Art in the workplace

”Nowadays we often spend more of our waking time at work than at home so the
environment in which we work has become very important. Staff are the most expensiveoverhead for most companies and their recruitment, retention and motivation are key factors for business success. Art can play an important role within the environment as a whole.”
(Art Collecting: the benefits of your business, Art & Business 2001)

As stated above, we live in a time where so much of our life is spent at work that our workplace becomes a very important part of our lives: and where there are people, there should be art! There are many good reasons for having art in the workplace, but maybe the most important is that of acquainting employees with art. The fact that art represents something different, something irrational and creative, gives it strength in terms of providing a balance in a profit-oriented business environment. Art can provide pleasure, inspiration and challenge. If a company creates an arena for visual arts, it gives its employees opportunities to gain new impulses.

The essence of art is to sense, dream and reflect. It is deeply rooted in our cultural inheritance and in the need for sensual impressions and expression. For these reasons, art in the workplace is important. The relationship between art and corporations developed during the twentieth century, when the business community became increasingly involved in art. Historically the church, the rulers and the state have been enthusiastic supporters who have bought, and in part utilised, art as a visual means of expression.

Art and Business 

With the shift through time in the balance of economic power, it is now the business sector that, to a large extent, has taken over the role as supporter of the arts throughout the world. There has been a steady development in which the business community has directed more time and money towards the arts, as sponsors, collectors and in other ways. Among businesses that collect art, studies have shown that most belong to the financial sector, i.e. banks and insurance companies. Many large corporations in Norway today, and throughout the world, choose to involve themselves in visual arts, and do so by collecting. In Norway one might mention companies such as Storebrand, Nordea, Hydro and Telenor. They all share the idea that art should be part of the company profile and contribute to building its image.

The importance of art is increasingly being recognised by corporate heads, not only for its decorative value, but as a valuable asset in the work environment. There are two main ways in which the role of corporate art has gained new meaning: first of all as an influential element in the internal corporate culture, and secondly as an image-building component.

Changing Images

We have also come to see that the trend is no longer for companies to buy older art with which to decorate their executive offices and boardrooms. The art is now increasingly being used in communal areas, as a prominent element in the environment and in the organisational culture. In addition we observe a shift from older to more contemporary art.

Norwegian Hull Club may be used as an example of the increasing prominence of art awareness within business ventures. From being a company whose offices were primarily decorated with ship models and portraits of former directors; with board rooms hung with gilt framed works by national romantics, the emphasis has consciously been shifted towards displaying contemporary works of art. The idea is to reflect the time we live in and appear able to think ahead, be innovative and in line with the essence of the Club’s business: taking on risk! One might perhaps say that the visual impact of the company's offices has changed along with its image.

JP Morgan 

Companies and business sectors may find it hard to define their image. A classic example is that of banks and insurance companies. They can easily be associated with being conservative and rigid and art can be an element in the process of changing this. One example is JP Morgan Chase Manhattan Group, a company that in many ways set the standard for the practices of art conscious companies. In the 1950s the company made the decision to become a great and serious art collector, prompted by its need for a new image. It wanted to appear as a vital, innovative and art-conscious company, ridding itself of its label as conservative and old-fashioned. By associating itself with radical and modern art a company promote a progressive and future-oriented business culture. This illustrates art’s ability to communicate through the medium of visual language.

1. Dec. 2005