fine art business

A Tale of Two Cities

Best of the Midwest

As art consultants in Chicago, we are often called upon to manage projects in nearby Midwestern regions. Which states qualify as “Midwestern” is debatable, but being centrally located in Illinois we are in a great position to entertain them all. We love traveling to cities booming with new business such as Troy, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; and Columbus, Ohio. 

Most recently we have been working on a project in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. On our fourth journey out to the new site, we decided to drive instead of fly. Just as valuable as an art history degree and consulting experience is understanding the area you are working in. Our clients appreciate the measures we take to dive into what it means to be “local.”

Buying Local in Sioux Falls

Helen Frankenthaler,  Alloy , acrylic on canvas, 1967

Helen Frankenthaler, Alloy, acrylic on canvas, 1967

For this particular project we were tasked with updating a fascinating collection of artifacts and photography specific to the region. We chose contemporary and archival framing updates for their collection and accompanied the works with new labeling that reflected up-to-date research and accessible language. Driving through the Great Plains–and meeting a new cast of individuals along the way–brings great insights that we can then use to inform our curation and knowledge of projects such as this. 

We also reached out to a local, contemporary photographer to have custom pieces fabricated and installed throughout the building. This was a purposeful way to connect the collection’s historic textiles and bronze sculptures with the present. In any collection, seeing the common threads shared by the artwork makes the viewing experience that much more meaningful. Sometimes this can be done with a lineage of artists inspired by one another and other times it simply takes a nod to the same subject matter or medium.

The Mill City

On the way to this job, we detoured to Minneapolis, Minnesota to experience the art and culture of the Land of Lakes. With only 24 hours in town, we didn’t see it all and look forward to coming back for such things as the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum. We did get to visit the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and the Walker Art Center which are excellent examples of the power of a unified collection. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden showcases all large-scale sculpture, yet was diverse and dynamic in content. I was struck by the power of Kiki Smith’s Rapture and Pierre Juyghe’s tree installation Wind Chime (After a Dream) ringing out all the notes of John Cage compositions.

Our team in Minneapolis

Our team in Minneapolis

Next door at the Walker Art Center, their primary show was titled “Five Ways In: Themes from the Collection.” Tauba Auerbach’s woven canvas, a stunning Helen Frankenthaler titled Alloy, and Lake George Barns, an unusual depiction of a barn motif painted by Georgia O’Keeffe, stuck with me long after my visit. It isn’t surprising that I was resonating with themes of textile, industry, and rural architecture after our trip across the Midwest.

We also had a wonderful stay at a hip, new hotel housed in an old mill located in downtown Minneapolis. As ever-vigilant art consultants, we took notes on their artistic direction and hanging styles. We photo document what we see in offices, hotels, restaurants, museums, and galleries in other cities. This record helps us stay aware of trends that work well and those that do not.

Overall our trip was as enlightening as it was long. We are always happy to be home in Chicago with our nearby network of vendors, galleries, and artists, but are so grateful to have met many new acquaintances along the way. We look forward to seeing where art takes us next–be it Detroit or Cincinnati, Midwest or beyond!

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Art World Logistics and Jackson Pollock's "Mural"

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This week, the New Yorker published a piece on Jackson Pollock’s painting Mural. Since the creation of Mural in 1943, the painting’s multi-decade journey–from a Peggy Guggenheim’s home and various museums to emergency storage and world tours–illuminates many of the services that we provide as art consultants.

Commissions and Installations

As New Yorker writer Louis Menand relays, Mural was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim, niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim of foundation and museum fame, for her Manhattan townhouse. The piece was installed by the artist and Guggenheim’s friend Marcel Duchamp–which lead to a tall tale about Duchamp slashing eight inches off the painting to make it fit in the space. The story isn’t true, but it’s a great reminder why art consultants exist: not only do we occasionally work with artists to facilitate commissions for corporate clients, but we also work with expert art handlers on installations. For each installation, we take precise measurements, use hardware that works best for the location, and protect the art and the clients’ space.

Donations

In the 1950s, Peggy Guggenheim moved to Venice and wanted to donate the painting but was faced with a conundrum. She offered the painting to Yale, but the institution passed on the donation. The painting ended up in Iowa City, eventually finding its way into the University of Iowa art museum. As art consultants, we can help facilitate the donation of art from corporate collections when the pieces are no longer a good fit for the company. Our services include finding the right home for a piece and managing the logistics of transferring ownership.

Protection and Storage

Pollock’s Mural found a great home at the University of Iowa, but decades later disaster struck. In 2008, the Iowa River flooded the campus, causing $750 million dollars in damage. The school narrowly avoided losing their art collection to the flood. According to the New York Times, “a herculean effort in the preceding days had gotten thousands of pieces, including the museum’s well-regarded collection of African art and a Jackson Pollock piece, to safety.” A component of  our work is to ensure the safety of artwork. We can work with corporate clients to properly store and protect collections from calamities like water damage, mold, pests, or theft. Storage solutions can be on-site in a corporate space or off-site through a trusted vendor.

Transportation

Ground was just broken on the new University of Iowa art museum this past June, but Mural has not been hidden from the public for the past decade. The Pollock masterpiece has been on a world tour, traveling from museum to museum while its home institution recovers. A major part of our work involves arranging the transportation of artwork. For pieces acquired in Chicago, we work with a local network of art professionals to facilitate transportation. When we acquire pieces for corporate clients from galleries in places like New York or Los Angeles, we must arrange transportation for pieces across the country. We are also experienced in facilitating the safe and timely transit of art at a global scale, navigating customs, taxes, crating, and even transAtlantic transportation.

Exhibitions

In July, Pollock’s Mural arrived at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The piece has been in exhibitions around the world for the past ten years and, as the New Yorker notes, each museum decides how to exhibit the piece in relation to their collection. Curating and managing special exhibtions is another on of services as an art consulting firm. We work with clients to create seasonal exhibitions that showcase local artists for their employees and visitors, allowing the client to highlight their support for contemporary art or their interest in a particular medium, like photography or abstract painting. Each exhibition we curate is unique and tailored to our client and their space.

Mural is an excellent example of the interesting and varied life of a single artwork. Every work of art has a story and every owner of a piece contributes to that story. Our job is to help clients acquire new pieces or manage collections–and to help art and companies tell stories together.

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A Brief History of Minimalism

Written by Emily Cheetham, Summer 2019 Intern

Imagine you are in New York City during the 1960s. You bike along the newly paved Brooklyn Bridge bike path listening to the Beatles, on your way to catch a show at a gallery. Over the past twenty years, abstract expressionism has become the dominant artistic style. Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko are the avant garde and New York has replaced Paris as the capital of the art world. Andy Warhol just unveiled his Marilyn Monroe paintings to the world and designed a Velvet Underground album cover. The 60s art world is all about loud color, splattered paint, and over-the-top imagery.

But across the city, three artists–Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and Sol LeWitt–sit in their studios developing a new artistic movement that would go on to influence everything from architecture and design to fashion and music: minimalism. “Minimalist artists rejected the notion of the artwork as a unique creation reflecting the personal expression of a gifted individual,” writes the Tate Museum in London, “seeing this as a distraction from the art object itself. Instead they created objects that were as impersonal and neutral as possible.”

What was so different and new about minimalism? A look at three famous minimalist artworks can explain. 

Robert Morris, Untitled (Mirrored Cubes)

Robert Morris completed this piece in 1965 to be exhibited at the Green Gallery in New York. Morris eventually destroyed the original piece, believing that the material was not of the highest quality. A new version of the sculpture was placed at the Tate Modern in London beginning in 1971. Four mirrored cubes sit in a symmetrical placement, encouraging the viewer to walk around the piece. As the viewer looks at the art, however, they are forced to reflect on themselves rather than just reflecting on the art. The viewer battles the beauty of art with the imperfection of reality. Minimalism is often overlaps with conceptualism, or art that draws its meaning from thought-provoking concepts.

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Donald Judd, UNTITLED (1969)

An apostle of minimalism, Donald Judd, once said, “actual space is intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface.” Minimalist pieces often take up literal space, rather than depicting something through painting. Donald Judd’s desire to exhibit art in an unconventional way is evident with this piece. Judd sought to revive the gallery space, to make art that reacts to the space it is in.

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Sol LeWitt, White Cubes

Sol LeWitt was mesmerized by the shape of a cube. He once called the cube "relatively uninteresting,” and used the shape in his art because the cube “lacked the expressive force of more interesting forms and shapes." To LeWitt, the cube was the ultimate “meaningless” shape. He wanted to make art objects that had no deeper or symbolic meaning—a cube is simply a geometric figure. These white cubes fall perfectly into the minimalist ideology: they are geometric, colorless and interchangeable.

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Minimalism Today

Minimalism continues to impact contemporary artists today. Chicago artists like Theaster Gates and John Pittman—tackle aesthetic issues through form and shape. As corporate art consultants, we have built a local and international network of artists working in a range of styles, including contemporary minimalism. Because a simple, impactful geometric artwork often pairs well with modern office furnishings, minimalism can be an excellent addition to the aesthetic of a corporate space.

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Art & Business, In Collaboration

Pablo Picasso painting at La Colombe d'Or

Pablo Picasso painting at La Colombe d'Or

As corporate art consultants, we have the unique opportunity to facilitate relationships between business entities and art communities. Both worlds benefit from a positive relationship; artists gain exposure and financial security through selling their work to corporations, who in turn grow their financial capital and visual identity through their artwork investments.

It’s very rewarding to see examples of art collecting as a fruitful business practice, so during a recent trip to France I made sure to stop by the hotel and restaurant, La Colombe d'Or. Located in the Cote d'Azur hilltop town of Saint Paul de Vence, this establishment has long been known for its symbiotic relationship with artists.

After the hotel opened in 1931, it quickly became a popular destination for artists driven south by World War I. The owner took note of his creative customers and struck up friendships with many of the artists and actors who passed through. An art lover himself, the owner recognized the potential value in artwork and offered many artists free lodging in exchange for paintings.

Alexander Calder sculpture at La Colombe d'Or

Alexander Calder sculpture at La Colombe d'Or

This generous gesture worked in his favor; he grew prosperous relationships with a community of artists and the artwork he was gifted grew tremendously in value. The impressive collection fills the walls of the hotel: the dining room hang paintings gifted by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Marc Chagall. Outside, a large, free-standing mobile by Alexander Calder is perched beside the pool next to a mosaic by George Braque. Hotel ownership has stayed in the same family for three generations, with a continued commitment to art collecting and patronage that persists today.

It was striking to see iconic Modern artworks in such an intimate setting. Outside of the traditional museum setting, the artwork contributed to a welcoming, historic atmosphere. It was a great example of how building an art collection is a positive business practice which nourishes the cultural interests of all parties involved long-term.

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