Male and female walking across bridge.

Art works: businesses and the value of art

04 August 2016

You're heading to a company's offices for a meeting. As you're taken to the meeting room you'll probably pass some form of art work on the way, maybe a painting on the wall or a sculpture in reception. It may even be that you've heard of this company sponsoring an exhibition or an artistic institute. But does this company's involvement with art affect its success as a business, and if so, how?

Art and business are not generally considered together (unless you are in the business of buying and selling art). However, a company's attitude to art can have a real impact on its success as a business. Forward-thinking and modern companies should give real thought to their use of art and consider whether a new strategy could improve their business.

The effect of art on a business's employees

One of the biggest costs for any business is its staff, so it pays to maintain a motivated workforce which is  happy with its office space. Office layouts vary greatly, but it is clear that employees respond well to those that include art. A recent survey found that 93% of workers believe art makes the office more welcoming. Furthermore, research has recently found that art in the workplace not only increases staff wellbeing, it also increases productivity.

Dr Craig Knight, head of research group Identity Realisation, undertook a study which monitored the productivity of workers in a 'lean' office, comprising only items necessary to complete work tasks, an 'enriched' office, where artwork and plants were added, and an 'empowered' office, where employees could arrange the artwork and plants themselves. Workers in the enriched office were 15% more productive than those in the lean office, and those in the empowered office were a significant 30% more productive.

For the above findings to work, employees need to be able to see the artwork from their desks. Only placing artwork in the public spaces of the office, as many companies seem to do, is therefore unlikely to be effective.

Allowing employees to become involved in artistic decisions in the office means employees can choose the art they are inspired by, leading to increased productivity. It also creates a stronger sense of pride and identity between employees and their company. This is a mantra that RPC itself has adopted, allowing employees to submit their own photographs to become office artwork.

The effect of art on a business' image

The Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS) is believed to have been the first company to start a corporate art collection when it commissioned artwork in 1472. Many businesses continue to collect art and sponsor art exhibitions, although their reasons for doing so likely differ from BMPS building a valuable art collection as an investment.

Art as a branding tool

Art exhibitions, and particularly large, well-advertised exhibitions, can provide a business with excellent publicity outside its industry. There are plenty of examples of art being used in this way in the legal sector, such as the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize and the Stewarts Law RCA Secret Exhibition.

Outside exhibitions, many companies sponsor artistic institutes. John Lewis and Clifford Chance both sponsor the Royal Academy of Arts, whilst Deutsche Bank sponsors the Frieze Art Fair. Some go even further. Collyer-Bristow has been running its own art gallery for the last 20 years, regularly holding exhibitions within its London office, whilst Simmons & Simmons is currently running its first client-facing selling exhibition which is curated by a litigation associate with proceeds supporting 21 different institutions. Simmons has had a long standing art collection, which is frequently updated by curator and former partner Stuart Evans.

Sponsoring art in these ways enhances a company's PR profile. It also provides the company with a wider identity and creates a very positive image to both those inside and outside the company's industry.

Art and a business's values

The art a business sponsors and, more commonly, the art a business displays in its offices, not only says a great deal about the style and character of a company, but also allows a company to express its values.

Deutsche Bank, owner of the largest collection of corporate art in the world (with around 60,000 pieces of art), is a good example here. 'ArtWorks', the Bank's global art programme, is designed to promote art that questions perceptions and recognises contemporary problems.

Placing such emphasis on art and tackling issues through this medium allows a company to demonstrate the values important to its business, both externally and to its employees, and allows the business to reflect on these on a daily basis.

Art's value

In short, businesses can benefit greatly from using art beyond hanging a quickly-chosen print on a meeting room wall. The impact of art on a business, both directly on its employees and indirectly on its reputation, can be significant. Companies should consider how they currently use art, and whether their business could become more successful by re-thinking their strategy.