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The Quest for Originality in Art

As hotel art consultants, Artelier specialises in curating art for luxury hospitality, residential, yacht and aviation projects. As well as sourcing contemporary art for hotels by leading global artists, we also collaborate with artists to create custom art commissions tailored to the hotel art project. In this article, we offer an insight into how organic and thorough research is essential for offering originality in a hotel art collection, and how to avoid the pitfalls of the typical luxury aesthetic found online.

The artist Danny Lane in his studio

Rarely has there been a time when art was accessible to so many. Whilst once people would mainly encounter art at galleries or fairs, now there are endless online resources that make art readily available for a wide audience within moments. Online search engines and social media have also given emerging artists platforms for sharing their own work, giving them the opportunity to gain international attention regardless of where they are based. While this democratisation of access to art is in many ways a welcome development, it has also brought an influx of low-quality art online, making it ever more important to be able to discern which pieces are worth the investment.

The online market has become inundated with artists who are relatively less credible in professional circles; rather than being early-career artists who are growing their recognition, these more amateur artists often lack the training or experience to create truly original ideas. While the notion of ‘originality’ is slippery with regards to artworks – and indeed, most professional artists would admit they find inspiration from building on existing ideas – here the line is much more distinct. Many artists working at this calibre seem to replicate others' ideas or follow art ‘trends’, yet create works that are altogether poorer examples, as they lack the finesse of professional artists. This leads to an overcrowded market of exceedingly similar artworks, that do not offer exciting and challenging ideas. Search engine websites therefore often present an ever more diluted mix of the same imagery, reworked to varying degrees of success.

The Pitfalls of Art Search Engines

When considering the credentials of artists on art sales websites such as Artfinder or Saatchi Art, it is not clear how they have been vetted, or indeed if there is much of a process at all. The content of artworks on these website is further not thoroughly regulated. The question therefore rises as to whether these websites are truly capable of offering a refined and curated selection of artists, which has been edited for quality; perhaps, instead, such websites are geared towards offering as much quantity to the consumer regardless of artistic merit.

In cases like this, too much choice may well be an issue. While breadth and diversity in artworks online reflects the spectrum of work being produced today, when truly special artworks are few and far between, unearthing them can be an arduous process. To put this into perspective, only about 3-5% of the artists found on these search engines would stand up to the scrutiny we look for when researching new artists to add to our own database – and for this reason, we largely use other research methods for discovering new artists to connect with.

While there are many reputable artists who present interesting and skilful works online, there are nonetheless plenty of examples of artworks that are less expertly executed. Even if the pieces look generally passable on screens, in person they can lack depth and craftsmanship. It is difficult to determine the quality of the execution online without the practice that an art specialist has at examining works. Unfortunately, this can lead to severe disappoint for the buyer once they receive what is clearly the correct work, but in much poorer quality than they were expecting.

Another concerning effect of self-evaluation on these websites is that the price of artworks are determined by the artists themselves, leading to ludicrously overpriced pieces flooding the databases. This can be shockingly observed when choosing to filter the search engines from high-to-low price, where too often many of the most expensive artworks are generic in style and by undistinguished artists. These prices are outside of the usual art market forces – in more traditional sales contexts, artworks would be evaluated by way of complex factors, such as their provenance, the artist’s background, and the artistic merit of the piece. The practice of being able to set prices at thousands of pounds for a work by an unknown artist may leave these website susceptible to opportunists. Some people may take advantage, seeking to sell a piece to an unsuspecting consumer who believes the price tag would reflect the skill and reputation of the artist. Without the market knowledge and trained eye of art specialists, it is easy to be led to believe an artwork is worth the investment.

An example of an art sales website, filtered by high price

Pinterest and the Dilution of Original Ideas

The explosion of available visual media through platforms like Pinterest and Instagram has made creative ideas disperse rapidly; yet, the over-reliance of many art consultants on these platforms for inspiration has also led to a staleness of aesthetic, and a tendency to stick to trends. Artists themselves often look to online media to develop their ideas, causing many to simply create versions of generic styles, and for the presence of true originality to become ever more diluted.

These search engines are often the primary resources for less experienced consultants, who may be lacking the capability for sourcing artists from more organic sources – such as being rooted in arts communities and growing networks over time – and lack the trained eye to be able to spot potential at new shows and fairs. The overall effect is a trapped repertoire of art being sourced for luxury design. As a result, the general predictability in the art does not fit with the intentions of state-of-the-art interior designers, who are seeking to break new ground.

It goes without saying that art which is characteristically similar to its counterparts will fall not even close to the aesthetic criteria of a sophisticated and discerning client. Responding to a client’s brief in a surprising way requires thorough, in-depth research, which is amassed over time. Interpreting a theme in a visually interesting way requires a breadth of knowledge and creative thinking, in order to form subtle connections that go beyond design trends. While Pinterest presents many excellent examples of both under-the-radar talent and established artists, it cannot be the principal research method, as it simply takes more to fulfil the expectations of a luxury client.

Organically Evolving a Quality Database

Discovering artists from the ground up therefore creates a more diverse range of artworks, and represents the true spectrum of ideas and innovative uses of materials in global contemporary art. Our research methods are guided by this attitude, and so we seek to become embedded in international artist communities and establish direct connections with artists and galleries. As well as our undergoing in-depth research, we are regularly approached by artists themselves requesting that we look at their work, and similarly galleries reach out to us if they feel an artist they represent especially suits our company. These connections have been established through 20 years’ worth of experience in the industry, and allow us to continue to grow our strong repertoire of associated artists. Our database currently includes 10,000 artists who have been individually researched by our team, maintaining the highest of standards through our acute instinct for quality and our wealth of art market expertise.

Through this organic research method, we are able to prioritise artists who demonstrate an ingenuity of thought, and are true masters of their mediums. Rather than being driven by popular trends, our trained eye is capable of recognising genuine talent. This allows us to be ahead of the curve in terms of proposing stimulating and impressive artworks, rather than limiting ourselves to following the online trend of the moment.

When clients approach us with a particular brief or theme in mind, we can therefore respond to their concept with artworks that are truly original, even if the client’s concept is itself inspired by a trend. By offering high-quality artists who are capable of creating artworks that are tailored to the proposed context, we ensure the longevity of the stylistic choices and make artworks a worthwhile investment. Such artworks are not typically encountered on online art search engines, and for this reason we choose not to rely on them as a major resource for our research.

'Ready-Made' Art vs Nurturing Creativity

The appeal of shopping for and finding an artwork that is readily available, much like a product, has led to the popularity of sourcing ‘ready-made’ artworks for design projects. The trap of sourcing artworks in this way, however, is that these pieces will always be limited to what has already been done – once these works are out there, regardless of how novel the idea may have been originally, they will be copied and popularised.

For the initial stages of a project, there are advantages in looking at ready-made artworks – often designers benefit from a visual hook they can use to assemble a mood board from, and the wealth of imagery online is a perfect, quick tool for this. While the artworks at this stage would be interesting enough, inevitably there will be a sense of the familiar about them. Without an insight into the art market and an extensively researched database of artworks, it is difficult to be able to spot an artist who is doing something truly innovative and leading trends.

Since our process involves internally generating the concepts behind newly commissioned artworks, the outcome is something completely fresh. The process is therefore all about creation, rather than making versions of what already exists. Through experience, we understand that truly original artworks need to be developed from internal, rather than external, influences. Our approach when beginning a project is therefore to think like an artist – looking for subtleties within thematic responses, seeking to unearth complex connections. As we develop our response to a project brief, this stage is essential, as the exploration and contemplation involved leads to the generation of novel ideas.

We can then begin to refer to our database, and contemplate how our themes can be reflected in the artworks. Continuously developing upon our initial concepts, our approach at this stage is that we are embarking upon the beginning of an idea, which will continue to grow as more connections are drawn. We next proceed to working with the selected artists to develop the concepts, using their creative input and their intimate knowledge of their materials to extend our ideas and grow them into something that has not been done before. This collaborative process encourages the risk-taking and experimental attitude that feeds creative work. As newly commissioned artworks are created specifically for a given project, we are able to develop together with the artist something utterly unique, in its truest sense: tailor-made, freshly created, and one-of-a-kind.

For these new art commissions, we often collaborate with emerging artists who we discover through a variety of sources. We pride ourselves on talent-spotting artists who have the potential to work on high-profile commissions, but need the support of someone who has experience with delivering art to luxury clients in a variety of contexts. In this way, genuine, professional artists have their work nurtured, and their creativity given space to grow – we understand the difference that a substantial commission can make to a deserving, but relatively under-the-radar artist. If this talent is utilised, however, this gives the best opportunity for boundary-pushing ideas.

The Longevity of Innovative Art

Every innovative idea will, inevitably, make it to online art search-engines and social media platforms; industry professionals will begin to take note, and use these interesting concepts for their inspiration. Subsequently, the cycle of dilution begins again. However, by continuing to approach artistic research with a commitment to talent-spotting and fostering the growth of new ideas, we maintain a pioneering vision that enables us to stay ahead.

A recently completed commission in a private residence

Artelier provides a turnkey art consultancy service that offers expertise at each stage of curating art for luxury projects. Combining in-depth research, art commissioning services, and project management through to final installation, we are able to create one-of-a-kind art collections tailored to the hotel.

For a closer look at how we approach our research and curate thematic responses, we have given an exclusive insight into our proposals for two recent luxury hotel art collections. Each case study demonstrates the range of perceptive themes that are developed for a proposal, and how these themes can be subtly evoked in contemporary art.

Discover how we source truly original art for hotels: Art Consultancy: The Quest for Originality See select hotel case studies: including a 5* hotel in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, a project for a 5* hotel in Manama, Bahrain, and for a hotel and spa in London.

For more insight and projects, visit our dedicated Hotel Art Homepage.


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