In the business world, art is not a basic necessity. In fact, in North America, it has been viewed as an unnecessary luxury or a distracting frivolity. Often businessmen do not even notice the absence of art or good design. Clients come through the door because they already know that the company is offering what they need and want, and as soon as they are no longer satisfied with either the goods, services, or prices, they will leave - no matter what kind of art is on the walls. The art might enhance their experience or underline a certain theme, but in corporate life there is no substitute for the direct experience of a satisfactory business transaction. But companies continue to buy art and the amount of corporate art acquisitions yearly are greater than art purchased by museums or private collectors.
After over 30 years of documenting and working in the artworld, I have learned some basic truths that demonstrate that corporate art collecting is a very important part of the artworld, but it still has unique characteristics that you need to understand to successfully sell your art. One of the myths about corporate art is that businesses buy art as an investment. If the corporate art collection appreciates in value, that fact might be satisfying to corporate executives, and it is true that art purchased wisely will probably have a much better return when it is sold later -- but there is a much stronger desire to buy art rather than trying to sell it at the top of the market. Corporations already have many other profit-making skills, so they leave the "buying and selling art for profit" to others.
Corporations are more interested in enhancing their corporate image by developing and maintaining art collections - the collections are often considered to be a part of the Corporate Social Responsibility program. Often considered to be the new patrons of art - and many journalists have referred to them as the modern equivalent of the Medici -- many corporations are shouldering the responsibility in promoting art and culture within the society they belong to.
But a fundamental reason that encourages corporate art collecting is the fact that there have been several studies that have demonstrated that employee and corporate efficiency, productivity, and creativity increase when art is placed in the work place.
And it's not just employees who see the benefit of art in the workplace, it also has a positive effect with visitors and customers. Well positioned artwork often becomes a talking point for visitors, and it helps promote the company's image as it provides evidence of the company's interest in improving the working environment for their employees.
Art in the workplace is really a part of a larger trend. It is a part of the trend towards humanizing the work place. It's all part of the environment and its part of the desire to make the office a better place to work..... And improving the quality of life for everyone.
So how can an artist or art advisor promote and sell their art to corporations? Realize that art is not only purchased by the big corporations such as Citibank, Bank of America and Microsoft, but also smaller companies, law firms, accounting companies, hotels, and even restaurants. These may also be more accessible and less competitive, and may be especially interested in working with regional and local art galleries and artists.
Most companies that have smaller collections also tend to be more interested in artworks by artists from the region in which the company operates. And even large multi-national companies tend to acquire artworks from artists in the different countries where they have branches.
Companies are often concerned with being good corporate citizens. They view their art collections as a way to support the local fine arts community. Putting money - and in this case, art - into the community, while improving that community and creating goodwill, is in the best interest of the company
In addition to the traditional media of paintings, original prints, and sculpture, one of the interesting recent phenomena is the growing number of companies now collecting crafts and folk art. Today, crafts are a totally accepted medium and are very easy to acquire. Craft art is everywhere, and is easier often than sculpture because crafts are less expensive and the imagery is usually more accessible.
Corporate art collecting is now an established segment of the art world, with its own corps of professionals and specialists, and its own philosophy and standards of ethics. The more you know about the corporate arr world, the better chance you have to sell your art.
A useful tool that is available today is the "International Directory of Corporate Art Collections." This directory, available in an digital downloadable form, has been in publication since 1983 and has basic information on nearly 1000 collections around the world.
Shirley Reiff Howarth, an art historian and former museum director and curator, is founder and editor of the "International Directory of Corporate Art Collections." In publication since 1983, this directory provides information on about 1000 corporate collections and is available in an online download format at International Art Alliance. You can also find continuing news about the corporate artworld at her website at Corporate Art World that features current news about corporate art.