displays 600 pieces from the collection over the eight floors of the 480,000-square-foot headquarters.
Baker said she’s been collecting since her mid-20s, and some of her own personal pieces are included in the HBC assemblage. “I really just do my own thing,” she said, but there’s more to it, she adds, noting that the artwork “is for the employees to be inspired.” QR readers, which utilize an HBC app and codes place by each artwork, send information of the art and artist instantly to your smartphone.
Asked to show some her favorite artworks, she brings a guest to a photo of the ocean in a serene state by Renate Aller, called “Oceanscape.” “It’s very different. It’s not the bright blue sea. I love the whole mood,” Baker said.
Then she points out an urban photo, “Girls in the Windows” by Ormond Gigli of an abandoned brownstone in New York with 43 women standing in all the window openings, devoid of glass. Then there’s a James Turrell LED light installation, “Ofissa Pupp,” that changes colors; an edgy video by Tomoyasu Murata, utilizing stop motion and sketches,as well as works by Jeff Koons, Diane Arbus and Robert Rauschenberg, among others.
There is also a large photo of the Biblioteca De Palacio Nacional de Mafra II by Candida Hofer. “I can picture myself in this space. I love libraries. They’re quiet. I don’t like big crowds. I’m a quiet person.”
One of the biggest pieces, a 96-inch tall by 146-inch wide oil painting by German artist Chris Succo, hangs prominently in the boardroom. “I’m always reading and researching and I read an article about Chris about three years ago. I never forgot about it.” More recently, Baker, on a visit to HBC offices in Cologne, decided to take a side trip to visit Succo about an hour away. “I called him randomly — and I raced to his studio.” That’s when she decided, his work would be a perfect addition to the collection.
“It is hard to explain how they make me feel, but I really feel the energy with these works. It’s like they are my children,” said Baker, who does have three children of her own.
In keeping with the evening’s cultural theme, there was uneasy avant-garde performance art by Violet Overn and Emma Sulkowicz splattering paint and glitter over their bodies and yelling, “No You,” followed by some soothing parting words from Richard Baker thanking the ladies and encouraging the crowd to take in the art. “This is an unbelievable body of art here, 600 pieces in a thought-out collection. Here, we’ll all be able to think differently as we work. It’s about creating an environment to dream about the future of Hudson’s Bay.”