Building A Corporate Art Collection
In this article we look at best practice in starting or building a corporate art collection, with real life examples of projects we at Zimmer Stewart have worked on in collaboration with a range of organisations.
Research has shown that businesses and organisations that start or build an art collection can improve their corporate culture (with both clients and employees), build goodwill (amongst all stakeholders) by demonstrating social responsibility and enhance their brand image.
These are real benefits to having a corporate art collection, but there are also pitfalls if certain steps or basic rules are not followed.
The right art can foster the mindset needed in today’s complex and evolving workspace; it can simultaneously make a lasting impression on clients as well as encourage collaboration, community and creativity.
This can be a simple as a permanent or temporary display of art in a reception, board room or other areas where clients and employees congegrate.
Art Collection Strategy:
Any design feature of an organisation should reflect the corporate brand and culture, this is true of furniture, interior design and also artwork.
So drafting a clear collection strategy will help determine the goals and boundaries of the collection. It does not necessarily need to be ‘cast in stone’ and rigidly followed but the strategy should be seen as a guide moving forward.
Matters to consider:
Assess the space and identify areas where art can be displayed.
Should artwork be solely on the walls, are there places where sculpture can be introduced?
Is there an outdoor space for sculpture or a mural.
Understand the brand values and how this can be reflected in the art to be displayed
Are their subjects to be avoided? Nudity, religion, war? or to be promoted?
Consider both clients and employees and what effect the art will have on both groups
What about the range of artists? Local or international? Emerging or established?
Should works be rented or purchased outright?
Are there any legacy, previously acquired or donated works that need to be considered?
Each of these decisions will help create the overall art collection strategy.
An art professional can help with this as well as with sourcing, selecting, installing, maintenance and insuring the works.
Various departments within the organisation should be consulted regularly: for example Marketing to consider brand values; Human Resources for employee involvement and Finance for funding.
Ultimately the art collection should be recorded on a register (as with other Fixed Assets), which should be reviewed and updated regularly with latest values, condition etc.
Establish an Art Acquisition Panel:
Often it has been the CEO or MD who selects pieces for an corporate art collection, but now with the many factors above to consider, as well as independence/accountability to consider.
The best way to add variety to a collection is to form an Art Acquisition Panel.
Members of the panel should be drawn from throughout the organisation, from the top down. This will motivate employees and keep them invested in the art collection.
As with all committees, and maybe more so with a subject as subjective as art, it is best practice to set out some basic do’s and don’ts as well as some general guidance. This will cover how the meetings will be run, what to do if one person is speaking too much or gets out of control, appointment of chair etc.
Start by setting out the spaces where art can be placed and maybe prioritise them. Then:
· Set out the Art Collection Strategy and ensure that the panel agree
· Approve a Budget to cover acquisition, installation and maintenance
· Look at Insurance requirements
· Start the Art Collection Register
Maybe appoint one or more individuals to have responsibility for each of these.
Clearly, the ‘buy-in’ from the board will be necessary for any art strategy to succeed, since they will need to approve any budget needs and the overall direction, but all on the panel should feel that they have equal status in the panel discussions.
The Art Panel once established can then set out goals for growing the collection, how it should be publicised/celebrated (if at all) and look at funding options.
Rent or Buy?
The benefits of renting a piece or a collection is mainly flexibility and finance.
If you are not sure of the style or medium for an art collection renting first can help by testing out various pieces.
Renting also allows for regular changes in the art, so pieces may be ‘exhibited’ for a period then changed.
Renting also does not require a big capital outlay, and may lead to a purchase if the rental agreement includes transfer of ownership after a number of periods.
A factor to consider if the art is to be rented and changed regularly is installation and take down, which can add to costs.
Sometimes artists or individuals may wish to donate (or part donate) artwork to the corporation.
Their motivation for doing this could be because they support the objectives of the organisation or because they want to be associated with it in some way or a combination of the two.
Donations, even though they may not involve any financial outlay, should be considered in the same way using the same criteria as acquisitions (or rentals); the works will be displayed and so need to ‘fit’ with the remainder of the works on display, the design of the building and most importantly the organisations brand.
Once the art has been installed then what?
Ideally all pieces should be properly labelled with at least the name of the piece and artist name, you can add medium, when created, art register ref, size, but often less is more in a label.
Further information can be published online or in a booklet available at reception.
Individual pieces can be highlighted in employee or even client newsletters, blogs, online news items. These can go into detail looking at the artist or the background to the piece
The art collection can be used as the back drop for corporate or employee events promoting and reinforcing the brand and corporate aesthetic.
Acquiring art whether through purchase or rental should be thought through and involve many department’s input as well as considering the effect on employees as well as clients.
An Art Acquisition Panel and Art Strategy should be established to set out the criteria by which all art acquisitions will be assessed. The strategy will include budgets and targets/goals.
When starting out or if budgets are tight, renting may be a good choice to try out various styles and mediums.
Each piece of art chosen does not need to be 'ground breaking', it just needs to fit the criteria set out and achieve the strategy objectives.
The job of the Art Panel need not end with the once works are installed, the can be highlighted on all forms of publicity, used as the back drop for events and even in out reach to local groups of colleges.
Finally, working with art and artists is different from any other business: It is hugely rewarding but can also be baffling and confusing as well. Try to make the process fun and be flexible, even with the criteria set out because there will always be something that arises that may not fit the established ‘rules’!
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