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How to outfit your office in style

Lifestyle Essentials: Art Class

Nov 22, 2012

by Robin Schroffel

Buying art isn’t easy at the best of times, let alone when you’re doing it to fill out an office. After all, building a personal art collection is all about what speaks to you. Corporate collectors, on the other hand, often have other factors to think about, including context, audience and intent. In other words, they need to impress and inspire without risking offense or, worse, indifference.


Photograph courtesy of The Art Gallery Of Alberta

The art world can look intimidating from the outside, but local galleries are a welcoming place to start. Both Edmonton and Calgary are home to vibrant art scenes, and galleries specialize in everything from local to international and contemporary to historical works. In Edmonton, 124th Street is known as Gallery Row, and Calgary’s Inglewood neighbourhood is dotted with galleries such as the Collectors’ Gallery, Galleria Arts and Crafts, and DaDe Art and Design Lab. Inside, dealers and curators are there to help you develop your collection, and, says Tricia Firmaniuk, longtime gallery assistant at Edmonton’s Peter Robertson Gallery, there’s no need to be shy. “New collectors are often our favourites,” she says.

For those with big budgets, major auction houses such as Christie’s employ corporate-collections teams that advise clients from start to finish on both the sale and purchase of major works. But if you’re just beginning to collect, Firmaniuk cautions that notions of a return on investment should be secondary to aesthetic concerns, especially when it comes to emerging artists. “It’s a bit of a fool’s gold game to speculate on art,” she says.

Either way, though, buying art is a serious commitment. Luckily, many galleries recognize this and work with clients to accommodate it. The Peter Robertson Gallery, for example, offers a service called on-approval: they’ll bring the art to your location and let you try it out for a few days before you take the plunge. “It’s a good idea to give art a test drive,” says Firmaniuk.

Even if you’re not quite ready to buy, there are ways of getting quality original art into the office. The Art Gallery of Alberta, the Art Gallery of St. Albert, the Canada Council Art Bank and many others operate their own art rental programs. Similarly, some businesses, particularly those with lots of public traffic, work directly with local artists who use the space as a forum to sell their work.

In the end, it’s vital to remember that the art is there to be seen. As such, seeing is the easiest way into the art world, and if you don’t like what you see, don’t buy it. “The most important thing is to start looking,” Firmaniuk says.

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The Essentials

Corporate Art Collections: A Handbook to Corporate Buying

An in-depth look at the reasons and history behind building corporate art collections, including asset diversification, cultural considerations, and investment. Learn about the different types of collections built by corporations, and find out through case studies when that collecting can become a liability.
amazon.ca; from $46.44

Art rental from the Art Gallery of Alberta

Can’t make up your mind? The Art Gallery of Alberta’s flexible rental program makes it easy to bring art into the workspace without making a serious commitment. Choose from more than 1,300 works in a variety of media and sizes, from landscapes to abstracts.
youraga.ca; 2% of the purchase price per 28-day rental period

Oil Painting Beginners: Alberta Landscape workshop from the Paint Spot

Take matters into your own hands and get creative. In this workshop, you’ll learn the basics of oil painting, including blending, texturing and colours, all while creating an original artwork depicting the Alberta landscape.
paintspot.ca, $60 plus $15 materials fee

Art History Timeline from iTunes

Track the evolution of art from cave paintings through the 19th century with this 27-piece lecture series from art historian Jeanne Willette. Her timeline is followed by six instalments from Parme Giuntini, who delves into modern art, starting with realism in mid-19th-century France and ending with abstract expressionism in mid-1900s New York.
iTunes Store; free

Low voltage halogen picture light with shade

No matter how beautiful a painting is, it requires the right lighting. But almost all lighting, including natural light, will eventually damage artwork in some way. Low-watt halogen lights are generally agreed to be a viable solution to help redirect damaging UV and infared rays, helping to preserve your art for as long as possible.
lampsplus.com; US$86.40

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