We speak to Chris Brooks about how and why law firms should consider building a corporate art collection
Why should law firms consider creating an art collection?
There are many points to consider, and it can seem like a daunting task, but the most important thing is to make sure that pieces favourably reflect your company’s image. There is no point buying a controversial piece of work if it is at odds with what your business stands for. Next: Ask yourself why you want to create a collection: Is it to use as a marketing tool for events? Is it to promote education in your firm? Or is it perhaps to drive creativity amongst your team?
Many companies use their art collections as a way of reaching out to their own local communities which is great for CSR programmes. This could include inviting schools in to view a collection or loaning stand out pieces to public galleries.
Lastly, make sure you see art as a potential investment. The art market has far outstripped other more traditional areas over the past decade, but you should always take a five to 10 year view.
Is choosing a theme or common consensus in the style of work you want the first step?
The very first step should be to find an art consultant who can provide sensible and impartial advice. He or she would then work closely with you to identify a potential theme and the mediums that are most appropriate; whether that is painting, collage, drawing, original prints or sculpture. Different artists work in many different ways so the key is to find a genre and style that you feel comfortable with. That can be tricky as some art tells a story whilst some is all about the power of colour, form or composition.
Should firms look at new artists or invest in more established names?
A good collection should include both. The prestige of having a big name certainly enhances a collection, but work by new and upcoming artists should also be in the mix. It’s a tough balancing act.
Which artists are the most popular in your experience?
As a rule of thumb – and for those firms starting out – opting to base the core of a collection around Royal Academicians and Turner Prize nominated artists is a good way to go. There are some amazing and collectible names in British art that are still relatively attainable including Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry, Eileen Cooper and Ian Davenport. On the flip side, I’d avoid going to high street galleries who charge the earth for what I call ‘Primark Art’. You have to think about the credibility and profile of the artist and then carefully consider if that is accurately reflected in the price.
What names are the ones to watch?
That’s a bit of a trade secret but the profile of Stephen Chambers RA is now on the rise and my money is on him being a great medium term investment. I recently attended his new major solo exhibition called ‘The Court of Redonda’ at this year’s Venice Biennale. The reception to the work was overwhelming and is much deserved.
How do you go about identifying and then purchasing pieces? How does the process work?
When we work with a corporate client it’s a very personal and tailored service. We know what they want (or what they should want!) so the focus for us is on carefully scouring auctions, exhibitions and art shows - both in the UK and internationally. We then make recommendations and give our reasoning. We also regularly rotate and update collections as well as give advice on framing, hanging, valuations and insurance.
What do you do once a collection is being built up?
Show it off! There’s no point having a collection and keeping it locked away in a basement. As I said earlier, art can be a fantastic creative driver for employees but it can also create dialogue with the local community so we actively encourage our corporate clients to share the works they own.
Which corporate collections do you most admire?
That’s a tricky one as there are many great corporate art collections out there but the best ones in my opinion are Simmons & Simmons, Clifford Chance, Deutsche Bank and Hiscox. However, my favourite story involves the former Dutch tobacco manufacturer Peter Stuyvesant. He used to hang the company’s art collection above the factory floor so it truly was art for all!
Is building up a collection all about financial gain or are there other benefits?
Financial gain should not necessarily be the driving force, but it is a potential bonus and should be carefully factored in. Buying the right art at the right price is just as important as when you invest in any other commodity.