Gone are the days when art in the office meant a watercolour or print hanging on the main wall. There are a many ways in which new, vibrant art can create just the right corporate image and ambience, or be the focal point in a reception area or boardroom. First in a two-part series written by Christopher Tobutt.
More importantly, choice of the right kind of art for your business offers a company the opportunity to send a bold message about its core values and its long-term vision.
Essentially, art is a communicator of thoughts and ideals, but the language it employs is not the formal language of annual reports, it is the language of emotion, colour and symbolism. The strength of using visual art to communicate therefore lies in its ability to bypass the analytical side of the brain, and speak directly to a person’s emotional core.
Strangely, while companies are used to using art and artistic expression in advertising, a process normally transacted through the medium of highly paid advertising agencies, the same kind of attention is not usually applied to the art hanging in the reception area of an office building, despite the fact that many clients will visit the building many times, so that their impression of what is on its walls, is going to be repeatedly reinforced, just like the subliminal content a TV advert.
Part of the problem, perhaps, is that artists and business people live in two separate worlds. The artist, by nature, is not good at articulating the meaning of their art, neither are they given to marketing themselves in a way that company executives would easily comprehend, even if they have the opportunity.
Likewise, busy company executives may know very little about what is available, let alone about matching up the core values of their organisation with the abstract language of art.
It is easy to get things wrong and spend a lot of money on art which fails to send the right messages, or that those who have to work in front of it all day long secretly resent.
What is needed is therefore a mediator, well versed in the languages, as well as the constraints of both the world of art, and the world of business. Such a person is Geraldine Morgan of the Morgan Gallery, who, with her husband, Steve, spent many years in the hard-headed world of business, where they were senior executives in the microelectronics industry, before opening The Morgan Gallery on West Bay Road.
Both had always loved and appreciated art, and as they got to know more about the artists who live and work locally, the content of their gallery began to change from showing work by overseas artists to work done by artists living locally, many of them Cayman-born.
Geraldine has spent much time building relationships with these artists, and has won their trust. She also knows the kind of work they have done are capable of doing; something that is useful if a company director or CEO has a specific idea, and wishes to commission an artist.
“The first step of the process involves visiting the site and listening to the clients’ needs identifying the key objectives they are trying to achieve with the art,” Geraldine said.
“I assist them by asking relevant questions such as: ‘What kind of art do you want? What kind of genre? Do you want abstract paintings, local scenes, impressionism or realism?’”
“In addition to listening, I like to offer my expertise in order to try to help the person who is responsible come to an informed decision. I help them to understand all the different aspects, and exactly what is involved,” she said.
Some of these aspects include how the painting is hung, or exactly how it is lit. Colours too are extremely important, as wrong colours not only send wrong emotional signals, but may be completely out of harmony with the rest of the building’s structure and décor.
“After I have finished the interview with the client, my next step is to show them some examples of paintings that I think they would be comfortable with. From that I can get a better idea of colours and genre, the overall feeling of the paintings that would be most suitable.
“Then I will take as many as twelve to fifteen paintings to a particular location in order to see exactly what size of canvas, or combination of colours is just right. From there, we can eliminate some paintings and leave some in situ to see how they feel. From the feedback I get, I can work with them to either install existing work from the artists, or specially commission the artists to do new work,” Geraldine said.
Hear what the businesses have to say about corporate art in the concluding series next month.