design

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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Sourcing Artful Design

A recent project in a Bank featured Cody Hudson paintings.

A recent project in a Bank featured Cody Hudson paintings.

As art consultants, we work hard to serve any art-related need a client may present to us. While much of our role involves advising on which artworks a client should purchase, we also help provide visual elements that may fall outside the definition of “fine art”. This could involve sourcing functional objects like furniture, fabrics, or accessories for a dining area that still require an artful touch.

A tea towel designed by Cody Hudson for Norden Goods.

A tea towel designed by Cody Hudson for Norden Goods.

Artists as Designers

Many artists use their creativity in a variety of fields, and can offer unique visual options outside of their fine art practice. Chicago artist Cody Hudson is an iconic example of a visual renaissance man. His fine artwork practice includes paintings on linen, steel sculptures, and screenprints. Outside the gallery context, he has also collaborated on graphic design for Target and Warby Parker, and partnered with Nike to design promotional materials and running shoes for the 2012 Chicago Marathon.

Art in Everyday Objects

Translating fine art principles into functional objects can elevate the overall experience of an environment; seeing how an artist’s mind approaches design can have a powerful impact. It presents an opportunity to connect to artwork in a new way. Having artwork on the wall adjacent to artist-designed accessories offers a chance to embrace the client’s art collection in alternate media, creating a dynamic dialogue between fine art and design in their space.

Collaborating with Interior Decorators and Architectural Designers

Many decorative and design-based projects require professionals beyond our immediate area of expertise, which is why we love to partner with interior decorators and architectural designers. Interior decorators bring a wealth of knowledge about the details needed to make a space visually cohesive, and artwork complements that. Occasionally recommending artist-designed details helps blend the vision of the interior decorators with the fine art collection connected to that space.

Similarly, architectural designers have extensive knowledge about how a person navigates through space and the structural components needed to execute the visual design of a space. We work closely with these designers to select artwork that balances the visual elements they’ve included, ensuring that all elements are harmonious and that the visual intent is clear. During these types of projects we’ll review furniture textures and color, materials used throughout a space, and aspirational goals of the client to best determine what artwork to recommend for the project. For example, clients with a crisp, modern design sense may benefit from artwork with organic texture, such as a wood sculpture, to add a warm element that balances their cool aesthetic.

Supporting artists who work in multiple visual fields provides a creative roadmap to make artwork accessible in non-traditional ways. It can also offer an interesting layer to the story of an art collection; artwork can appear in furniture design, textiles, and accessories as small visual clues that add a layer of interest to the experience of a place.  

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