This publication arises from a collaborative project undertaken by The Baring Archive and the Graduate School of CCW (Camberwell College of Arts, Chelsea College of Art and Design and Wimbledon College of Art, three of the constituent colleges of University of the Arts London).
In 1995, ING acquired the business of Barings plc, after Barings became insolvent as a result of unauthorized trading. Along with the acquisition of the company came a collection of archival material relating to the long history of Barings, whose origins stretch back to 1717 when John Baring of Bremen settled in Exeter and set up business as a merchant and manufacturer. In 1762, his three sons established the London merchant house of John & Francis Baring & Co., later known as Baring Brothers and, by the nineteenth century, the firm had expanded to become a leading financier for overseas governments and businesses.
Documentation and objects relating to the illustrious history of the bank were augmented by portraits – eighteenth and nineteenth century paintings of the Baring family by leading practitioners of the period, such as Thomas Lawrence, Benjamin West, John Linnell, Ambrose McEvoy and William Orpen.
From the 1970s onwards, a distinguished collection of water-colours was added to the historical archive, containing works by artists such as Paul Sandby, Francis Towne and David Cox, and Barings, with great discernment, had also accrued an impressive group of modern British artworks to hang on its office walls.Prunella Clough, L.S. Lowry, Paul Nash, Matthew Smith, Stanley Spencer, Keith Vaughan and Carel Weight are just a few of the artists represented.
The Currency of Art is one outcome of a collaboration initiated with ING seven years ago. Staff and students from Wimbledon College of Art, and pupils from three of its neighbouring secondary schools, were invited to create new works in response to the painting collection which now hangs in ING’s offices at 60 London Wall. The staff, students and schoolchildren – diverse communities in themselves – brought fresh perspectives, distinct from those of financial historians or more traditional academics, to the collection. Residencies, symposia
and workshops generated responses to the paintings, culminating in two exhibitions hosted by ING, re:MAKING and re:INVENTING, whereby the newly created works were hung alongside the originals that had inspired them. This represented an unusual opportunity, given the problems associated with conservation and stewardship that often inhibit such a combination.