exhibition design

Richard Hull: One Artist, Three Client Projects

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This week, Chicago Gallery News featured Richard Hull on the cover of their Fall 2019 magazine. Since graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with an MFA in 1979, Hull has maintained close connections with the Chicago art community. Inspired by the Chicago Imagists and the Hairy Who, Hull has spent 40 years living and working in the city, producing artwork that is now in prominent national collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. For the last 15 years, Hull has been a professor of painting at SAIC, mentoring a new generation of artists. 

Richard Hull is known for his expressive, color-soaked, and almost-abstract figural paintings that he calls “stolen portraits.” He first started creating these pieces after playing a game of exquisite corpse with a famed composer and an illustrator.

Richard Hull is often a client favorite because of his dense and varied use of color. Speaking to Chicago Gallery News, Hull explained the logic of his colorful paintings: “My only color theory is you decide on a color to start with, and you find a color that makes that better. It’s about the relationship to the color within the piece. If I add violet next to a red, does that make the red better or does it distract from or make the red look bad? It’s color, next color. Color, next color. And I’m always kind of surprised by how colorful my things are.” 

In many ways, Hull’s color theory is like our work as art consultants. We often have a starting place–the furniture, the finishes, the wall colors, the existing art collection of a client–and we seek out artwork that makes it even better. Over time, this is how great individual pieces come together into a stunning collection, each piece amplifying the others. 

We recently completed three projects involving Richard Hull’s artwork:

Rotating Exhibition

Over the last year, we have featured several pieces by Hull in a rotating exhibition that we curate in a corporate lobby. Temporary exhibitions allow us to showcase work that we think is exciting and special. Working with artists to collaborate on exhibitions allows us to develop a deep understanding of an artist’s work and ultimately helping us find the best piece for our clients. 

Private Client

One of our private clients recently added a piece by Hull to their collection. We assisted the clients in finding the perfect artwork for their home, framed the piece, and installed it in their living space. The clients chose a Richard Hull crayon and ink drawing. Works of art on paper are often more affordable alternatives to large paintings and can be customized with a bespoke frame to match home furnishings and personal taste. For this piece, we worked with the client to choose a fused-metal corner frame. The bronze-colored burnished aluminum frame subtly complements the rust tones in the drawing.

Corporate Acquisition

We also recently assisted a law firm in acquiring a large Richard Hull painting on canvas. The scale and color of the painting are perfect for the office lobby, welcoming visitors and employees alike into the space. By supporting a contemporary local artist, the law firm cultivates a connection with Chicago’s cultural community and supports art of the present moment.

We love seeing one of our favorite artists getting well-deserved recognition for their contributions to Chicago’s art history. You can see more of Richard Hull’s work in a solo booth at EXPO Chicago this September presented by Hull’s gallery, Western Exhibitions.

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Meet Our New Team Member: Brontë Mansfield

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At the start of the New Year, Brontë joined the DeGroot Fine Art team as a Project Assistant, focusing on marketing for new projects. Here’s how Brontë came to the art world and our company:

In 2010, Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei unveiled a new installation at Tate Modern in London. The installation, Kui Hua Zi, spread 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds over the floor of a single gallery. Each seed–every one of the hundred million–was shaped, fired, and painted by hand. It took over a thousand workers in a Chinese town more than two years to produce all of the seeds.

And there I was, 17 years old and standing in front of all of those seeds, the first time I set foot in an art museum. If I had scooped up a hundred of the porcelain seeds in my hands, I would have held more seeds than there were people in my hometown in rural Wisconsin. Another handful and that would probably be more than all of the people I had met in my life.

After years of cornfields and football, I did not know what to do with myself in a bustling foreign city. But then I found subways, coffee shops, bookstores, and–mostly importantly–all of the free art museums in the city. Even at seventeen, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life around art.

I returned to the states to go to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a freshman, I was hired as an assistant to the Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Chazen Museum of Art. One of my first days at the museum, I was tasked with helping reframe a six-foot-long ink drawing by another famed Chinese artist, Xu Bing. I am proud to say that I didn't buckle under the high pressure and have been professionally handling art ever since.

During my time at University of Wisconsin-Madison, I specialized in Victorian art history and literature, writing my thesis on nineteenth-century paintings of mermaids and Darwinian theories of evolution–but also wrote for the school newspaper and worked as an editor at the campus magazine. In 2014, I was awarded a Beinecke Scholarship to study at the graduate school of my choice. I decided to leave academia and pursue journalism, to help share stories of art and culture to as many people as I could.

In 2017, I received my Masters in New Arts Journalism from School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). During graduate school, I worked in the school's Marketing & Communications department and was also asked to assistant teach a class on contemporary art history. Even though the art I knew best was made before the Titanic sank, I threw myself into the world of modern and contemporary art–and even started working as a studio manager for a Chicago-based artist.

During graduate school, I focused on audio production and storytelling. In addition to my work as a freelance audio producer, I have worked as a production & recording assistant for the Art Institute of Chicago and recently joined the faculty at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, teaching podcasting and video essays.

I am thrilled to be able to merge my background in both fine art and journalism in my new role as Project Assistant at DeGroot Fine Art. I look forward to sharing more stories from the world of art consulting with our clients and anyone interested in collecting, preserving, and supporting fine art.

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Adding Artwork To Large Spaces

Lobby Installation

When consulting with larger companies, we often recommend artwork for large, public-facing spaces. Commercial lobbies are a great opportunity to use artwork to complement a building's architecture while projecting a company's taste and visual style. The right sculpture or painting can have a huge impact on visitors, providing a very striking welcome.

Lobbies are designed to impress, and often the walls and floors are covered with marble, wood paneling, or other built-in design features. In some instances we will advise on site-specific artwork installations, and maintaining the integrity of these features is often a priority. Part of our role includes implementing non-permanent installation methods to protect the space while allowing flexibility to change the artwork in future. 

TRACK HANGING SYSTEMS

Cable Options

Large-scale artwork installations are often a part of a remodel or renovation, in which case we work with the project's architects and designers to strategize the best art display method for each particular project. One option we consistently recommend is a track hanging system. These systems are very versatile, with versions that are secure and compatible with the needs of most structures and artworks.

Depending on the specifications of the track, paintings, sculptures, and textiles can be displayed safely, elevating the design of a space without compromising design finishes. This gives clients the option to alternate the artwork from their collection on display, or even sponsor a rotating artwork program. This opportunity to refresh let's clients showcase their connection to visual culture, and elevate their brand.

collaborating during construction

Lighting Artwork

To select the proper track hanging option, we'll consult with the building's engineers to determine which areas are best suited to load-bearing. Certain tracks connect to the ceiling, and others to the wall. Selecting the right option during construction allows mindful selections that blend in with the space, and don't distract from the artwork. The track colors and lengths are customized, and we recommend the most subtle option. A thoughtfully selected tracking system should be minimal and camouflaged by the design of the lobby. Depending on the type of track, cables compatible with the type of track are purchased as well as hooks that hold the artwork. These have locking features to ensure the security of the artwork on display. 

Once the placement of the track is finalized, we collaborate with lighting consultants to strategize the best option for illuminating the artwork. The best lighting is unnoticeable, and requires expertise on color temperature, combining directable with wall-wash lights, and selecting bulbs with the proper specifications to prevent pigments from fading.

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Exhibition Labels

Custom Aluminum Label & Hardware

Custom Aluminum Label & Hardware

In the collections we manage, artwork and artifacts are enhanced by custom exhibition labels. Similar to a museum, the text we incorporate varies in style in order to best reflect the identity and values of our client. Aesthetic details including custom metal finishes, polished acrylic, and brass pins can make a significant impact on the artful presentation of information. Text is either provided by our client or garnered from our research on their behalf. We provide a wide range of options, including acrylic panels, screen printed text, metal labels, and vinyl wall text. Our aim is to provide thoughtful descriptions that provide context and are cohesive with the entire exhibition design.

In a recent project, we were commissioned to fabricate a text panel to match those in an existing collection. For a project like this, we collaborate with a wide network of vendors. We sourced aluminum sheets and worked with a fabricator on a custom brush to give the metal an elegant finish. We design the text digitally in-house, ensuring that the font, colors, and spacing all match the brand standards for our client. When the text is ready, we work with screen-printers to find a proprietary blend of inks and apply the letters to the panel. After the ink has cured, we select hardware that matches existing metal finishes throughout the client's art collection and have the panel custom-fitted to the hardware. Each text panel is treated with the same level of care as the artwork surrounding it. 

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