Finding the Right Fit

 STEVEN COX

STEVEN COX

In fine art consulting, unfortunately there isn’t a single comprehensive resource with all available artwork across the board. While the internet allows access to more resources than ever, and we maintain extensive files of artwork options, for each acquisition project we essentially begin with a blank slate for what to present to a client.

Details to Keep in Mind

To become familiar with our client’s style, we go through a tastemaker to learn about their interests; you can read more about that process here. The next step is to find artwork options that work with their design aesthetic, collection goals, and fit the scale needed for their space.

When working with a designer or renovated space, we look for artwork that appeals to our client's taste while complementing the style of its location. Customized details like framing, labels, and display cases are effective ways of making a space look cohesive. Many clients with contemporary interiors will gravitate towards gallery-esqe thin white frames, while more traditional companies may opt for hearty, custom-stained wood frames. The design aesthetic of an office also helps us determine the type of artwork to pursue. A large atrium can be a great opportunity for sculpture, while large open walls are an inviting setting for paintings. If the location is public-facing, we suggest work that will make a memorable impact. For private, employee-facing areas, we focus on artwork that's meaningful to the people who work there, and might be works on paper or prints. 

In the process of finding artwork options, it's relatively straightforward to determine what people like and dislike; the consistent challenge is finding work that the client loves, but still fits their budget and is the right size to balance out their space. Most of the time spent researching includes procuring this information and balancing these factors, and we have a wide network of fine art resources that we call upon to find options that will work. 

The Research Process

The best way to find artwork is by going out into the art world and looking for it. The consultants in our firm are regularly visiting galleries to see new work by new artists, as well as attending exhibition openings. These events are a great opportunity to network with gallerists, artists, and collectors. Investing time into these relationships makes working in the art world enriching and enjoyable, and it helps us access information more easily. We make it a priority to work with art organizations that we've built relationships with whenever possible. 

Another great way to find artwork is by visiting artists at their studio. It's fascinating to see the individual drives and methods an artists uses to make their work. Art consultants are like translators between the art and corporate worlds, and when we visit a studio we learn how best to illustrate what makes that artwork special when presenting it to a client. We schedule studio visits throughout the year to steadily grow our network and artwork knowledge.

Technology is a steadily growing presence in our personal and professional lives, and one effective tool for finding artwork is through resources like Instagram. While artwork is best viewed in person, Instagram provides a quick and comprehensive look into what artists are making and what galleries are exhibiting. We use Instagram for preliminary research and often find new work that way. It keeps us up-to-date on visual trends in our local network and in the broader international art community. 

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Have Art, Will Travel

 The site of a recent project in Denver, CO

The site of a recent project in Denver, CO

While many of our clients are headquartered in downtown Chicago, we work on projects throughout the region and country. Corporate art advising often involves large-scale logistics management between offices; many art collections are spread out between numerous offices and storage locations, so we manage artwork movements on our clients’ behalf.

All Our Services, in Any Location

We provide all of our fine art services in any location requested. Because we operate a primarily paperless office, we can work on-the-go with remote access to our project materials. The key components of our projects are managed on digital platforms, including collection inventories, exhibition design, and artwork installation strategy. This gives us the flexibility to manage and update projects while travelling wherever our clients need us.

In a few recent projects, we inventoried 700 artworks in a law firm’s in New York City office; installed a 500-piece collection in Washington, D.C.; sourced historical materials from corporate archives in Seattle, Los Angeles, and St Louis; and organized a rotating artwork exhibition in a Denver skyscraper.

Suburbs, Small Towns, and Cities

We are keen to travel for projects of various scales. We regularly install and relocate artwork for clients with suburban branches in the Midwest: throughout Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio. Our team of art handlers travels with us for Midwestern projects and can provide exclusive-use shipping options for the artwork.

As well as offices, we visit client storage spaces to recommend options for installation. Corporate collections are often full of surprising artworks that can be forgotten in storage. It’s fascinating to comb through stored artwork and archives and find items that will be a great fit for a new space. During this type of project we also make recommendations about work that may need a new frame or conservation. We've recently travelled to Columbus, OH to reinstall artwork in a renovated office; transported artwork from storage in Chicago to Ann Arbor, MI, where we selected and installed art that complemented a newly-implemented design program; and acquired, framed, and shipped artwork for an office in Des Moines, IA.

When on the road for work, we take advantage of the opportunity to see fine art institutions that are otherwise too far for a casual visit. We love meeting with galleries that serve similar communities and learning about local artists that exhibit there.

Site Visits

For multi-phase projects, we prefer to schedule a site visit to learn more about the location. Areas of new construction can change dramatically from the initial floor plans we receive, and it's better to understand which artworks will be most impactful by visiting a space in person. This also gives us a chance to strategize with local project managers, see how the design strategy is implemented, and learn about local artists, galleries, and institutions. 

Working with the Local Art Community

We work with elite professionals across the country and make it a priority to support local art communities wherever we work. During our site visits we schedule meetings with prominent galleries and institutions to learn about notable local artists and fine art movements that are important to that area. Every region has its own distinct history and fine art traditions. When we highlight artwork unique to a specific community, that focus fosters a sense of pride in the people who occupy that office.  

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Fine Art Storage

Art Storage

When to Store Artwork

Corporate entities are constantly changing – whether a company is growing or downsizing, their art collection often needs to be taken off-site while these changes are put in place. With many newly renovated offices, there is a culture shift towards openness and collaboration; this manifests in design features like glass walls, interactive write-on walls, and open floor plans with fewer traditional artwork locations. While these adjustments are implemented, storing artwork gives our clients flexibility to install on their schedule.

During construction and relocations, we assist our clients with short and long-term storage options for collections. We manage the process from concept to completion and coordinate artwork removal with building management and the construction team. From there we transport the artwork to a secure storage facility, designed specifically to protect artwork.

Preserving Artwork

We store artwork in state-of-the-art facilities across the country. Protective measures are taken to preserve the artwork, including climate control options to provide the ideal temperature, humidity, and circulation needed for optium archival conditions.

Artwork remains safely packed in it’s storage area. Custom crates, armatures, and shelves can be built to accommodate the specific needs of a sculpture, painting, or artifact. Archival materials are used to protect against acidity and infestations.

Best Practices for Organization

Storage facilities are expansive, and great care is taken to ensure each artwork is accounted for. We use digital databases to maintain an inventory system that tracks details for each item in storage. This can include barcodes indicating the precise location in the storage area, contact information for the project manager, images, and condition reports.

Condition reports

These reports are a key part of art consulting and managing an art collection. When artwork first arrives at the storage location, a condition report is written as part of the initial inventory process. The reports make note of scratches, color inconsistencies, paint cracking, warped canvases, and other noticeable imperfections in an artwork or frame. Images are taken of the noted nuances when the condition report is prepared and are included in the inventory.

When artwork is ready to leave storage, a second condition report is generated. This report should review the original notes, and indicate the current status of the artwork. These updated reports are especially important if an artwork is being removed for conservation or reframing. Additional photos may be taken and added to the artwork’s inventory record.

Diligently employing these best practices when storing artwork leads to reliable records and an efficient system that keeps a collection safe. Using a professional fine art storage facility protects our clients’ investment in their art collection and makes it easy to manage their assets during office construction, renovation, or relocation.  

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Five Takeaways From a Decade in Art Consulting

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Over the past 10 years, I have managed art collections for a diverse group of clients, ranging from large, international banks and law firms, to manufacturing and industrial companies, to small family businesses and private residences. Naturally, every one of these clients has a different method of operating and a different process for building an art collection. Some collections are committee-managed, some are executive-managed, and all are influenced by unique culture and goals. Despite the differences I've encountered, there are five central points to keep in mind while navigating the world of art collecting.  

Quality Comes in Many Styles

In working with a variety of clients, you will encounter not only a wide range of art collection goals, but also many styles of aesthetic preferences. Some clients are interested in historic maps and prints, some want a collection that reflects their company's core values, some want to use their proprietary archival material, and some want cutting-edge contemporary artwork. The good news is that the art world is large enough to account for all of these avenues. While exposing clients to the breadth of styles available is an important part of educating, our job as advisers isn't to dictate a specific taste or style, but to find the highest level of quality within the goals developed by our clients. 

Looking is Better than Talking

Communicating about art can be a challenge. Even within the academic art world, words can be interpreted to mean different things to different people. "Contemporary," "Abstract," or "Traditional" are descriptions we often encounter when speaking with clients about their preferences, and they usually mean something very specific yet different to each person. The best way to avoid confusion and effectively understand what your client is communicating? Use visual examples. Talk about specific parts of actual pieces of art, use descriptive words in conjunction with examples to create a vocabulary you both feel comfortable with. You can read more about our "tastemaker" approach to developing projects here.

Get Creative with Sources

Being an independent art advisory allows us to get creative in our search for the perfect piece of art to add to our client's collection. We are able to pursue whatever source will most successfully address the art collection needs of our clients. While I love working with galleries, auctions and art fairs, and print houses, I also love finding hidden gems from other sources off the beaten path.  

Know When to Become an Expert...and When to Find the Experts

Part of providing the highest level of advice to a client is deeply understanding their collection interests. The only way to do this is to continually educate yourself. The art world is an incredibly diverse and deep pool, and one of the joys of being a consultant is the ability to delve into that diversity to connect our clients with art, artifacts, and specific services that meet their needs. For a client specializing in aerospace technology, we dove into the history of aviation and learned to identify specific aircraft. For a client who loved the style of a particular architect, we researched many motifs in various buildings by that architect to understand and identify significant artifacts and source them. Learn as much as you can.

However, we can't be experts in every aspect of art collecting services. It is imperative to find people who have spent their life's work mastering their craft and connect them to your client's needs. Building a wide network of vendors and colleagues extends the reach of your advisory.  If we have a client that needs conservation of a historic painting, professional rigging of a large sculpture, or custom archival framing of a delicate work on paper, we rely on our community of experts to guide us through the process.

Get Out There!

The art world is constantly in motion, and by staying abreast of the trends, sales, styles, and artists, you can provide your clients with the widest range of options and the most knowledgeable recommendations. The best way to accomplish this is to go out and see the artwork in person (the best way to really experience a work of art), engage the community, meet artists and visit their studios to learn about their process, and continually explore what is being presented in galleries and sales. There is always something new to experience. 

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Two Years & Counting

 Elvis Two Times by Andy Warhol

Elvis Two Times by Andy Warhol

I've long been fascinated with the idea of twinning. As a child I paired things together into grand collections, making an ark of my belongings. Many years later in an art history graduate course, I was asked by my teacher to bring something to class that represented duality. The next day I came toting my Elvis Presley rubber stamp. The king was a twin in real life, but this trinket also carried a double meaning: allowing for endless impressions of his likeness, each similar but not exactly the same.

Last week marked the second year of our business and with it came a timely reminder that even things that appear identical are often full of nuances that make them empirically different. Our first year felt fresh and exhilarating, with nowhere to go but up. We were charged with the firsts of everything: clients, contracts, cold calls, and even robocalls were a delight as it was all brand new. During this time we built an incredible stable of corporate and private clients; we grew as a company and as individuals. We seamlessly supported our clients with elite vendors in the business of art handling, conservation, and framing through varied art-related circumstances. 

It is only in the second year, however, that comparisons could fairly to be made. Year two was steady and strong, with lessons along the way. We found a natural ebb and flow, learning more about the many challenges that face ourselves and our clients. The most exciting part of this second year has truly been facing these hurtles and finding their solutions. At the core of art consulting, is a quest for solutions -- often artful and inspiring, but at times a matter of logistics or simple perseverance. 

In this past year I traveled to the Netherlands to get inspired by their grand art institutions and shared my findings through our social media platforms. The company traveled to Colorado to hang art in a newly renovated lobby. These trips to the area allowed us to connect with Denver’s local art community. We also brought New York to Chicago, by coordinating a pop-up show in one of our rotating exhibitions. In town, we facilitated an artwork showcase for an important business conference and helped companies with their construction project logistics: moving, storing and reinstalling artwork. These are just a few of the many jobs that are bolstered by our many experiences connecting with artists at their studios and attending gallery openings.

These years have hardly been identical, but our team looks forward to making our mark again and again. Each additional year of art advising will hopefully bring with it a new series of fine art challenges and triumphs. I often remark on how great it is that no two days are the same in this line of work, but it doesn't keep me from gathering them up in my mind and cataloging what we learned for future use. A collector at heart, I’ve learned more is better when it comes to both art and experience.

It is with tremendous gratitude that we enter our third year, knowing we couldn't have done it without our surrounding community. We hope to continue to support local artists and galleries as we grow together, finding creative solutions for corporations that nourish all those involved. We will come armed with our tools and our lessons learned, ready to handle all your art related requests with meter and care because in the words of his royal highness, “Wise men say only fools rush in.”

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