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A(r)t Work: When great design meets contemporary art

COS has embarked on an exciting artful journey with a strategic partnership with GAEP Gallery of Contemporary Art and its founders, Andrei Breahna and Raluca Soaita and we are happy to invite you to join us and discover contemporary artists and their inspirational stories. Christophe Weller, COS CEO& Founder has always been an openhearted promoter of contemporary art in the office environment by encouraging deep-routed display of art at work for increased creativity and productivity.

*Text by Andrei Breahna

Have you ever noticed that the order of the letters is the same on the keyboard of a brand-new laptop and of a decades-old typewriter? Q, W, E, R, etc. on the top row; A, S, D, F, etc. on the middle one; Z, X, C, V, etc. on the bottom row. In case of the typewriter, the order was dictated by purely mechanical reasons: lest the type hammers jammed, the most frequently used letters were placed far away from each other. But what about the computer keyboard?

The artist Ignacio Uriarte – who made the audio piece ASDFGHJKLO, recently exhibited in Bucharest at Gaep, the gallery I co-founded together with Raluca Soaita – has a fascinating theory about this link between the analogue and the digital era. In the times before desktop PCs, Uriarte argues, computers were seen as menacing, room-large machines which could only be operated by experts in white coats. When in 1984 the computer took the shape and the operability of a typewriter, the perception was radically changed: suddenly the computer was a harmless super typewriter which enabled the office employee to work more comfortably. It was as if the computer had moved into the shell of the typewriter to avoid any possible resistance from the users.

*Sebastian Moldovan, Four, 2018, video still, courtesy of Gaep

The digital revolution started with shrewd product design. It also propelled a rethinking of the office environment. When one needs just a computer or a phone to create a bubble of workspace anywhere, the office becomes important because of the interaction, communication and group creativity it fosters. To this end companies have used contemporary art – alongside sophisticated ambient light, well-designed furniture and remarkable amenities – for decades. It was only in recent years, though, that surveys painted a clearer picture on the impact of art in the workplace. As we are gradually returning to the offices (at least, some of the time), let’s take a moment to reflect on two crucial findings:

Art around us is about increased creativity and productivity

According to research undertaken by International Art Consultants (IAC) in partnership with the British Council for Offices, 93.8% of respondents believes that art makes the workplace feel more welcoming and 60.8% of them feels that it also stimulates creativity.

As for productivity, the key to success is that staff should have some element of control over the art displayed. Identity Realization, a research group based at the University of Exeter, created a variety of office environments, including a ‘lean’ office (a sanitized space with minimal decoration), an ‘enriched’ office (one decorated with plants and art) and an ‘empowered’ office (one in which the occupiers could choose what they displayed and how). The results were compelling. People in the enriched office worked about 15% faster than those in the lean office. Productivity and well-being increased even further, by around 30%, in the office that participants customized themselves.

*Sebastian Moldovan, Green, 2018, video still, courtesy of Gaep

Art makes us want to be in a particular space…

… because of its aesthetic qualities, for sure, but not only. Most collectors I know say the wish to live with beautiful things in their homes is one of the main reasons they buy art. The same is true for our working spaces. Art creates an environment that people want to be in. But the research by IAC shows it can have an impact beyond pleasing to the eye. Companies commission, purchase or rent bold contemporary artworks because they make for good talking points. They use interactive art to engage employees or clients. Some of them even buy work by contemporary artists that challenges staff perceptions and makes them more aware of the multiplicity of viewpoints. All of these suggest a possible answer to the question: How to create a space that facilitates both serious work and serious distraction? Think art.

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