Crash course in ...

Bringing art to the workplace. The lugubrious portraits of your last five chairmen are a brooding presence in the boardroom...

by Alexander Garrett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

The lugubrious portraits of your last five chairmen are a brooding presence in the boardroom, while the Constable prints in the corridor are just so 19th century. It's time you thought about brightening up the workplace with some fresh art.

Take stock. First, make an inventory of what you already have, and its valuation. Says Andrew Hutchinson, director of International Art Consultants/Art for Offices: 'We sold a single Lowry for one client, which was enough to fund an entire contemporary collection.'

Work out the why. The most common business benefits achieved by art at work are the projection of a positive image to clients and other external audiences, and improved morale among staff. Decide what you're trying to achieve, and who your audience is.

Assemble a brief. Unless you have lots of time and in-house expertise, you'll want to call in the specialists. 'We would want to know the style, the subject matter, the medium and the budget,' says consultant Tom Tempest Radford. 'Choosing art is very subjective; our job is to make it objective.'

Don't form a committee. Keep decision-makers as senior and as few as possible. 'You can't ask 3,000 people to decide on every picture,' says Hutchinson.The chairperson can choose, so long as he/she subjugates their taste to what's right for the business.

Be bold. Art that's wishy-washy is a waste of space. 'Good art is a symbol of success,' says Colin Tweedy, CEO of Arts & Business. 'You want clients to be impressed by your taste. It's all about being confident and showing that you are successful.'

Think beyond painting. There's more to art than oils and watercolours; how about sculpture, photography or ceramics? 'In the past five to 10 years, there has been a trend towards more experimental art with sounds, light and water,' says Hutchinson.

Your art is not your brand. 'Mixing art and branding is a disaster,' says Tempest Radford. 'If you tell an artist what to paint you'll end up with bad art. They have got to believe in what they're doing.' An art collection can reflect a firm's culture and positioning in much more subtle ways, however.

Avoid sex and violence. Explicit eroticism or dark brooding works look great in your living room, but do you want to risk offending key clients? 'In the main, contemporary abstract work lends itself most readily to office environments,' says Robert Branchdale of Art Contact. 'Figurative and representational art tends to have a more domestic feel, and poses the question why you chose that landscape or subject.'

Consider rental. You can rent artworks from as little as a few pounds a week. It's fully tax deductible and leaves you with flexibility as your own needs change.

Do say: 'Our aesthetic is a homogenous part of our company's culture, which is one of creative expressivity.'

Don't say: 'Is it the right way up?'

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