An art collection put together by British American Tobacco over the last 50 years to liven up its factories and "inspire" workers, will be auctioned in Amsterdam on Monday, Sotheby's said.
The Peter Stuyvesant Collection is "the largest collection of post-war and contemporary art ever" to go on sale in the Netherlands, the auction house said in a statement. It is expected to raise more than four million euros (5.5 million dollars).
Advertisement"The core body (of 163 works) comprises works by the greatest contemporary artists working in Europe in the post-war era."
These included Dutch painters Karel Appel and Jan Schoonhoven, French artist Niki de Saint-Phalle, Hungarian Victor Vasarely and Venezuela's Jesus Rafael Soto.
The collection was started by businessman Alexander Orlow, who in 1960 invited 13 artists from 13 European countries to create paintings for the production hall of his Turmac tobacco company in the Netherlands.
"The theme he chose was "Joie de Vivre" (The joy of living) and he specified that the works were to be large in size with vivid colours and shapes, powerful enough to stand out in the large factory halls," said the statement.
"While the initial responses of employees ranged from surprise to disbelief, they soon came to enjoy the enhancement to their workplace and Orlow made the serendipitous discovery that productivity actually increased." The collection was expanded in size and scope over the next 50 years.
Sotheby's spokeswoman Eva van Geldorp said many of the works had been in storage since British American Tobacco started closing some of the European factories that used to house them.
"This was never the intention: they were collected to be displayed and enjoyed, so they decided to put the works up for auction."