Art at work: Why does art belong in the workplace?

BiophiliaArt is all around us, in our homes, on the street, in restaurants and hotels – and of course in our workplaces. In Alain de Botton’s book “Art as Therapy”, he poses the following question:

“What is art for?”

This may appear a rather simple question, but trying to answer it makes for some lively and insightful discourse. What purpose does it have? Do we need it? What is the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ art? How much is it worth? We look at addressing this specifically in the context of the workplace through “Art at Work”, hosted at KI HQ in conjunction with Gallery Argentum. As a manufacturer of highly functional furniture that significantly shapes the overall physical environment in a modern office, we explore art’s role in improving our experiences at work.

True or false: No art is better than bad art
It is typical for modern offices to have some kind of artwork. Often selected by senior management and derided by staff, this almost ubiquitous presence of art often wastes its opportunity in conveying a message about a company’s identity. However, the complete absence of any art is said to have a negative effect on both employees and clients. Research suggests that no artwork in a business environment indicates a lack of commitment to a space, an absence of the desire to add a finishing touch because it is treated as temporary – and therefore instilling a sense of insecurity in the viewer that the company is not stable or doesn't intend on sticking around for long.

OK, so you now agree art is important. But what art is right for your workplace?
This brings us back to the fundamental question – what is art for? Art can be beneficial in numerous ways if done with an element of inclusiveness and enthusiasm. While some may focus on the potential investment opportunity presented by art collecting, we aim to demonstrate a less measurable but arguably more important role of art at work.

Art as a branding tool
Alongside your choices of furniture, artwork can play an important role in conveying a brand message. It can be part of a company’s CSR policies, supporting local talent. It can also make a space more aesthetically appealing while making a statement about the company’s identity and values, inspiring visitors and employees alike. This is equally important for public and reception areas as it is for workspaces – building strong culture starts from instilling pride within the company, and pride in your physical environment is vital.

Art as an agent for improving wellness and productivity in the workplace
Becoming synonymous with their surroundings, artworks can be used as identifiers to help people know where they are, or where they need to be. But the true value of art in the workplace is how it can make people feel. While furniture can be assessed on its physical attributes and the degree of comfort it offers its users, art has a less tangible impact.

A good selection of art, not a selection of 'good' art, can help its viewers by helping them feel calmer, more welcome, less overwhelmed or even reminded of natural beauty in an urban environment. This process of selecting artwork can be highly inclusive and as a result is shown to boost morale. Involving feedback from its intended audience, art will complement an office layout’s variety of activity zones. From boardrooms to social spaces, from corridors to open plan benching – the strategic placement of art can add great value to its space and the people who utilise it. Helping people feel better is known to help them perform better.

KI Europe, collaborating with Dr Tiziana Maggio 

With a PhD in Management of Art and History of Art, Tiziana sharpened her knowledge of the art market through many years working as an art consultant, assistant curator and journalist. Tiziana now manages an art advisory consultancy working closely with corporate clients, collectors and dealers.

From established masterpieces to cutting edge contemporary artworks, she has a keen eye for matching art to the most appropriate commercial and private interiors and working with professional buyers. Tiziana is also responsible for bringing some the most exciting and innovative artists working in Europe today to the UK.

Together, Tiziana and KI Europe aim to provide architects, designers, facilities managers, developers and private clients with a programme of exhibitions where the works of emerging artists can be seen and purchased for their projects, or personal use. The focus of these exhibitions will be works by emerging creative individuals from around the UK, complementing the wider KICKSTART initiative, KI Europe’s commitment to supporting the future of British design.

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