The bigger picture: Corporate art

Art can improve more than just the office ambience, it can improve a business’s bottom line.

Art can improve more than just the office ambience, it can improve a business’s bottom line.

Art can improve more than just the office ambience, it can improve a business’s bottom line.

Earlier this year, London-based firm The Antique Wine Company commissioned an artist to create works for its new office and wine academy.  

Managing director Stephen Williams says he wanted to get away from the po-faced, elitist atmosphere that sometimes surrounds fine wine, so he approached artist Chris Burke, a ‘quintessential English illustrator’ with a ‘witty, clever’ take on the subject.

One of Burke’s works for the company depicts a row of Lafite wine bottles marching over the Great Wall of China, while another (pictured above) illustrates five drinkers pondering the qualities of the wine they are quaffing. Another series of works is more abstract, incorporating the company’s logo.

Williams explains that the art creates a great backdrop for clients visiting the company. He adds, ‘You cannot help but engage in them – everyone stops to look at the works and investigate the detail further.’

It would appear that corporate art goes further than simply decorating a space. Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline decided to make an investment in a diverse art collection and its employees were at the heart of its choice.

Director of operations Richard Collis remarks, ‘The collection was chosen with the people who will live with the art firmly in mind.’

In addition to reinforcing company culture, enhancing staff satisfaction and facilitating relationships with clients, some believe that art can do even more.

James Thorneley, group communications manager at Aberdeen Asset Management, who invested in paintings for its office, says well-chosen art creates ‘an atmosphere conducive to reflection and contemplation’ that is ‘helpful in arriving at sensible decisions’.

The majority of British companies that invest in corporate art tend to buy, while American firms more frequently rent, according to Virginia Grub, managing director of Art Contact.

She adds, ‘Renting is great if you don’t fully know what you want. You can rent a piece for 18 months and then change it or buy it at a discounted rate. Another obvious benefit is that in many cases art can prove to be a good investment and become a major asset for the company.’

Tastes in corporate art are changing, according to Alex Heath, director at International Art Consultants. The firm’s research shows that oils and watercolours are still most popular, with sculpture and mixed media works taking second and third places.

But Heath adds that companies are becoming more receptive to new forms of digital and light-based art. It is not just the content of art, but also the format, genre and style that speak volumes about a company, he adds.

Naturally, the cost of purchasing or renting art will be a major factor in companies’ decisions on what to hang on their walls. Prices will differ widely depending on whether firms decide on original pieces or prints, and whether they are by well-known artists or relative unknowns.

Williams of The Antique Wine Company stands by his company’s investment proudly, stating, ‘As we commissioned such a well-known artist, we paid contemporary art market prices, but I’d say it was definitely a worthy investment.’

Aoife Hayes

Aoife Hayes was a staff journalist for Business XL, sister title to GrowthBusiness, from 2011 to 2012, before moving on to work for the BBC as a Broadcast journalist. She graduated from the University...

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