After years of sitting in board rooms, conference suites and meeting rooms, at times staring at the walls, I have always felt that those walls were entirely unremarkable: artworks which were safe, uncontroversial and, well, bland. Art that decorates, rather than evokes a reaction, wallpaper until the next refurb. There were occasional exceptions, a few impressive collections, but on the whole, “corporate art” has for me, been a huge wasted opportunity. Coupled with the frustration of looking at uninspiring art in the workplace, was my concern with the struggle, for many talented artists I encounter through family, friends and my pro bono work, to sustain their practices once they leave art school.
When I was asked to “sort” the art for our new corporate offices in 2010, I saw the opportunity to bring together these themes under our corporate social responsibility (CSR) banner: a project to support emerging artists, by giving them exhibition space, pro bono support, a new buying market for their first year after art school and an internship programme for an aspiring curator. For the firm, we have vibrant, changing art, uncluttered with the complications of ownership, which enables us to have very different conversations with our clients and has created a level of staff engagement I could not have imagined. For many, this was a first encounter with original art and that has provoked dialogue, a hunger to know more and for some, an appetite to acquire. The staff have become the largest buying group each year.