For most, the phrase “corporate workplace art” conjures up benign landscapes, printed reproductions of gallery works, or forgettable prints that fail to even register with employees, blending away with the bustle of a busy work day.
As an avid and lifelong collector of art, from ancient sculpture to modern photography and even conceptual moving images, I believe in the influence of our aesthetic surroundings upon our shared daily experience. Unique, original and thoughtful art enriches our cultural and workplace lives, creating a vibrant and more productive environment. An inspired surrounding fosters creativity, regardless of an employee’s department or role within the organization.
With an abundance of stimulating artwork in our office, employees are invited to interact with new visual experiences and think critically about the work. I recently introduced two new works of video art to display in our lobby and conference rooms, and in the past I have invited artists to the office for collaborative projects. We encourage employees to harness their own creative process through team-building exercises, including painting, photography and behind-the-scenes tours of fine art institutions and exhibitions.
One of our recent additions, currently on display in the lobby to greet every employee in the morning, is James Nares’ Street. An HDV video installation, Street captures typical moments we experience every day, but gives us the opportunity to see them slowly, with an almost balletic quality, so we absorb each moment in a fresh light. His work encourages all of us to think about the visual culture of New York City that would otherwise be forgotten or ignored. It brings forward poignant contrasts and heightened sensitivities, inviting viewers to gaze upon surroundings in a new way.
James Nares (b. 1953 UK ; lives and works in New York). Street, 2011. HDV with sound, 61 Minutes. Edition ⅚.
Another video installation currently on display in our offices is Miss Oyu, created by Guo Hongwei, a young Chinese artist who wanted to create video art, but literally didn’t have a camera. He decided to appropriate a work of classic Japanese cinema to tell a story of his own. Given the fraught history between Japan and China, not to mention the ongoing tension of current affairs between the two countries, I was fascinated by a Chinese artist adopting classic Japanese work for source material.
Demonstrating a unique collaboration between an artist and our corporate environment is Lois Conner’s Delphi, NY. Lois Conner is an artist who taught at Yale and whose work I’ve been collecting for years. Conner stimulated my own interest in photography. She is a marvelous teacher, and her classic subject is China and the emerging modernity in the Chinese landscape.
For most of us, our experience of landscapes are the views we see from our office windows. Lois has elaborated on that theme through her series Life In A Box, capturing images of ordinary office environments around the world. We invited her to use our offices as a site for making her art, and purchased three striking images from the Delphi, NY series.
In the spirit of expanding our cultural horizons, I recommend managers and employees look to their surroundings for the inspiration to perform our very best work, day after day. Across all industries and environments, this is a wonderful method of infusing “boxes” with a more enlightened daily experience.