art consulting process

Handling Artwork During Construction

Whenever you are renovating or undertaking construction projects in a home or office, it is important to have a plan for protecting your artwork. We assist clients with managing artwork relocation at any scale and there are a number of considerations to keep in mind when planning changes to your space.

When to Remove Art

Making structural changes to your space? Make sure to remove artwork before starting construction.

Making structural changes to your space? Make sure to remove artwork before starting construction.

In any environment, renovations can be messy and pose risks to artwork. Any scale of renovation will create dust, a common culprit in artwork damage. Drywall dust contains abrasive particles, including fiberglass, which creates scratches or blurring on the surface of plexiglass, a common material used in archival framing. Because these dust particles often spread a large distance during construction, our rule of thumb is to remove all the artwork on the renovated floor when possible. Best practice is to take the artwork off the wall before construction begins.

We work with a team of professional art handlers to review the construction area and remove all artwork that could be affected. When removing artwork we carefully document each piece of art, noting its size, condition, and any inventory or asset number associated with it. This helps us strategically plan how best to reinstall the artwork once the space is fully renovated.

We carefully wrap all of the artwork and relocate it elsewhere onsite, or transport the artwork to a secure art storage facility.

Reinstalling Artwork

Supervising an art installation

Supervising an art installation

Executing a construction project to completion is complicated, and as the process ends numerous questions arise. We are often asked when artwork should be brought back to the space. To help clients navigate these final stages, there are a few key considerations when deciding a timeline for reinstallation. First, you should ensure that all electrical work is completed before art returns to a space. Lights must be installed and operable, and no wiring should be loose. If the ceiling is open, or if wires aren’t fully integrated into the wall, the space is not yet safe for artwork.

Next, all walls must be fully completed, sealed, and painted before reinstalling artwork. This ensures that the source of dust is eliminated and that the artwork is safe from scratches or paint drips. Best practice is to remove artwork for any amount of painting, even touch-ups.

The final phase before a space is ready for artwork is installing or reinstalling furniture and large appliances. In both commercial and residential spaces, moving furniture can easily scratch, bump, or knock over artwork in its path. Mistakes happen, even with the most diligent of movers. Artwork should be the last thing that moves into a space before people occupy it. It’s the final touch of color, texture, and personality that completes a newly-renovated or constructed space. By waiting to install artwork last, you are protecting your investment and the aesthetic of the new space.

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Conserving A Family Heirloom

A portion of the damaged frame

A portion of the damaged frame

While the majority of our clients are corporate entities with large collections, we also collaborate with a select group of private clients to assist with their personal art collections. A recent connection from a previous project reached out to us to discuss a number of updates needed for their artwork. After a few conversations, we met with the client in their home to reappraise their collection and look into potential acquisition options.

While reviewing the artwork, we were immediately drawn to a painting in the living room that looked like it had a story behind it. Hanging above the fireplace mantel, this traditional oil painting depicted a lively scene with a mother and child, who seemed to be dancing in a kitchen. An impressive, ornate frame that expanded out from the canvas encompassed the painting. The artwork, while stunning, seemed to have suffered a bit from age and had a dim surface over the composition. The frame, too, was a bit worse for wear with one of the intricate ornaments snapped off and sitting next to the painting. The frame’s gold foil seemed a bit dull and chipped.

Our client told us that the painting was a family heirloom, collected by his grandfather, who immigrated to the United States at 13 years old. A beautiful work of art that was clearly much beloved, we were quick to suggest that conservation help enliven the painting again. Painting restoration is a great option for protecting an artwork over time. You can read more about artwork restoration and conservation here.

The Conservation Process

The newly conserved painting

The newly conserved painting

We were delighted to bring the painting and frame to a local and well-established conservation firm. A family business, it seemed especially fitting for revitalizing a family heirloom. The skilled conservator first stabilized areas where the paint had cracked. The surface of the painting was then cleaned, removing dust as well as an older layer of varnish. A few small areas were retouched with paint specifically formulated for restoration efforts. Once this phase was complete, a thin layer of archival, reversible varnish was applied to the surface of the painting. This specific type includes a layer of UV protection, which helps to preserve the colors in the artwork over time. Reapplication of varnish enhances the details of a painting, illuminating delicate brushwork and subtle changes in color. This process can make artwork look brand new again.

The frame was repaired as well. The conservator was able to reattach the broken ornamentation and reapply the gold pigment. By the time the work was complete, the artwork looked like it had traveled back in time. After reinstalling it back above the mantle, the client was able to enjoy his artwork and connection to his family’s history.  

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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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Presenting Artwork for Acquisition

As a corporate art advisory, recommending artwork for acquisition is a significant part of our job. It’s important to communicate what makes a work of art special, and hours of research, studio visits, and gallery attendance informs what we select for a presentation.

WHAT WE LOOK FOR

When researching artwork, our goal is to find work that will add value to a client's collection and enrich the aesthetic of their space. We pay attention to the trajectory of an artist’s career, experience, and education, as well as their motivation for art-making. We want to learn the context behind a work of art, and relaying that to a client sparks a dialogue about the deeper implications of an artwork. When clients know what motivates an artist, it gets them excited about the unique story behind art in their collection. This fosters a sense of pride and interest that leads to larger, more innovative conversations and connections within their professional environment. Exposure to an artist’s creative method facilitates out-of-the box solutions to problem-solving.

We try to learn as much as we can about an artist’s technical process and surface information in our research. In a presentation, we work to translate the intricacies of a surface or media that can only be seen in person. Taking notes and pictures of surface detail, texture, and pigment value is critical to understanding the individual presence of an artwork.

HOW WE PRESENT

Presentation Example

Nothing quite replaces seeing work in person, as color and light vary widely in presentation media. When possible, we try to bring clients to galleries and studios to see artwork, but the logistics involved are unrealistic for most situations. Each presentation is tailored to the specific client and project, and the methods we employ vary widely. One approach we include is showing high-resolution digital images. Whether streamed through a large monitor or on a hand-held iPad, we source large image files from galleries to show as much surface texture as possible.

In areas of new construction, we’ll work with CAD drawings and superimpose artwork to scale; this shows the impact the art will have, as well as how it will interact with other artwork in the space. For the final stages of many acquisition projects we’ll Photoshop artwork into the room to help our clients make decisions about style, scale, and hanging approach. This is a great tool for determining display design and framing as well. 

As technology changes, we work diligently to learn new ways to help our clients understand their options for acquiring artwork and decide what will be the best fit for the continued growth of their collection.

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Meeting With New Private Clients

Recently we met with some prospective art collectors in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. In addition to our role as a corporate art advisory, we love working with private collectors and helping them explore the broad world of fine art. They contacted us through a mutual design acquaintance and expressed interest in beginning to explore fine art collecting. Their home, already made beautiful with interior design, family photographs, and sentimental art pieces, had several locations that were ideal for empowering, new fine artwork. As they were new to working with an art consulting firm, we took time to give an initial consultation to explain the process.

Complimentary Initial Consultation

As art consultants, it is our job to help navigate a sometimes-overwhelming art world. Taking a client’s interests, existing space, and budget into account, we find the perfect balance to recommend artwork which would elevate any space. Typically we will do one complimentary telephone meeting with any new client; if there is expressed interest in moving forward, we will usually include an additional site visit as part of this exploration.

Getting Better Acquainted

Our in-person meetings give an opportunity to get to know each other. Personality and interests can help us navigate art selections down the road. We will often ask a lot of questions about family life, hobbies, favorite hues, as well as learning about a person’s dislikes. As we peruse a space we take cues from our environment, taking notes on color palette, furniture, textures, and prized collections (books, ceramics, figurines, etc.) We will also take this time to measure potential art locations, architectural elements, windows, and ceiling height in the event blueprints are not available down the road. With our host’s permission, we will also take some photographs for future reference.

Tastemaker Selection Process

Another important part of our visit is conducting what we call a “tastemaker.” This process involves showing a wide range of artworks to the client in digital form to get both positive and negative feedback. It is critical that our client feels comfortable in giving their opinions, so we always assure them that we do not take these feelings personally. Our goal is to help acquire the best possible artwork to suit their tastes and to use our professional training, discretion, and background to get there. Usually our clients enjoy this part of the process, and even those who have zero art background leave with a better sense of their visual interests.

Proposal and Deliverables

After we return to the office, notes in hand, we meet to discuss a best plan of action for each individual project. With the assistance our registrar, a formal estimate is put together detailing what we believe are the best steps for moving forward. Each proposal is customized to the circumstances and always includes a straightforward account of our services to be rendered and a clear financial expectation.  We pride ourselves on a transparent process and are happy to field any questions at this or any other stage. Once a proposal is agreed upon we are ready to move forward in finding the best artwork to compliment and characterize your unique tastes.

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