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Art at work: An insider’s guide to art in commercial design

The integration of art into commercial design and architecture projects can leave a visceral impact. We speak to an art consultant and an art dealer to get an insight on how designers can get the best results for their commercial projects.



BY

July 12th, 2018


Hospitals, hotels and workplaces are increasingly becoming a dynamic backdrop for progressive and inspirational artworks. These semi-public to public commercial spaces provide the perfect shell for elevated design outcomes, which can be achieved through artistic collaboration.

But as a designer, what does that process look like? The curation of art in a project sits slightly adjacent to the repertoire of a traditional designer and that’s where the help of an art consultant, or a dealer, can come in.

Swee Lim.

Swee Lim, of Swee Design, is an art consultant, interior designer and stylist who brings expertise in the selection of furniture and art.

For Swee it’s all about a collaborative approach when working with architects and designers, “I work closely with the designer on the brief,” continuing that, “I find my role is often that of a conduit or broker between artists and designers; facilitating opportunities to incorporate art within the design process and to further my client’s appreciation and knowledge of the visual arts.”

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“I find my role is often that of a conduit or broker between artists and designers.” – Swee Lim, art consultant
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From the art dealer side, Megan Dicks and Hannah Abbott, the directors of Otomys, reiterate the power of an art consultant.

(L-R) Megan Dicks and Hannah Abbott, directors of Otomys.

(L-R) Megan Dicks and Hannah Abbott, directors of Otomys.

For commercial interior designer’s who are looking to specify art in a project, “Start by having a conversation with an art consultant or by engaging their services. The relationship with art shouldn’t feel intimidating, so an art consultant with an overall appreciation of architecture and design is more likely to provide interior designers with an insight into art that celebrates their design intention,” share the pair.

Otomys carefully select the artists on the books, ensuring a mix of international and Australian work at all scales and styles. Pictured: Polperro Winery by Hecker Guthrie, artwork The Second Turning by Rebekah Stuart. Photo by Shannon McGrath.

Otomys carefully select the artists on the books, ensuring a mix of international and Australian work at all scales and styles. Pictured: Polperro Winery by Hecker Guthrie, artwork The Second Turning by Rebekah Stuart. Photo by Shannon McGrath.

 

For those still on the fence as to whether the addition of art is a worthwhile inclusion in a commercial project, all three offer up some convincing insights.

“Procuring art for a commercial project is a long-term investment for businesses of any scale. To maximise the impact of this investment, a collection should be curated on a visceral level,” say Megan and Hannah.

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“Procuring art for a commercial project is a long-term investment for businesses of any scale.” – Megan and Hannah, Otomys
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And that doesn’t mean that it has to be limited to the walls, as Swee says, “Artworks can be stand-alone pieces but they can also be integrated into the fabric of a building’s design, such as the façade, ceiling or flooring. A fantastic example of this is at The Musee du Quai Branly in Paris where Aboriginal art is presented as an artistic installation on the ceilings and façade of the building.”

Tommy Watson, Wipu Rockhole, 2005. University building of the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, 5th floor © musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, photo by Antonin Borgeaud.

Tommy Watson, Wipu Rockhole, 2005. University building of the musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, 5th floor © musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, photo by Antonin Borgeaud.

 

Megan and Hannah add another layer to that thought, “Art appreciation begins with an enquiring mind. The experience may not remain on the canvas, rather beginning to exist between the artwork and individual, and that’s where the conversation becomes three-dimensional,

“Appreciating art beyond the visual offers a most impactful outcome. Something that is integral to the procurement process for us at Otomys is the ability to encourage our clients to step outside their comfort zone.”

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“Art appreciation begins with an enquiring mind. The experience may not remain on the canvas, rather beginning to exist between the artwork and individual.” – Megan and Hannah, Otomys
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Hannah and Megan share an example of this boundary-pushing approach in action, “We have had the honour to work alongside HASSELL and Montlaur for Transurban’s extraordinary new head office.”

Although the project is yet to be finished, Megan and Hannah share that, “HASSELL has worked with Transurban for many years and have a complete understanding of its business demands. Otomys has curated a collection of artwork that shares a deep connection with the urban environment, far beyond a literal composition. Everyone involved in the curatorial process has shied away from safe choices and rather welcomed cutting-edge pieces. We cannot wait to share it later this year – expect the unexpected!”

SJB's Otherworlds exhibition features a lighting element. Artwork pictured, Sue Lovegrove (L), and Jennifer Goodman (R). Photo by Aaron Puls.

SJB’s Other Worlds exhibition features a lighting element. Artwork pictured, Sue Lovegrove (L), and Jennifer Goodman (R), Gallerysmith. Photo by Aaron Puls.

Swee has also recently been working on a noteworthy project – an ongoing collaboration with SJB. “When SJB moved to its new premises in Oliver Lane, I proposed using the new office space to showcase an ever-changing range of artworks and exhibitions curated by myself and Gallerysmith.”

The first exhibition was The Memory of Time and the second program titled Other Worlds officially opens on Wednesday 18 July. What is special about this collaboration is that it brings “a great opportunity to introduce SJB’s corporate clients to dynamic new artists,” says Swee. It also helps that SJB’s new office has a distinct NYC loft and residential vibe, which the artwork complements while serving a commercial purpose.

SJB's Otherworlds, artwork by Rachel Coad. Photo by Aaron Puls.

SJB’s Other Worlds, artwork by Rachel Coad, Gallerysmith. Photo by Aaron Puls.

 

Insider tips from Swee Lim, and Otomys’ Hannah Abbott and Megan Dicks:

  • Consider the location, purpose and function of the project and where the art will sit – is it for a hotel lobby, office, display suite, public or private space?
  • What should the art communicate aesthetically? An artwork in a commercial project needs to respond to the identity of the place and environment and may need to be site-specific,
  • Scale is very important, as a lot of commercial spaces are very large so artworks/sculptures need to have the right scale to create impact and presence. But just because it’s a large space doesn’t mean it needs a large artwork,
  • Who is the audience? In a commercial environment, unlike a residential space, the audience for art is much wider, encompassing staff, clients and the general public,
  • Quite simply, how durable does the work need to be and will it be placed in a high-traffic area?
  • Consider time constraints – commissioning original work is a lengthier process, as is sourcing art that is cutting-edge or unique. But don’t forget that the art can be procured in stages with an overall long-term plan, and
  • There is always a level of budget constraint so for the most impact be generous with the right art for the right spaces.
Lead image: Artwork Catherine Nelson (L) and Wilma Tabacco (R) from Gallerysmith. Photo by Aaron Puls. Other Worlds will run until 19 January 2019 at SJB, Level 4, 18 Oliver Lane, Melbourne.

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