A(r)t Work: 3 things to know when choosing art for your office
Text by Andrei Breahnă, Managing Partner at Gaep Gallery
In recent months I’ve found myself thinking more about the work of Thomas Demand. Constructing life-size models of architectural spaces, photographing and then destroying them without hesitation, the artist depicts these spaces absent the individuals who normally activate them. His silent spaces have the same eerie feeling that our cities have had during the lockdown. From airports and waiting rooms, to company offices and the most famous workspace of all, The Oval Office, his photographs point to the sameness of our surroundings. But also to the fact that narratives exist even within the generic.
Take a moment to think of your workspace as if it were a Demand image. To someone who sees it for the first time would it be uncannily familiar? Does it have anything that makes it stand out? And, no matter if the answer to these two questions is “yes” or “no”, what is the narrative that the space tells?
The reason I’m suggesting this imagination exercise has to do with COS Corporate Office Solutions’ activity and with my own work as a gallerist. Both office design and art contribute to communicating a narrative, if employed smartly. So when people ask me what art is “right” for their office, I’m less keen on finding out the physical parameters of the space than what their organization stands for. Here is my checklist for starting a conversation about how to choose art:
- Communicate your values through art
Your organization’s mission, ideas and achievements are the most reliable basis. Go beyond the formal characteristics of an artwork and delve into its content and its context – who the artist is, what questions and issues their practices explore, how these relate to other cultural or sociopolitical talking points. You can get this information from a lot of sources: galleries, art advisers, magazines, websites, Instagram. A huge amount of content is now easily accessible. If any, the connections between your organization and the artwork will gradually come to light.
- Engage your colleagues
It shouldn’t be a question of if, but how. Managers are often the decision-makers when it
comes to art in the workplace (81.6% of respondents in a survey by International Art Consultants and The British Council for Offices said that art was chosen by senior staff), but the benefits can be far greater if the art selection and strategy is a more collaborative process. Think selection panels made up of staff from all levels, interactive art, artists’ talks, commissioning an artist to create a work in which staff has some level of participation, etc.
- Look at the big picture
In the 1960s and 1970s, the dematerialization of the art object in the art world and the replacement of products by services in the business world occurred almost simultaneously. As the artist Ignacio Uriarte points out, maybe that is why the aesthetics also started to look alike. Art metabolizes diverse influences and reflects the spirit of the age. The more you think of it in the broad context of the times we live in, the easier it will be to choose artworks that stand up to all the nuances of contemporary life in the office.
Ignacio Uriarte, Three Ways to Draw and One Way to Call for Attention, Gaep, 2019, installation view