An Art Symposium: Art as Branding

Art as Branding

by Asher Edelman

Perhaps the two most important aspects of branding any product are impact and recognition.  Impact, the first visual reaction – recognition the result of continued exposure to an image, setting, or product.  It is good branding because art makes a statement: Original and significant Art conveys: Value + Importance  + Prestige + Refinement + Sophistication.  It also enhances the work environment: boosts employee productivity and creativity by improving the work space environment.

Today, art, has become the bellwether of branding among sophisticated developers of high end real estate: hotels, office buildings, and condominiums.  Both the developer and the client see impactful art as synonymous with prestige and refinement – not to mention extreme well being.

For corporate offices:

Companies once viewed paintings and sculpture in their offices as evidence of good taste, power and influence. Now they’re marketing tools and vehicles for conveying the company mission, its identity.

From technology companies to law firms, competitive businesses place a premium on creating working environments which inspire clients and employees alike.  Art boosts productivity, creativity and, most of all, brand identitiy.

Though the architects generally object, great architecture calls for great art.  The complimentary juxtaposition of properly chosen art, enhances even the most  powerful of architectural statements.  Boutique hotels and hospitality spaces set themselves apart from the pack with careful selection of great art works.

Sometimes a substantial capital investment is required to achieve the goal. Artemus, our art leasing company, offers a financial solution, often with no capital outlay to the developer.  More about this later.

A recent branding example which our firm curated is One World Trade Center.  Yes, we are quite proud and its wonderful to have bragging rights, but of more importance is what did the art accomplish for the building?  One World Trade, a building I find beautiful and functionally efficient is controversially viewed as to its beauty and functionality.

The New York Times titled its review “Flawed One World Trade Center is a Cautionary Tale”  “It’s not so bad” “Alas it is” “Out moded thinking and upside-down urban priorities – concrete bunker” “A metropolis bereft of fresh ideas” “On the plus side, the place has state-of-the-art blasted walls marked by cheery abstract art.”

Architectural Digest  on 1WTC “It’s escalating costs earned the distinction of being the world’s most expensive building.” Even worse reviews accompany the architecture of the surrounding buildings.

The art within One World Trade Center (Artnet News) “In Jose Parla’s mural at One World Trade Center the world’s largest welcome mat” Emphasis on welcome.  (CBS News) “The showpiece the Parla Mural,” visited and admired by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge,“ viral on the Internet, that’s branding.  Not to mention the CBS This Morning running a presentation of the Art project within.  (NY Daily News)  “New York’s One World Trade Center tower boasts large-scale bold art…..thought provoking and exciting” (The Economist) “One of the many choices relating to the building….was the selection of the art that adorns the lobby….it is good to see a heavy emphasis on the importance of public art.

All of these articles were accompanied by images.  That’s branding with a capital B.  By the way management tells me the art has been a positive factor and conversation point  in exceeding the projected occupancy rates to date.

How many luxury Miami Condominium buildings compete for press during the selling period? Many.  Who gets the press and accelerated occupancy Oceana Developer Eduardo Constantini for his Oceana Bal Harbour.  Now I’d guess that not many of us here have heard of Mr. Constantini, but we have heard of Jeff Koons.  Constantini installed two massive pieces by Jeff Koons to be owned by the tower’s residents.  The press did hear of Jeff Koons and wrote lots about Mr. Constantini’s project “90% of the units sold in less than a year” (Forbes)

UBS – one of the world’s leading financial firms for the last thirty years has positioned art support and exhibition as its primary non-financial branding tool with more than 900 important works of art in its collection and the UBS ART GALLERY in the lobby of its Manhattan building.  At least three thousand people see important works from the collection daily.  Incidentally, the One World Trade Collection is viewed by 20,000 to 36,000  people daily.

Chase Manhattan Bank

Since the 1960’s under the leadership of David Rockefeller, Chase has collected and exhibited art with the intent of giving their offices a cultured dignified aura.  It worked – at least until the bank became a more speculative vehicle, an image even the brilliant collecting  hand of David Rockefeller couldn’t overcome.  Of course by then he had left and the collection had been greatly reduced in stature.

Deutsche Bank

A collection in excess of 56,000 pieces has made art “a major part of its identity as a bank.”  I’m not sure whether 56,000 pieces of art is about branding or excess but, surely management believes it’s branding.  In the late 1980’s Saatchi and Saatchi built their NY headquarters on lower Hudson Street, the building, often mistaken for an addition to the neighboring post office building, was never-the-less was acclaimed for its seminal Frank Stella work which continues to adorn the lobby long after the Saatchi brothers left the company – the art remains, the building brand remains.

Mort Zuckerman’s Lexington Avenue building, it’s impressively high ceilinged lobby installed with a 1980’s Stella work became immediately the epitome of luxury branding.  It is said, Frank, in his inestimable style when seeing the work installed for the first time told the fastidious Zuckerman that he wondered why Mort had “hung the work upside down.” Watching Mort’s reaction and concerned about his health Frank immediately said “just kidding.”

Lever House came into its second life when Aby Rosen ignited its walls and floors with contemporary art. Some real estate developers/collectors  (Aby Rosen) even lend their Warhol and George Condo to their buildings in order to help find tenants or buyers.  Folk’s buying a $20 million apartment downtown are looking for lifestyle. The art on the walls emphasizes the prestige, worth and luxury of the property. Rosen with Ian Schrager 50 Gramery Park, 40 Bond Street, made the market for the two buildings with art installations.

A growing number of hotels are embracing art and art programs as a way to convey a certain image of themselves and to distinguish their product from competitors. Amenities and services have become the same across most hotels, so luxury hospitality now often wants to shift to lifestyle. “In today’s environment of over-branding and concept flash, art provides insight rather than advertising,” said a spokesman for the Shoreham hotel in NY.

Conrad Hotel in Battery Park with is Sol Lewitt, an otherwise garish site survives because of Lewitt.  Four Seasons Chicago – Stella, Rosenquist, Lichtenstein, Larry Rivers, Magritte, Venet have created a caché far beyond the building’s architecture. Las Vegas – hotel after hotel Stella, Oldenberg, Holzer, Henry Moore and many more.

The story goes on.  Art as branding is here, in permanence.  Success depends on sustainability, impact, and recognition.  At Artemus and its sister companies we provide a quality branding experience, art at the center.  We can also provide that experience with little or no capital outlay: a $2,000,000 collection for lobby, office, or even home installation can be leased for an average of $10-15k a month – in most cases tax deductible.  Attached to the lease normally is a purchase option.  All art with  established liquidity is eligible to be included in your leased collection.


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