What Artists Should Know about The Corporate Market

by Carolyn Edlund

The corporate sector may be a lucrative market for artists whose work is appropriate and who have the ability to work with other professionals to serve large clients.


Large outdoor metal sculpture "Star Gazers" by James Moore

“Star Gazers (To Think, To Dream, To Be)” by artist James Moore, installed at the Hyatt House Hotel in Cupertino, California


Where can art be seen in the corporate world? Corporate lobbies and offices, hospitals and healthcare facilities, municipal agencies, schools and colleges, restaurants, hotels, airports and more. Art is often collected by major corporations, many of whom are noted for the quality of the art they own and display. The International Art Alliance publishes the Directory of Corporate Art Collections, which provides tangible proof of the interest that corporations have in owning and supporting the arts.

Benefits of art in the workplace

Companies that own and display art in their buildings benefit greatly. They know that their collection of art conveys a lot about their brand and their corporate “personality” to clients. Banks, law firms and brokerages may want to display art that shares a message that they are serious, conservative, and financially successful, which is important to their clients. Tech companies may want to own art that reflects their progressive and innovative company culture. Their choice of art sets them apart from their competitors.

Employees benefit from the presence of art in the workplace. In a stress-filled work world, art provides a creative escape and improves quality of life. It can stimulate conversation, add to the exchange of ideas, and spur out-of-the-box thinking and discussion. Studies have shown that employees at companies that invest in art for the work space report higher satisfaction, and they are more productive. These companies experience a lower turnover rate, which avoids disruption and the expense of hiring and training new workers.

Benefits to others

Art can provide a visual welcome to visitors entering the corporate setting. Waiting areas and offices may have imagery that is serene and calming. This is especially important in healthcare settings like a hospital or doctor’s office, where visitors may be ill or concerned for a family member.

The local community is also often a beneficiary when companies collect art. Owning a local artist’s work conveys an investment in and intention to stay in the area. As a good civic partner, the company shows that it is concerned with promoting the arts. Often, they become members of local art associations as well, in a show of community goodwill.


abstract mural in the Atlanta airport

Mural at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport by Molly Rose Freeman


Types of art in the corporate environment

The variety of art that is owned by corporate entities is varied, but larger work that fits well in lobbies and entryways can be a good match for this environment. Groupings of smaller works can also be used effectively, such as a series of two-dimensional work that is displayed through long hallways.

Art that is available as reproductions is a good fit for hospitality environments, such as hotels that are looking to decorate many units. A strongly cohesive portfolio makes sense when working with this type of client, as often lobbies and conference rooms need related works to fill their large spaces.

Not all art is suitable for the corporate market. Subject matter that is violent, overtly sexual, or controversial is not a good fit. Quite frequently these settings need comforting, relaxing imagery, or a neutral palette that fits with a variety of decor.

Serving the corporate client

When it comes to maintaining art that is acquired, durability and ease of care are vital. Will your work fade in sunlight? Is it overly fragile? Can it be easily cleaned, or even sterilized, which may be necessary in a hospital setting?

When dealing with corporate clientele, you must anticipate their needs and problems, and be prepared with answers and solutions. Some of the questions that may come up: How will this item be shipped? What is the cost? Who will install it? How can it be repaired if needed? Clients must feel confident that your artwork will seamlessly fit their project and their budget. And, they must believe you are reliable and trustworthy. As the expert on your own art, you are in a position to sell consultatively to these customers, as well as building relationships that ensure you can work together successfully.


Growth for All Seasons

“Growth for All Seasons” 60″ x 72″ (9 20″ x 24″ panels) by Natasha Bacca. Collection Central Oregon Community College, Bend, Oregon


Partners in the trade

Who are the connectors between artists and their corporate clients? Galleries often work with companies, advising them and selling work by the artists they represent. Typical commission with an art gallery is 50%.

Art consultants are specialists who work with clients to locate and purchase art. They may find existing pieces that fit the space, or work with artists who can provide custom-made work for a location. These consultants often will also take 50% commission. At other times, they may ask for a discount, or may even purchase art at retail price. Art consultancies are located in most big cities, and often accept artist submissions. Check their websites for this information, and carefully follow directions to submit your portfolio for consideration.

Artists may want to approach interior designers to gain entrance into working with corporate clients. A designer discount averages 30% off retail. Designers work with their clients in different ways. Sometimes they are paid hourly. Or, they may earn their income by purchasing furnishings and accessories at a discount, and marking them up to the client.

Connect with designers through ASID and IIDA, two design associations that have many members across the country. Interior designers generally love working with local artists, but often are never approached. This gives you an opportunity to research and connect with designers in your own city who may be a good resource for using your art for corporate or residential applications.


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