How to Source & Install Art in Commercial Quantities
by Daria Pletneva, Creative Director at ARTI.NYC
It can often be a lengthy process to source a single work of art for a single empty wall. Sourcing art works in bulk for a commercial space can therefore seem to be an almost insurmountable, difficult task for some interior designers, architects and even new art consultants. However, with careful planning, one can create a cohesive, enjoyable art plan for a large spaces. The following article presents my advice for sourcing and installing 20+ artworks for large projects like townhomes, commercial buildings, hotel chains, restaurants, and even airports.
Plan and Discuss
This step is as evident as it is crucial and underestimated. In building and renovating of large spaces, many people are involved, and they are often more focused on things like electrical wiring than interior decoration.
So it is important to insist on a meeting with all key decision makers where you precisely define the goals for the art program. You do not want to send the art back at the end because your vision was different than your client's. The main aspects to discuss and agree on are the budget, the deadline, the style, colors, quantity, and sizes of required artworks. Make a preliminary plan of what type of art should go where.
Then, discuss your preliminary plan with the constructions team. Issues like lighting, outlets arrangements, and weight distribution on drywalls could be easily solved during the early phases of construction.
Sourcing a Cohesive and Strategic Art Collection
First of all, look at the budget and make a strategic buying plan. In large spaces, there will be a few key locations that deserve the most attention, so allow yourself to choose more expensive paintings for those spots (dining room, master bedroom, lobby entryway, reception). Start your search for these works with trusted galleries or private dealers. Also check out local art fairs, group exhibitions and open studios.
When you have this foundation of the key works accounted for, it will be easier to pick the colors and styles for the smaller works (for the corridors, gyms, bathrooms). Art does not have to be expensive if it is chosen with a great taste and perfectly matches the situation. For these works, I believe numerous online aggregators work the best, because you can quickly sort the paintings by color, style, price and size parameters.
Often, when you find a perfect artist for your projects, either the size or the color of his work is wrong. Don't hesitate to contact the artist or his representative to order the commission; they may be happy to meet your deadlines.
Another option to consider is to buying art from students. Pick the best art school in your city and request students' portfolios from the management. If you happen to work on your project at the end of any semester, you can visit the school's group exhibition. They are usually open to the public. When you are buying from student artists, not only you can get good deals but also have a solid chance to see young artists succeed in their careers and their art growing in price. And it's quiet an interesting PR story for the collection.
When you are finally satisfied with the art selections you have found, and have made renderings of how it will look in the commercial space, my advice is to find some more. I recommend having about 20% more options than you think you need so that you are not stuck in a bind if something does not work out during the installation. You do not have to purchase them all or bring them all on site, but I advise you to be prepared to get access to these extra works quickly.
Opportunities to Save Money
There are many ways to save money when you are shopping for art in large quantities. First of all, try to get as many paintings from one seller as possible. The discounts on bulk orders could be very generous, even if you are buying from well-established galleries.
Second, depending on the commercial space or audience, consider buying archival or canvas prints and multiples instead of the original works. If a print is not officially listed in a gallery's inventory, just send your request to see if they can make an individual order for you. They are more likely to agree if you are placing a big order.
Installing a large number of paintings requires good supervision, and should typically be done as the very last step of the construction process so art does not get accidentally damaged. Ensure in advance that oversize paintings fit in the doors and elevators of the building. Have everything delivered on a single day. Ask your sellers to side-mark the crates and boxes not only with painting titles but also with the room where it should be on display. Provide the professional installation team with the your plan; print it out on paper, so that they know where everything belongs and so they understand specific considerations a work of art needs.