By JOHN STENSHOLT
Fund manager Geoff Wilson and Brooklyn-based contemporary artist Byron Kim have more in common than it first appears.
Wilson is best known for his crusade in support of franking credits and expertise at picking undervalued stocks at Wilson Asset Management over about 25 years.
Kim is a renowned artist who is perhaps known for his ongoing Synecdoche piece that hangs in Washington’s National Gallery of Art.
An ongoing piece of art, Synecdoche features more than 400 panels that each have a single hue ranging from light tan or pink to dark brown, representing each person’s skin colour that has sat for Kim.
Soon, the work in Washington will also include a representation of Wilson and the entire 54-strong WAM staff in its Sydney headquarters – where Kim is currently installing a similar piece based on just the skin colours of Wilson employees.
“What is remarkable is that they will hang on the wall to represent a moment of a time and also live on in another country as part of a broader project,” says Sydney art adviser Mark Hughes, who is advising Wilson on the project.
It turns out Kim has a bit of investing expertise too, even if he plays down his stock selecting acumen – “it’s just a game to me” – to which Wilson retorts: “Most people in the industry think it is a game too.”
Kim remembers about 15 years ago when he was receiving movie disks in the mail from a fledging company called Netflix.
“I read about how they predicted they would one day tell us what movies we liked, using these things called algorithms, and I thought it would be a good investment,” he says.
Kim made the mistake of asking his then 14-year-old son who talked him out of it, saying it was a terrible idea.
“So I thought the next time I would just follow my own thoughts. I did it with Tesla a few years ago when there was all this talk about it going out of business. I thought that was crazy and it has gone well since.”
Like Kim talking about stocks, Wilson admits he is no art expert. But a little over five years ago, he decided after a visit to the Archibald Prize in Sydney that WAM’s new headquarters in Governor Philip Tower should have artworks that pay homage to his staff.
Wilson enlisted Hughes, at first with the idea of taking headshots of each person, before Kim was commissioned for his work that portrays each individual by the colour of their skin.
Synecdoche also refers to a figure of speech in which a part stands for a larger whole, and the panels are arranged in alphabetical order to signify no proper pecking order.
“I loved the idea of portraiture and acknowledging the people who go into that office every day and work, and the idea that mental health and wellness are already an important part of work as well,” Hughes explains.
“So it was a case of how to involve those staff and represent them by placing something on the wall that speaks in two ways: as an art work and a connecting point to the people who work there.”
Kim’s Sydney trip for the WAM work, his first visit to Australia, will take about two weeks to complete. Each employee sits for about 45 minutes in the WAM boardroom with Kim.
“I just think it is fantastic that there is art that everyone that works here can relate to,” says Wilson.
“I’m a big believer in democracy and a big believer in you’re only as good as the people you work with – and so to me it is great that you have a really high quality conversation with someone whose expertise is totally different to what yours is.”
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