When you look around your office, you probably have all of the necessities of a work environment- a desk, computer, phone, pens, paper. But something just as necessary might be missing on the white walls around you: a work of art. Art collections are a growing trend in the corporate world, and businesses are starting to realize that investing in artwork goes beyond simply owning a decorative piece. Deutsche Bank boasts one of the largest and most important collections of art in the world with a 37-year-old collection of nearly 60,000 objects. The 35,000 works that make up the UBS collection support the company’s desire “to be supporting living artists at integral stages of their careers.” Overall, having fine art in the office creates a dynamic and empowering environment that fosters creativity and efficiency.
A study by Dr. Craig Knight, a researcher at the University of Exeter who has studied the psychology of working environments for 12 years, found that art in the office can boost employee productivity, lower stress and increase wellbeing. In the controlled study, Dr. Knight found that people who worked in an office enriched with art worked about 15% quicker and had fewer health complaints than those in an office without art. Dr. Knight said of the study, “In 12 years we have never found that lean offices create better results; and the more involved people are in the enrichment process, the more they are able to realize a part of themselves in the space.”
The realization of being part of the space translates into a more desirable work environment, and companies are even using art as a method of employee retention. Alex Heath, managing director of International Art Consultants, explains, “aesthetic in the truest sense means energy-giving which is what a workplace needs, rather than a bland, industrial environment which can be more like giving workers a dose of anesthetic.” Art that is energizing and engaging directly translates to an environment that engages employees. Companies are even using the intrigue of art in the workplace as a tool to fight against the growing desire of many employees to work remotely.
So how does a business start a collection? Andrea Seehusen, founder and CEO of International Arts Management in Munich, gives her take: “I’d buy a big piece from an established artist that fits the spirit of the company, then smaller pieces from the same artist. Then choose a new artist who points to the future — to where the company wants to be.” Thus, guide a corporate art collection by viewing it as an opportunity for creating a corporate identity.
Another important matter is the person, or people, behind the collection. A panel of experts at the European Fine Art Fair suggest that a Board of Directors or a designated committee make decisions of arts purchases, instead of a CEO. Head curator of Dutch Bank ING’s collection stated, “when CEOs change, different focus areas might shift. Strategies can change from time to time, but the art collection ideally maintains its own identity and focus. Therefore it’s best to have your art collection embedded within all levels of the entire organization. Only then the collection creates a culture that defines the corporate identity.”
Contemporary art collections, in particular, are attractive methods of getting employees and executives in touch with the broader socio-political implications behind the works of art. In establishing a corporate identity, curating an art collection is a perfect way to engage and retain employees, start conversations on innovation, and splash some color on the white walls of an office.