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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.


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.