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Art in the Age of Mass-Production: Re-establishing the Value of the Artist


As international art consultants, Artelier specialises in curating art for luxury residential, hospitality, yacht and aviation projects – our art services range from expert art curation, artist commissioning and installation. In this article, Artelier's art consultants reflect on the importance of seeing the value of artists' work in an age of mass-production, and the unique advantages that commissioning art has for conveying the values and concepts of a project.



Introduction

In a globalised world where the demands of consumerism are met through the convenience of mass-production, almost anything can be made quickly and cost-effectively. Yet, as consumers become more conscientious about the origins of what they buy, and what the social and environmental cost really is, there has been a movement towards responsible consumption. Perhaps the most important observable ‘trend’ is placing value on knowing where products come from and how they were made – there is a new wave of consumers who prefer objects that have personal connection with their maker, and value genuine artistic expression over mass-production.

When sourcing art for large-scale development projects, however, there continues to be an inclination towards art manufacturing companies. Art manufacturers cater for the timelines and budgets of development projects, and so prove a convenient option. Yet, art produced in this way falls short in meeting the expectations of clients and hotel guests, who are becoming more interested in an artwork’s story. By sourcing art from a factory, the project misses an opportunity to commission authentic art that is the culmination of an artist’s decades’ worth of expertise, and uniquely speaks to the project’s context.

By working with independent artists instead, a project supports the original work of creative minds. In properly crediting and promoting artists, the project aligns itself with the direction in which the world is moving – where ethical production and a maker’s skill are truly valued. The project also benefits from superior artworks: while many art manufacturing companies can create quality finishes and attractive designs, the creative potential of these artworks is limited to the company’s catalogue and repertoire of techniques. Working with an artist from the initial stages of a project brings onboard their fresh ideas, which can provide the key to creating impressive and uplifting spaces. Commissioning contemporary art presents an opportunity to engage with rich cultural histories, and communicate deeper themes and narratives with skill, feeling and originality.

The process of commissioning artists, however, can seem like a minefield, which can present uncertainty and practical challenges. Sourcing a suitable artist and closely managing the commission is a specialised task, and so the convenience of an art manufacturer is understandably appealing. Working with an art consultant, who is widely experienced in commissioning art, bridges this gap. The client benefits from the creative minds of both the art consultant and the artist, as well as the convenience of working with a reliable company that understands the requirements of their project. Most importantly, the project demonstrably upholds its values of social responsibility, and looks towards a modern, sustainable approach for curating a bespoke art collection.

Mark Evans' cutting-edge etching technique transforms leather panels into photo-realistic drawing



The Moral & Artistic Concerns of Mass-Produced Art


Even if a well-intentioned client is looking to discover artists online and commission new work, this can still bring many unexpected difficulties. An artist encountered online may be hesitant to undertake the commission and not be comfortable working within the project’s requirements. They may not have produced artworks to such scale, volume or timelines, or simply not have the right facilities. With inexperience, ideas many not be successfully communicated between client and artist, and any issues that arise can lead to delay.

As such, there may not be much mutual confidence in the translation of ideas, making the process distinctly more difficult with the risk of falling short of the artistic ambitions of the project. Without an apparent alternative, a client may therefore hire the services of a trusted art manufacturer instead. There is an understandable attraction to the convenience this offers – such companies are accustomed to the process of a large-scale project, and have the necessary facilities. They are typically commercial companies who have a catalogue of designs, which are then made by a team of art technicians. Some art manufacturers specialise in feature walls and large-scale pieces, while others can recreate wall art several hundred times.

With the rise of art on the internet and increased accessibility to creative ideas, art manufacturers now offer more options. It’s not uncommon for clients to approach these companies with a design found online, and for the company to recreate the original artwork. When considering how much more concerned the public is becoming with proper renumeration and credit for ideas, can this truly be considered a fair practice, which shows adequate respect for copyright? The originators of the artworks deserve to be recognised, and given the opportunity to personally contribute to the project.

Recreating the artistic ideas of others also has a drawback on the overall design of the project. When an art company recreates a design that was found on the internet, the replicated artwork will only ever be derivative. There is an inherent lack of originality, as inevitably the design has been widely seen online, and so the aesthetic becomes commonplace as quickly as it became fashionable. While looking for inspiration online is a great initial reference point, generating artwork concepts with fellow creatives leads to genuinely innovative ideas.

This marks a distinct difference between working with an art manufacturer and with an independent artist. An art manufacturer does not put the artist centre-stage – this loses some of the creativity of the artistic process, as the focus is on producing a product. Mass-produced artworks do not benefit from an individual artist’s deep understanding of materials, nor from an artist’s ability to evolve themes through the visual language of contemporary art. Furthermore, while it may appear that these companies can create whatever they are approached with, they are in fact limited by the scope of the art technicians that work there – the products they create must fit with the techniques they have been trained in. This can’t possibly match the spectrum of diverse artistic practices being used by artists all over the world, many of whom are pioneers of new techniques and approaches. Often, they are rare specialists in their mediums, and employ techniques which are too niche to be available in mass-produced art. An independent artist evolves their inspirations over their personal career, and with this creative skill are able to intelligently respond to the client’s brief.


Laurine Malengreau reviving the ancient craft of felting through a unique modern technique


Accessing the Creativity of Artists

With access to a global portfolio of artists, an art consultant is able to source the ideal fit for a project. Artelier’s portfolio represents the spectrum of contemporary art, with enormous variety in styles and materials. Artelier believes that discovering these artists and championing their work helps to nurture these niche practices, and encourages further experimentation since artists are enabled to pursue their craft. Art consultants play a central role in evolving the concepts for artworks. After the client presents their broad vision, the art consultant can draw unexpected connections and thematic responses to expand upon initial ideas.

For instance, the team behind a 5* hotel in Mayfair recently approached Artelier: the brief was to source natural artworks for the bedroom suites and public areas, to fit with the hotel’s eco-conscious ethos. With consideration for the budget and style aesthetic, we thoughtfully researched and curated a selection of sustainable artists working with environmentally responsible materials. One of the chosen artists specialises in the ancient craft of willow weaving, which is an inherently eco-friendly practice due to the sustainable harvesting of willow, and its eventual biodegradability. As a material, willow is an unusual choice for fine art; this presents an opportunity to revive an ancient artform in collaboration with the artist, who modernises the design and presents contemporary compositions. Other artworks being developed for the project include natural plaster relief panels, sustainably sourced driftwood sculptures and installations.

An artist’s creative mind is instrumental in developing nuanced concepts. Having worked closely with many artists, Artelier appreciates how to get the most from their input. Often, if the art commissioning process begins at the early stages of a project, an artist’s ideas can even benefit the overall design concepts. The client receives more than an artwork: they get a rich source of imaginative ideas and new inspiration for their design aesthetic. They also benefit from the expertise of the artist, who can bring creative direction to the project as a whole, and provide insight into how to bring artistic concepts to fruition.

While controlling the parameters of the artwork’s production and ensuring it meets the project brief, art consultants also understand how to give artists the space to evolve their ideas. By taking the time to learn an artist’s way of working, art consultants learn to rouse their creative engagement. When an artist feels nurtured and inspired, the resulting artworks are themselves more stimulating. On the other hand, if an artist is presented with rigid restrictions and preconceived ideas, their opportunity to evolve themes and narratives is inhibited. The art consultant’s role in this situation is to connect what the client is looking for with the artist’s evolving ideas. A respect for how artists work is crucial, and paves the way for an exciting project.

Art consultants make delivering bespoke art a streamlined process, from sourcing artists to project management. Spotting talent in emerging artists is also useful for a more budget-orientated project, as the art consultant ensures they are capable and helps them to develop the artwork in line with the project’s needs. Experienced art consultants are rigorous in their approach to quality control and deadlines, and have a deep and realistic understanding of how a project develops. They can therefore offer accurate timescales and budgets, and through meticulous project management ensure that a seamless turnkey service. Art consultants make working with talented artists accessible, offering greater creativity to the project without sacrificing convenience or budget.

Christoph Schrein's pioneering technique refines the fluidity of painting



Championing Emerging Artists

Young or early-career artists have a unique capacity to bring new energy to a project, and introduce unexpected ideas. Working with up-and-coming artists is ingrained into Artelier’s ethos; we have an inherent belief in their talent and ability, and want to give deserving emerging artists the opportunity to create art for high-profile commissions. We often find that young and up-and-coming artists bring a creative drive to a project which can lead to exciting work; their ambition and passion often results in outcomes that are above and beyond initial expectations.

Emerging artists enormously benefit from the support of an industry expert, who has delivered a wide range of projects and created solutions for technical challenges. Artelier therefore invest a lot of time in helping these artists grow, encouraging their ideas and introducing them to new contexts. Emerging artists may have only ever worked at a domestic scale – an ambitious new commission could require them to create an artwork three or four times as large. Artelier can offer expertise with technical requirements, and explain possible structural engineering solutions for creating large-scale artworks in their material. When undertaking a commission, emerging artists may not have the experience to meticulously plan a long-term project. The art consultant can support them in planning practical elements, and identify where they may have underestimated certain considerations. This support not only helps them to develop their skills, but also reassures the client that, despite commissioning an early-career artist, they will still receive the same high-quality art on time and within budget.

Due to Artelier’s commitment to promoting emerging artists, a large proportion of our projects are with young talent. A recent example was a commission for the sculpture garden of a private collector’s residence in Greece. The client’s collection includes work by prominent artists, such as Anthony Gormley, but they wanted to commission a sculpture that was more unusual and fun, and so wanted a budget-friendly option. The project brief was to create a 5m tall blue tree, that would playfully contrast with the landscaped garden.


The young and highly talented artist Artelier identified showed great potential for this project: he often worked with bold primary colours, and created artworks for outdoor settings. However, he had not worked on a private commission before, nor produced a sculpture at this scale. Artelier collaborated with him on devising technical solutions for the tree’s construction, ensuring it was stable and robust, and able to withstand the intense sunlight of the Greek climate. We developed the stainless steel sub-structure with the artist, as well as a resilient paint surface from specialist automotive-grade paint. With a deep intuition into what the client was after, Artelier were able to provide a trusted service in realising the client’s vision. Meanwhile, the artist was given the freedom to evolve a challenging new design, and gain experience in working to a client’s brief.

Promoting the work of early-career artists brings several key benefits for the client. It is a fundamentally rewarding process, as the client feels like they are positively impacting the growth of a new creative mind, and enabling them to pursue intriguing and novel ideas. Often, these artists’ work is also much more affordable, but still offers the same ingenuity and high-quality execution. An art consultant is able to talent-spot emerging artists who are working at this calibre, and identify excellent investment potential. Clients also feel gratified that they are acting as a patron for inventive new art: for the emerging artist such a commission is often their most major to date, and presents an opportunity to stretch their creativity.

Turkish Gulay Semercioglu creates contemporary metal artworks through innovating traditional weaving techniques



Collaborating with internationally renowned artists

When presented with a high-profile project brief where the client is willing to invest more, Artelier approaches eminent artists whose exciting work can be re-contextualised for spaces beyond the gallery. For whatever reason, an established artist may not have produced art for the specific contexts that Artelier works in, such as creating commissions for yachts, aircraft, or hotel lobbies. We therefore identify these leading artists, envision how their work can fit with that space, and support them in creating art for these new types of projects.

Working with a respected art consultant is advantageous for recruiting high-level artists, who are notoriously mindful of selecting projects that align with their current art practice and reputation. As they are already established in the art market, they are less driven by commercial exposure, and are more keen to pursue projects that offer an opportunity to explore themes and contexts that are relevant to their work. In addition, an artist of that calibre often wants a greater degree of freedom while working, and can bring their full value when allowed to go beyond a prescribed idea. It is therefore difficult to recruit such artists from a purely commercial point of view; if they are instead approached by a recognised art consultant, the consultant can help contextualise the relevance of the project to an artist’s career. Art consultants help broker the relationship between artist and client, so that it is a mutually rewarding process.

In the highly competitive yachting industry, intelligently curated art can make a yacht stand out significantly. With Artelier’s specialist yacht experience, we are accustomed to looking for new and exciting ways to incorporate artworks into yachts and offer cutting-edge artwork solutions. For an upcoming project onboard a superyacht, Artelier is collaborating with American glass artist Danny Lane. Lane is considered one of the pre-eminent glass artists of our time, and is represented in museum collections around the world; he pioneered engineered glass techniques such as stacked layered glass and carved cast glass. Much of his previous artworks have been custom-made for architectural spaces, or are one-off highly valuable sculptures created for collectors or galleries. Although Lane had not previously worked on a yacht, Artelier identified that his art is very technically suited for the yacht context, and visually complements the yacht environment with the aqua and blue tones of the glass. Having worked with Artelier on previous projects and established a respected relationship, Danny Lane was willing to collaborate on a yacht, enabling the yacht project to connect with such a high-profile artist.


The concept for Danny Lane’s yacht artwork is a feature wall for the main staircase. As curators for yachts, Artelier’s art consultants understand how the expansive, multi-storey space of a stairwell can be a dynamic area to display art. While a staircase atrium is one of the more open spaces of a yacht, it is nonetheless relatively enclosed; therefore, designers always look for ways to give the illusion of space and light. Lane’s artworks are particularly relevant, as his work is deeply concerned with how light moves through space and architecture. The proposed staircase installation would span across three decks, accentuating the height of the stairwell. Due to his expertise, Lane was brought onboard as a creative director for that space, developing curatorial solutions for the yacht as well as providing museum-quality art.


An established artist’s involvement in such projects offers them an opportunity to stretch their abilities and apply themselves to a new context. Re-contextualising their art for different spaces invigorates them to explore different aspects of their materials, and create innovative new work. Meanwhile, the project receives a highly rare artwork, as the eminent artist is producing work that is entirely new and tailored to the project – a possibility that may not have been possible without an art consultant, who is able to bring the artist onboard and help them in adapting their work.



Danny Lane, world-renowned contemporary glass artist, creates dynamic glass installations



A positive force for local communities

When a large-scale development is being planned in an exciting location, importing art from elsewhere exposes a missed opportunity. A new hotel, for instance, is developed due to the emergence of a budding new destination, indicating there is something culturally appealing about the local landscape or heritage. Art from an overseas art manufacturing company cannot authentically connect to these distinctive nuances of a project’s context. Home-grown artists, on the other hand, can draw on themes related to local culture and history, making for an altogether more engaging collection for visitors.

There is also a pressing reason for supporting local art with regards to social responsibility. Commissioning local artists allows large-scale international projects to establish a genuine connection to local culture. In promoting the work of native artists, rather than simply importing art, these projects have a positive impact on the community – they are able to provide a global platform for local artists to gain recognition. Their investment may even enable local artists to experiment with more radical ideas in their own private projects, and so contribute to the growth of contemporary art in the area.

At the beginning of a project, the art consultant can trace and research themes that engage with the project’s context, developing artistic narratives as part of the proposal. They can then identify local artists who have a natural synergy with the themes. Working around the world, Artelier has a global network of artists and is accustomed to uncovering home-grown talent for a project. With extensive experience in working with emerging artists, we are able to spot talent and recognise artists who are capable of undertaking prestigious commissions.

For a 5* hotel in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, Artelier evolved themes for the project’s art which spoke to the landscape, indigenous culture, and native wildlife. We wanted to bring local artists onboard to make use of Ethiopia’s thriving arts scene. To undergo research into the artistic community, Artelier visited the country and explored the Addis Ababa’s art scene by conducting contemporary gallery and studio visits, and networking with artists. This enabled us to identify a group of talented and ambitious artists who aligned with our vision for the comprehensive art collection. Core to Artelier’s values is to support artists as much as we support clients. Our art consultants therefore visited the artists’ studios, giving them practical support and business guidance. We personally connected with individual artists to ensure they had the facilities to work on the large-scale project, and provided our expertise in how to produce art for high-profile international projects. Many had not produced work for a hotel context before, and so we assisted them in raising the calibre of the final presentation of their work. Working for a commercial project further gave them great exposure, as well as the funding that encouraged them to pursue their artistic careers.

For clients, the numerous advantages of nurturing local artistic talent are both aesthetic and practical. By incorporating local art styles, the overall design feels more authentic and visually interesting. With the skill of an art consultant, this can be achieved with sensitivity towards the general design scheme, adding a contemporary edge that is in keeping with the hotel concept. Commissioning local artists is also an excellent marketing opportunity – the story of the art collection can be communicated through intelligent curation and promotion. In addition, locally sourced art is also inherently more sustainable, as it does not have to be shipped internationally and can be produced with local materials. To reap all these benefits, the client would not need to spend more than they originally budgeted for; and indeed, in saving costs on shipping or materials, the overall cost may even be under budget. Most importantly, in commissioning local art, international projects demonstrate their ethical values and engagement with local culture.

Varied Bespoke Commissions for Hospitality Projects


Conclusion

In this day and age, there seems to be increasingly fewer reasons to choose an art manufacturer over working with independent artists. With the help of art consultants, who make working with artists accessible, projects can benefit from the creative minds of artists whilst experiencing the convenience of art manufacturers. Working with independent artists is also cost-effective process, as the overheads for producing the artwork are often significantly lower than an art manufacturing company. The resulting artworks are most importantly of a higher calibre, and offer an imaginative response to the brief. Consultants are able uncover original themes and concepts for the artworks, and collaborate with artists to create a tailored art collection that truly speaks to the project’s context.

On a deeper level, however, commissioning artists also aligns a project with socially responsible values, which emphasise the origins of art and aspire to reward originality. High-profile developments or design studios have the power to support individual creativity, through crediting artists’ ideas and giving artists the opportunity to engage with an ambitious new commission. An art consultant can further nurture the artist from a commercial and artistic perspective, providing invaluable support to their career. In fostering artists’ growth, a client contributes to more innovative work being made today, and therefore to the development of artistic culture in general. Recognising this philanthropic role sets a project apart, and shows its commitment to a visionary new approach in design.