How Art and Artists are Transforming the Workplace

 ‘If the environment that you work in can be improved, then the quality of your employees’ life and their work will improve. Companies therefore need to create a stimulating work environment, …. and the catalyst to create that environment is an art program.’

Michael Klein, curator of the Microsoft Art program, 1999 – 2005

Helaba Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen by Kalin Lindena, Untitled, 2007, Wall collage © Courtesy of the artist, Photograph: Wolfgang Günzel, Offenbach
Helaba Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen, by Kalin Lindena, Untitled, 2007, Wall collage, © Courtesy of the artist, Photograph: Wolfgang Günzel, Offenbach

 

Throughout  history, artists have been able to work and were supported by patrons in different ways.   In the West, during the Middle Ages  the Church was the largest patron of art, and artists were commissioned to create in the service of religion.   During the Renaissance, the art patrons were the royal and aristocratic families  that used art to glorify their histories and accomplishments.

Today, art and artists have found a totally new patron – the  businesses that are realizing that art can transform the workplace and that it should be an integral part of a motivating and productive working environment.  They are actively including it in their mission statements and in the context of their broader business philosophy.

Some of these new developments and ways that art has been transforming the work environment around the world, are analyzed in our new course for artists on Creating Art for Non-Traditional Spaces.  The course is an essential tool and resource for artists  that want to expand their opportunities for commissions and selling their artworks, and protect their cultural property by learning more about copyright, commissioning, licensing, and working with non-traditional spaces.

Here are some of the ways that art has been transforming the workplace.

“Art functions as a catalyst for communication and shows us what might be possible if we let our spirits soar free.”

The AkzoNobel Art Foundation’s mission is to create a more dynamic and inspiring work environment for its employees. The core values and beliefs are that art is forward-looking; encourages new ideas, challenges peoples’ beliefs and ideas, and stimulates creative thinking.      With this ideal in mind, an innovative way to structure and organize the collection was developed by working with themes to make it more accessible for viewers. The main themes are color and research, space, and the individual and society. These three themes have been divided into several sub-themes, such as environment or abstraction.

Allens law firm in Australia  displays its art throughout the offices, which  has inspired partners and staff to start their own collections.    Powerful visual statements have been developed and are presented as you enter any Allens office. The Melbourne reception is a large gallery space, with works by artists whose multicultural, non- Western backgrounds highlight the cultural diversity not only of Australia but of Australian contemporary art practice.   In Sydney, the vast atrium of the Norman Foster-designed building gave the opportunity to include a   highly visible artist project space on each floor. The commissioned site-specific art project dominates the view from glass-fronted lifts, again highlighting the role contemporary art can play in the workplace.

tn_Att 0000120880.Jilali Gharbaoui. Djilis. Gouache sur papier. 50x71 cm. 1961. Collection Attijariwafa bank
Jilali Gharbaoui, Djilis, 1961, Gouache on paper, Collection Attijariwafa Bank, © Jilali Gharbaoui

 

In the Attijariwafa Bank in Morocco, about half of the works are located in the company’s headquarters which includes the Espace D’Art Actua  which stages two exhibitions each year that are open to the public. The remainder of the works are on display in the bank’s network of
branches throughout Morocco.  The Bank’s ‘Academy’ programme, has a teaching cycle of practical workshops and theory of artistic expression, literary writing and multimedia for 100 students in primary and secondary public school classrooms in Casablanca.

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Alice Bailly (1872–1938), La Fantaisie équestre de la Dame Rose I, 1913, Oil on canvas, Photograph: Luc Chessex, Lausanne, Banque Cantonale Vaudoise.

The activities of the Banque Cantonale Vaudoise have created a vibrant local art scene.  Its  collection is both  uniform and eclectic – all of the artists have ties to the canton, and includes different generations, styles and technique, and has a strong focus on contemporary talent, supporting artists throughout their careers.  Since each of the pieces collected  was created by an artist who has lived or worked in the area, the art illustrates both the breadth and quality of the art scene in the Vaud region

Belgacom Hall Vip
Jeff Wall, Children, 1988, Nine transparencies in lightboxes, Courtesy of Jeff Wall, Belgacom

“Helping to change a corporate culture using an art program”

Belgacom’s art program has been directed at the employees of Belgacom and the works are displayed in the company’s buildings in Belgium.  This art program has been designed to change the psychology of the staff because there had been a shift in the agency from a monopolistic situation to more aggressive competition. The Belgacom Group believed that the presence of contemporary art would encourage this essential evolution.  The active educational program includes guided tours, creative workshops for children of the staff and a treasure hunt with clues, and art is often displayed as a screen saver that leads to information on the intranet.

“In the present lies the future – this is the concept behind Helaba’s approach to collecting”

With more than 1,000 works of art, the Helaba Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen first appeared in the corporate art world as a patron of studios for artists in its bank buildings.  Helaba has been concentrating on the works of contemporary artists, and the collection highlights lines of development by acquiring entire complexes or groups of work. More recent artistic statements are placed in relation to established ones, as this juxtaposition corresponds to the forms of expression used in contemporary art production. According to Helaba, ‘The main thing is that the art collection touches people and stimulates dialogue.’

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Beat Zoderer, Flickenkugel, 2011, Paint on aluminium, riveted, © Beat Zoderer. Borusan Collection.

 

An innovative approach has been developed in Turkey.  One of Turkey’s largest and leading industrial conglomerates, Borusan Holding, has long been a strong supporter of the arts.   It has also achieved a new level of involvement by the staff and general public by creating well-designed display spaces in the office that opens as a museum at the weekend and is staffed by employees on a voluntary basis. Registered as a museum with the government, it opened in September 2011, and its mission is to make the collection accessible to a wider audience and to increase the awareness of flourishing contemporary art in Turkey.   Borusan Artcentre/Istanbul, had a residency programme for young visual artists to work in studios open to the public. Ten artists were selected to have a studio space for two years.

One of Saxo Bank’s core values is ‘Pride’ – pride in one’s job, one’s accomplishments and one’s employer.

The bank’s investment in and commitment to innovative architecture, design and visual arts have been central to this goal, and as a ressult, Saxo Bank has created a working environment that is welcoming and inspiring.
Art works by both established and emerging artists, predominantly young Danish artists, were commissioned and purchased.  Saxo Bank also sponsors artistic projects that stimulate discussion as well as entertain. Saxo Bank believes that “art – including fine art, music, literature etc – is the barometer of a culture and that it provides the moment of rest that makes it possible for all individuals to reach their personal goals.”

 

“For clients and employees, the art collection can be thought-provoking and a stimulus for ideas”

As part of its commitment to encourage young talent, Credit Suisse starts acquiring works from artists at an early stage in their career and the bank supports individual artists over the long term as their oeuvre evolves. Credit Suisse also commissions site-specific artworks for particular locations by inviting artists to submit proposals.

The art that is hung and displayed throughout Credit Suisse premises cultivates a climate that is receptive to innovation and change. For clients and employees, these artworks can be thought provoking and a stimulus for ideas. They challenge conventional modes of perception and provoke discussion. Overall, the Credit Suisse collection represents a corporate culture that advocates open dialogue and enacts its commitment to art in the everyday world.

 

Reflections on the current diversity of artistic expression in the 21st century”

The art collection is a key component of the corporate culture and mirrors DekaBank’s social commitment in the cultural area.  Internationally recognized artists like Liam Gillick and Katharina Grosse were commissioned to create extensive artworks. The focus is on pieces that deal with socially relevant topics or that stimulate discussion about the definition of art within a contemporary context. The collection is displayed at DekaBank’s office buildings in Frankfurt am Main and Luxembourg.

 

“A creative vision for Latin American and Caribbean regional development with the IDB Bank”

When the centre was established in 1992, its two primary objectives were:  to contribute to social development by providing grants to small-scale cultural projects that have positive social impact in the region; and  to showcase the artistic expressions of the IDB member countries, with emphasis on Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).   The IDB Cultural Center has become a showcase for the artistic talent of the LAC Region, through cultural programmes that bring understanding between the region and the rest of the world.

 

Sharing its passion for the preservation of the country’s unique artistic heritage that forms part of its business philosophy

Telkom Art Collection photos_html_69da7ddcA history of contemporary art in South Africa cannot escape the very politicized socio-economic conditions under which South Africans have lived.

The Telkom Art Collection shows work by a range of artists representing different aspects of the spectrum in terms of personal circumstances and opportunities. The Telkom Art Collection promotes South African art in collaboration with partners in the arts, including individual artists, academics, community-based art organisations and industry bodies such as Business and Arts South Africa  (BASA). The collection  offers art education programs for employees and their families. These include workshops on printmaking, paper recycling and making crafts from waste, as well as art therapy workshops, lunchtime talks and exhibitions. Since 2002, hundreds of Telkom  shareholders, employees and their children have explored and experienced different art forms at hands-on art workshops.

You can learn more about how art has been used to transform the workplace by participating in the pilot project for the course.  For further information click here:

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