fine art community

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.

. . .

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. 

. . .

Five Takeaways From a Decade in Art Consulting

146A8854.jpg

Over the past 10 years, I have managed art collections for a diverse group of clients, ranging from large, international banks and law firms, to manufacturing and industrial companies, to small family businesses and private residences. Naturally, every one of these clients has a different method of operating and a different process for building an art collection. Some collections are committee-managed, some are executive-managed, and all are influenced by unique culture and goals. Despite the differences I've encountered, there are five central points to keep in mind while navigating the world of art collecting.  

Quality Comes in Many Styles

In working with a variety of clients, you will encounter not only a wide range of art collection goals, but also many styles of aesthetic preferences. Some clients are interested in historic maps and prints, some want a collection that reflects their company's core values, some want to use their proprietary archival material, and some want cutting-edge contemporary artwork. The good news is that the art world is large enough to account for all of these avenues. While exposing clients to the breadth of styles available is an important part of educating, our job as advisers isn't to dictate a specific taste or style, but to find the highest level of quality within the goals developed by our clients. 

Looking is Better than Talking

Communicating about art can be a challenge. Even within the academic art world, words can be interpreted to mean different things to different people. "Contemporary," "Abstract," or "Traditional" are descriptions we often encounter when speaking with clients about their preferences, and they usually mean something very specific yet different to each person. The best way to avoid confusion and effectively understand what your client is communicating? Use visual examples. Talk about specific parts of actual pieces of art, use descriptive words in conjunction with examples to create a vocabulary you both feel comfortable with. You can read more about our "tastemaker" approach to developing projects here.

Get Creative with Sources

Being an independent art advisory allows us to get creative in our search for the perfect piece of art to add to our client's collection. We are able to pursue whatever source will most successfully address the art collection needs of our clients. While I love working with galleries, auctions and art fairs, and print houses, I also love finding hidden gems from other sources off the beaten path.  

Know When to Become an Expert...and When to Find the Experts

Part of providing the highest level of advice to a client is deeply understanding their collection interests. The only way to do this is to continually educate yourself. The art world is an incredibly diverse and deep pool, and one of the joys of being a consultant is the ability to delve into that diversity to connect our clients with art, artifacts, and specific services that meet their needs. For a client specializing in aerospace technology, we dove into the history of aviation and learned to identify specific aircraft. For a client who loved the style of a particular architect, we researched many motifs in various buildings by that architect to understand and identify significant artifacts and source them. Learn as much as you can.

However, we can't be experts in every aspect of art collecting services. It is imperative to find people who have spent their life's work mastering their craft and connect them to your client's needs. Building a wide network of vendors and colleagues extends the reach of your advisory.  If we have a client that needs conservation of a historic painting, professional rigging of a large sculpture, or custom archival framing of a delicate work on paper, we rely on our community of experts to guide us through the process.

Get Out There!

The art world is constantly in motion, and by staying abreast of the trends, sales, styles, and artists, you can provide your clients with the widest range of options and the most knowledgeable recommendations. The best way to accomplish this is to go out and see the artwork in person (the best way to really experience a work of art), engage the community, meet artists and visit their studios to learn about their process, and continually explore what is being presented in galleries and sales. There is always something new to experience. 

. . .

Two Years & Counting

Elvis Two Times by Andy Warhol

Elvis Two Times by Andy Warhol

I've long been fascinated with the idea of twinning. As a child I paired things together into grand collections, making an ark of my belongings. Many years later in an art history graduate course, I was asked by my teacher to bring something to class that represented duality. The next day I came toting my Elvis Presley rubber stamp. The king was a twin in real life, but this trinket also carried a double meaning: allowing for endless impressions of his likeness, each similar but not exactly the same.

Last week marked the second year of our business and with it came a timely reminder that even things that appear identical are often full of nuances that make them empirically different. Our first year felt fresh and exhilarating, with nowhere to go but up. We were charged with the firsts of everything: clients, contracts, cold calls, and even robocalls were a delight as it was all brand new. During this time we built an incredible stable of corporate and private clients; we grew as a company and as individuals. We seamlessly supported our clients with elite vendors in the business of art handling, conservation, and framing through varied art-related circumstances. 

It is only in the second year, however, that comparisons could fairly to be made. Year two was steady and strong, with lessons along the way. We found a natural ebb and flow, learning more about the many challenges that face ourselves and our clients. The most exciting part of this second year has truly been facing these hurtles and finding their solutions. At the core of art consulting, is a quest for solutions -- often artful and inspiring, but at times a matter of logistics or simple perseverance. 

In this past year I traveled to the Netherlands to get inspired by their grand art institutions and shared my findings through our social media platforms. The company traveled to Colorado to hang art in a newly renovated lobby. These trips to the area allowed us to connect with Denver’s local art community. We also brought New York to Chicago, by coordinating a pop-up show in one of our rotating exhibitions. In town, we facilitated an artwork showcase for an important business conference and helped companies with their construction project logistics: moving, storing and reinstalling artwork. These are just a few of the many jobs that are bolstered by our many experiences connecting with artists at their studios and attending gallery openings.

These years have hardly been identical, but our team looks forward to making our mark again and again. Each additional year of art advising will hopefully bring with it a new series of fine art challenges and triumphs. I often remark on how great it is that no two days are the same in this line of work, but it doesn't keep me from gathering them up in my mind and cataloging what we learned for future use. A collector at heart, I’ve learned more is better when it comes to both art and experience.

It is with tremendous gratitude that we enter our third year, knowing we couldn't have done it without our surrounding community. We hope to continue to support local artists and galleries as we grow together, finding creative solutions for corporations that nourish all those involved. We will come armed with our tools and our lessons learned, ready to handle all your art related requests with meter and care because in the words of his royal highness, “Wise men say only fools rush in.”

. . .