INTERVIEW Art is changing our workspace

Patrick McCrae, chief executive, ARTIQ

In April ARTIQ, the art rental consultancy set up to give emerging artists regular incomes, reported that artists were struggling with over 70% having only two months cash reserves left. Now, says ARTIQ’s founder and CEO Patrick McCrae, a pivot in practice for both artists and art lovers is changing their fortunes.

“At the beginning it was frightening, and everybody has taken a hit, but we’ve all had to look at our processes and how we do business, and we’ve got through” he says.

Admittedly, ARTIQ represents a moderate corner of the art community, but its experiences have shown a resilience not only among practitioners but in the market too, in terms of its support for artists. ARTIQ, founded 11 years ago, has 350 emerging professional artists on its books and acts as a bridge, advising and facilitating, between them and the corporate buyers who McCrae persuades to rent art for six months and change the display rather than buy art for perpetuity. Despite the impact of lockdown ARTIQ continues to be a multi-million pound annual business that provides artists with a regular income.

Then came Covid. “In the first lockdown no-one was able to do anything – we couldn’t show, we couldn’t hang, we couldn’t even meet properly” he says. “This time we’re allowed to install, and so we’re very busy – in fact, this is traditionally the busiest time of the year for us, and this year is no different, in proportion.”

A number of things have happened since February which at first made the outlook bleak but later showed unexpected bonuses. First the volatile art market made collectors review their collections and how they operated; second, employers found that art was a better way to communicate with their staff, working at home and out of the “cultural ambit” of the firm; third, artists themselves began giving tours of their studios, workshops and talks which found a new and eager audience. Now, corporates are “purging” their collections, but not turning their backs on art.

“With British Airways selling its lounge collection, the Opera House selling its Hockney and Deutsche Bank selling some from its collection, there seemed to be a change afoot” says McCrae (above). Corporate clients ARTIQ deals with were calling them in to value and sell from the collection, with a view to replacing them with leased pictures, and there are four in the process now.

Clients are looking again at what their art collections can do, he goes on. More and more are interested in highlighting issues to their key stakeholders from race, gender and sexual equality to local initiatives and issues.

Perceptions of office culture have also changed, and workers have been missing that. In the summer, McCrae says, there was a lot of talk about the death of the office as a result of the lockdown. “But companies are now looking on offices as cultural hubs. We’ve all been able to work from home during the last nine months, but the office allows us to humanise work, create, come together in coming together and developing ideas” he says. “The workplace is still going to be there, maybe physically smaller, but still the space which the team is going to inhabit. Art can build that.

“People need to be able to take home the culture of the company, and it’s quite hard to feel the culture sitting alone at your kitchen table. What we’re seeing now is a great move for people rethinking the places within which they work.”

So office spaces are becoming adorned with the art that represents the company’s culture, and workers are being encouraged to make their own art. That is where the artists’ tutorials and studio tours come in, with the company’s workers getting painting sets sent to them so that they can take part in a group class.

ARTIQ itself is currently in the process of appointing a new PA for which McCrae has had many applicants. “Everybody in interviews has been asking about how ARTIQ is maintaining its company culture at a distance, how this company is any different from a gallery or a tech developer - or how is the company culture of Google different from Facebook or, say, IBM".

While support for artists is being renewed with collectors choosing to lease their work rather than buy it, there is now a new dimension to their work and their income, with direct contact with the public facilitated by a team of artists working with ARTIQ in an online masterclass sessions.

Phoebe Boddy, the Nottinghamshire-based abstract painter (main image), is offering one of the artists workshops with a theme of art and food, and she follows through with how the sight, taste and smell of food can influence emotions, and how those feelings can be translated to the canvas.

My practice is stimulated by food and flavour, using the process of painting to explore the connections between the two creative fields of food and art” she tells her virtual visitors. “I am constantly storing personal recollections and experiences that I encounter with food and attempt to recreate these memories in the studio through abstract interpretive painting. I interpret flavours as colours, envision textures as marks and seek to translate forms on to canvas with shapes. Through my paintings I encourage the viewer to appreciate food in a different light - a work of art for all the senses.”



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