art consultant chicago

Exploring Corporate Collections

Artwork by Sam Francis and Louise Nevelson that we highlighted on a recent collection tour for a local law firm.

Artwork by Sam Francis and Louise Nevelson that we highlighted on a recent collection tour for a local law firm.

For many of our projects, we help clients acquire artwork for specific physical spaces. Size constraints and design aesthetics inform what we present and ultimately which artwork the client selects. While clients often add art to a collection one piece at a time, as art consultants we assist clients in acquiring pieces that will also fit within the context of the client’s full art collection. Whether the client has three works of art or a thousand, the dialogue and history connecting the collection is as important as the individual pieces. With every acquisition, we aim to highlight the shared DNA between art historical movements, place, and content. These threads that connect works of art in a collection can be subtle, and we delight in illuminating them.

Collection Tours

One way to learn about the connections within a collection is by attending a tour. We offer a range of tour and lecture options for client collections. These tours can be presented internally, for a client’s employees or tenants as a way to boost company pride and help team members feel connected to the artwork that they encounter every day. People love learning the stories behind the artists and can make connections between art and the company’s culture and goals.

Collection tours can also be hosted for clients and guests, giving them exclusive access to collections that are rarely publicly visible. This is a great opportunity for marketing and educating the public about a client’s investment in the art community, as well as providing a glimpse into the personality of a company. Many of our clients prioritize buying works from local artists, and hosting a lecture that connects artwork from their collection to local art history can be a deeply enriching experience.

Recently, a law firm we work with reached out about pairing a collection tour with another event. They were hosting a continuing education lecture about updates to laws affecting image licensing, which has broad applications in the art world, so hosting a collection walk-through was a natural fit. Because many of these laws are related to the year they go into effect, it was interesting to discuss how that timeline has affected contemporary works in the collection differently than works that predate the new laws. Viewing the client’s broad array of paintings, prints, and photographs set the tone for the event, and many questions after the lecture circled back to works seen during the tour. 

On tours, we love to pick out a few highlights from a collection and walk people from piece to piece, connecting the artwork with stories about the artist’s approach, influences, and style. Learning about the story behind the work makes art more accessible, and ultimately more enjoyable. In a corporate setting, this dialogue can be tailored to enhance company values and to help employees and guests foster a personal connection to a large organization. 

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Public Art in Downtown Chicago

Since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, building a better city has been a top priority for Chicagoans. Celebrated architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan flocked here to build the city that we know today. Alongside architecture, public art has been a fixture of Chicago aesthetics for decades. The city’s public art includes some exemplary pieces of modernist art. Here are the stories behind four sculptures that define public art in downtown Chicago.

THE PICASSO

Designed by Pablo Picasso in 1967, this piece is technically unnamed, but is colloquially referred to as “the Picasso.” It was one of the first public sculptures to be placed downtown and sits in Daley Plaza inside the Loop. Commissioned by the architects of the Richard J. Daley Center, Picasso refused the payment for the piece, instead creating the sculpture as a gift to the city of Chicago. The Picasso looks a bit like a jungle gym and it is not uncommon to see visitors of the plaza climbing on and around the sculpture.

ALEXANDER CALDER’S FLAMINGO

Head a few blocks south in the Loop and you will find yourself dwarfed by the Flamingo, a large vermillion abstract sculpture sitting in the Federal Plaza. Alexander Calder designed this sculpture in 1974, clocking in at an epic weight of 50 tons. Calder wanted his sculpture to wind and arch, a curving pop of color surrounded by monumental steel buildings. Flamingo was the first sculpture to be unveiled under the Percent for Art program—a program which administers a percentage of the city budget to public art. 

Left: Pablo Picasso, Untitled, 1967. Right: Alexander Calder,  Flamingo , 1974.

Left: Pablo Picasso, Untitled, 1967. Right: Alexander Calder, Flamingo, 1974.


JOAN MIRO’S CHICAGO

Down the street from Picasso’s sculpture is a work by contemporary master Joan Miró, fittingly titled Chicago. This piece was unveiled in Brunswick Plaza by Chicago’s first female mayor Jane Byrne in 1981. Miró’s sculpture is a 40-foot statue of a woman tucked between two skyscrapers. It is a mixed media sculpture—steel, wire mesh, concrete, bronze and ceramic tile produce Chicago.


ANISH KAPOOR’S CLOUD GATE

 Known to all Chicagoans and visitors as “The Bean,” this sculptural feat is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the whole city. Contrary to popular belief, the actual name of Anish Kapoor’s sculpture is not The Bean—it’s Cloud Gate. Kapoor’s design was based on liquid mercury and consists of 168 stainless steel plates welded together. The highly polished structure is a mirror to Millennium Park and the buildings that surround it. The bean-shape bends and curves giving viewers a perfect photo opportunity as the reflections are distorted. The sculpture was the product of a design competition and debuted in 2004.

Left: Joan Miró,  Chicago , 1981. Right: Anish Kapoor,  Cloud Gate , 2004.

Left: Joan Miró, Chicago, 1981. Right: Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate, 2004.

Chicago is known for its public art, from sculptures to murals to interactive pieces in parks. Public art is meant to be enjoyed by the people and be accessible to all. Sometimes that accessibility leads to rare acts of vandalism. Just last week, Cloud Gate was tagged with spray paint. According to the Chicago Tribune, workers were able to remove the graffiti quickly and restore Chicago’s iconic sculpture.

In our work as art consultants, we have worked on a variety of projects involving public art or conservation. We have coordinated the moving and storage of large-scale outdoor sculptures. We also work with talented conservators to restore artwork when accidents happen. Helping companies find, install, and protect art for the enjoyment of their employees, customers, and the public is one of our chief joys as a company.

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Intern Introductions: Emily Cheetham

This summer, the DeGroot team includes a new intern, Emily Cheetham. Joining us all the way from Texas ahead of her senior year of college, Emily brings a variety of previous internship experiences in the art world–from Dallas to Rome. We are thrilled to introduce her to art consulting and the Chicago art world.

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My father is an architect. Growing up, I spent my summers at his firm’s office in San Francisco. When I wasn’t hiding under his coworkers’ desks, I played architect. A day in the life of my architecture business involved creating new sketches for my building that would leave a footprint on the Manhattan skyline. I rattled on about bathroom tiles to fit the pattern of blues in my new apartment complex and began designing the infinity pool that would soon fill the backyard of my dream house. As I got older, however, I became less interested in designing buildings–and more interested in the fine art that fills those walls.

In high school, I interned at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas. This museum houses modern and contemporary sculpture. I served as the social media and event planning coordinator. One of my major projects involved developing an interactive feature for museum visitors to use with the photo-sharing app Snapchat. The project helped boost audience engagement with the museum, allowing young people to relate and respond to the physical artwork at the museum they may otherwise have only seen in textbooks. Because I was a young teenager who loved Snapchat, this was a great introduction to working in the art world.

I began my undergraduate career at the University of Georgia as an art history major. UGA offers many courses in this field, ranging from ancient to modern. While dabbling in every area, I have a passion for American and European modern and contemporary art. Mark Rothko, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Pablo Picasso–to name a few–are artists that captivate me. I am interested in the sensory experience of viewing abstract pieces. For instance, the powerful blocks of color on a Rothko canvas completely engulf the viewer, heightening the senses.

Recently, I studied abroad in Rome. I was implausibly excited to leave my friends and family and venture out into a world I was unaccustomed to. There are very few cities with as much connection to European art history as Rome. Viewing the Sistine Chapel ceiling was a truly eye-opening experience. As cliché as it may sound, chills ran up and down my spine as I observed Michelangelo’s mastery.

While in Rome, I interned with a gallery based in the city. Run by Virginio Ferrari and his family members, Ferrari Studios is a collaborative gallery and shared studio space. Working with Italian artists and learning about different work culture was very interesting. I discovered that different countries and cultures have varied ways of working–even in the art world.

Now that I am back in the States, I am thrilled to be interning at DeGroot Fine Art for a summer. Art consulting is something I’ve always been attracted to and wanted to learn more about. I am interested in the business and project management aspects of art consultancy and I am enthusiastic to learn more. And, as I have many architectural building plans in my past, I am looking forward to seeing how architectural and interior design relate to art consulting. I’m sure my father would love for me to follow in his footsteps as an architect–but I think he’ll be just as happy for me to help adorn the walls that architects build.

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Looking for a Sign

Firm Principal and Founder, Jaime DeGroot, reflects on three years in business–the ups and the downs, the chaos and the accomplishments.

Jaime and our new office sign

Jaime and our new office sign

Our company was born out of necessity and therefore, in a rush. We quickly put together the best framework we could just to get up and running. Since then, we have slowed everything down and made a business of carefully considering everything that goes into art consulting. We try to plan for everything, obsess over the smallest details, overpack, and overthink every turn before we make it.

Although we work in a visual industry, a lot of our work is invisible. Behind every piece of art hanging on a crisp wall is a myriad of unseen considerations: construction schedules, transportation, insurance, hardware, and proper cleaning, to name just a few.

Because each project is very different, we start fresh every time and build on our arsenal of knowledge to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. Inevitably, there are things you cannot plan for and unexpected mishaps–but finding the best solution for any situation we face during a project is our forte. It is this experience in problem solving that defines the work we do for clients as well as the small business hurdles we face daily and in unexpected ways.

I know there are many people out there who can relate to the sleepless nights, financial bottlenecks, and the heartburn that comes with running a small business. I try to remember that everyone is facing struggles on some level–big and small. When we have had a particularly stressful day, when the challenges are new or completely unexpected, I am left looking for a sign that I am doing the right thing. That sign was literal this past week: the signage for the new office we moved into this year arrived, just in time for our third anniversary.

Taking stock of these past three years, I can certainly say it was sometimes tough. But on a daily basis I am reminded of how much easier it is when you are working with a team of passionate and capable individuals. Add to that a roster of clients that are increasingly passionate and pleasant by the day, a community of talented artists, and a network of incredibly knowledgeable vendors, and you have yourself a wonderful job. When people learn about our occupation, they usually say how fun it sounds, and mostly, it is.

As I look down on this small sign that took a village to hang (Thanks, Aron) showcasing a logo that was essentially procured overnight (Thanks, Joel), I am astonished at what my community has accomplished during these three years. Many thanks to our new neighbors for welcoming us into the 1709 W. Chicago fold and especially to my team members, Brontë, Julia, and Keiko who will forever hold an office in my heart. It is only by your grace and skill that we have been able to hang the DeGroot Fine Art sign–and a lot of beautiful art.

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An Intern's Perspective on Art Consulting

Bynn Shen, Spring Intern 2019

Bynn Shen, Spring Intern 2019

This spring, DeGroot Fine Art had the opportunity to hire an intern through a program with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. We really enjoy getting to know young, emerging arts professionals. Not only do we get to share our knowledge of the field, but often our interns contribute meaningful work to our business. On the last day of her internship, Bynn Shen reflects on her experiences this semester.


Lessons from My Internship

I’m a mostly self-taught artist with an extensive background in painting and drawing. My current approach to art-making is much more traditional than some of my peers, as I create realistic renderings of the world. Coming from a traditional Chinese family, over the years I have developed a technical skill set and emphasized it throughout my artwork. I’ve always been drawn to color and the way certain colors interact with others­–so in everything I do, I’m always working with a lot of saturated and pastel colors and straying away from dark colors like black. While a student at SAIC, I’ve been focusing on Visual Communication Design while taking some painting and drawing classes here and there. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from my time at DeGroot Fine Art:

Connect with the Art Community

A big part of being an art consultant in Chicago is being aware of what is happening in the community by going to artists’ studios and visiting galleries to see work in person as well as looking online to see new artists and work. The studio visits were important to establish connections with the artists to become more aware of possible options for clients.

Prioritize the Safety of Artwork

I was able to learn about caring and packaging artwork, making sure the artwork was as safe as possible and ready to hand over to the client. There were different care options for different surfaces such as not using Windex on plexiglass and only using a microfiber cloth to buff out fingerprints on museum glass.

Bring All of Your Skills to the Job

Because DeGroot Fine Art is a growing company, there is a demand for building its identity by maintaining the website and writing blog posts and contributing to the aesthetics page, but also designing some social media graphics. I’m not as experienced in graphic design as I am in fine art, but from the classes I’ve taken at SAIC and projects I’ve worked on, I was able to use the knowledge for some of the designs I did here. When designing the social media graphics and brand identity for DeGroot Fine Art, I focused on making a cohesive body of work where everything looked unified and clean. In any type of art, it’s important to think thoroughly about every element of the piece and making sure it has a purpose.

Interning here exposed me even more to Chicago’s art community, as well as the corporate world. There were a few times when I heard artists mentioned and was surprised to learn about their connection to my school. From my experience here, I will definitely be able to refer back to some of the Chicago artists I learned and researched about as well as caring for artwork like my own. There are definitely many logistics that come with caring for art and preserving its life, so it was really great to learn from experienced art consultants.

Interning at an art consultancy firm was definitely informative, especially for a working artist. Seeing how art is used within corporate companies and interior spaces was informative. In the future, I could definitely see myself working in the art world, potentially working at an art consultancy firm like DeGroot Fine Art while also continuing my own artistic practice.

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