By Carolyn Edlund
What do Art Consultants do? Should you work with them? Would you like to be an Art Consultant? Artsy Shark went right to the source to find out the answers. Barbara Markoff of Artrageous! literally wrote the book on this topic, and she has some expert opinions that will help you find opportunities in this market if it is appropriate for you.
BM: Corporate art consultants generally have some art background, whether it is owning an art gallery, art and framing company, or working for an art publishing business. A strong desire to be involved in the arts seems to be a common thread as well. Art consultants bring to the table a range of skills including a keen sense of how to match artwork to specific businesses and how to effectively communicate to clients how artwork will enhance their work environments. For most corporate art consultants, their business expands into the corporate market gradually. Art gallery owners get requests from walk-in clients seeking artwork for business settings. Some interior designers provide corporate art consultation as a service since they are already selling furniture, lighting, flooring, and accessories. The typical art consultant has studied art or art history in college and chosen a career in the arts. Some start out as picture framing designers while others may actually be artists who enjoy the challenge of selling artwork.
AS: What do art consultants want from artists – and how can artists plan their work, either in subject matter or materials, for the corporate setting?
BM: Art consultants make their living selling artwork, and we are always looking for new talent. Adding new artists is important because each art program we sell needs to be unique and fresh, not a repeat of what we did for another client. The relationship between the art consultant and the artist is one based on mutual respect with the goal of placing artwork in the corporate setting. Feedback from meetings with decision makers is helpful in directing artists to create appropriate artwork in terms of color, subject matter, and scale, while remaining sensitive to budgets. Artists who are interested in forming business relationships with art consultants need to be professional and have a good body of work available, an updated biography and artist statement, and a viable website. Visiting newly furnished medical facilities, banks, office buildings, or other corporate environments is an educational experience. It is a fantastic way to understand corporate art solutions. Unless an artist is familiar with what is selling to the corporate market, it is hard to know what type of artwork to produce. Art consultants are looking to form relationships with artists that are professional and who present themselves as business people.
I have devoted an entire chapter in my book, Becoming A Corporate Art Consultant, The Handbook For Corporate Art Consultation, to working with artists. I discuss other ways for art consultants and artists to find each other and how they effectively work together. The book can be purchased on Amazon or for a signed copy visit my website.
AS: What would your “perfect” artist partner be like?
BM: For me the perfect artist partner is an artist that does not mind taking art direction for my projects. Often the art decisions are based on color and size. Knowing that my artist partner will happily create work for me based on my recommendations makes my job much easier. Turnaround times are often quick and my ideal artist would be willing to create artwork quickly and allow me to show it without purchasing until the client knows it is exactly right for the project. Since art presentations are critical to the process of developing an art program, my ideal artist partner allows me to keep a portfolio of pieces that I can regularly show as appointments come up. Sometimes I get very little notice when asking to show artwork for a corporate project. Having the artwork on consignment really helps when these short deadlines occur.
AS: How do art consultants meet artists?
BM: There are many ways that art consultants can meet artists. One excellent way is to join art related groups on the social networking site LinkedIn. Artists and art consultants join these groups and many artists list their websites on their profile page. I have found several wonderful artists through LinkedIn. Some of the Linkedin groups I would recommend to partner artists and art consultants are, Creative Art Consultants, Contemporary Art Network Group, and Professional Fine Art Network. In addition there are local and national art network organizations. For example in San Diego we have San Diego Visual Arts Network and nationally there is an excellent site called Professional Fine Art Network.
Art consultants are also listed by state on Art Calendar, an art business publication.
Other common ways for art consultants to find artists are by visiting local and national art fairs and exhibitions, exchanging information with art gallery owners in other part of the country, and by posting a notice on their website that they are looking for artists.
AS: What percentage of the art you install in corporate and residential settings is framed? Sculptural? Other?
BM: Trends in artwork change and evolve like fashion and interior design styles. In the 1990’s a typical corporate art program consisted of framed photographs, canvasses, and posters. With the recent advent of digital printing the whole scope of art offerings has expanded, and it is very exciting. Today art programs are far more interesting, consisting of three-dimensional works and digital printing on substrates such as acrylic, bamboo, tile, and fabric. In the healthcare sector, decision makers are purchasing far more dimensional works such as clay wall sculptures, fiber art, metal and wood sculptures, and hanging mobiles. Canvas wrapped giclees are commonplace too and often an entire art program will consist of these types of pieces in various sizes requiring no framing. I have definitely seen a shift from all framed pieces to a blend of framed pieces and three dimensional wall pieces. Currently, I would say that I sell 75% framed pieces and 25% of pieces not needing framing. Of course it depends on the client I am servicing. Healthcare clients definitely want more dimensional work while law firms and commercial real estate businesses are still purchasing framed work. Overall there is more opportunity for artists to create dimensional work. The good news is that corporate decision makes are very open to seeing all kinds of artwork and they understand the significance artwork plays in the overall design of the facility.