Ahead of an event aiming to get more people interested in collecting the work of artists from the West Midlands, Anna Blackaby looks at the reasons companies invest in art.
The worlds of the corporate lawyer and the art student rarely overlap – but in Wragge & Co’s Colmore Row offices, a partnership between the two is visible to see.
The international law firm decided to buy around 70 works from West Midlands art students when it refurbished its client meeting rooms, hooking up with local firm Class Art which acted as an intermediary between the lawyers and the artists.
Jenny Hardy, director in the leadership team at Wragge & Co, explained: “We thought that it was a perfect solution because, not only would the firm provide access to a whole variety of different types of art, it would also enable us to support the local arts community as they are sourced from local education institutions.
“It offered the young aspiring artists to get on their first rung of the ladder and see some of their work hung in a public place.”
But it’s not just a one-way relationship – Wragge & Co wanted to use the local artists’ work to improve the appearance of its offices and transmit a message about the law firm to clients.
“We were very keen to have artwork which would add to the appearance of the meeting room suite and reflect Wragge & Co and our values,” said Ms Hardy.
“Some of the pictures you will see are quite bold and innovative as that reflects the business – innovation is a strong driver for us.”
But it’s not just businesses that invest in local art – Professor Michael West, executive dean of Aston Business School, has played a key role in bringing the work of local artists to the business school, including sculpture by Kings Heath artist Eryka Isaak, pieces using recycled industrial plastics by Stratford-based Ruth Spaak as well as works by photographer Michael Hallett.
He said: “We think it’s really important that we create a positive and creative physical environment for our students and our staff because we’re a place of learning, a place of innovation, a place of inspiration and that’s what the arts also provide.
“We work to create environments around the business school where there are sculptures and works of art that enhance that atmosphere.”
The business school and Wragge & Co’s motivation for investing in local artists echos the reasons many organisations are lining up to buy works of art.
Nicola Shipley, a consultant for Arts and Business, an organisation which brings the two worlds together, said: “People and businesses don’t collect for the reason of investment, or at least most don’t.
“Corporate social responsibility is certainly significant in this city and businesses are investing in local artists by either purchasing works or sponsoring artists from the city.
“Another reason is to improve and enhance their office environment.
“Rather than having the usual blank walls or having work that’s not of great interest, it’s about having something that puts out a message for their clients and their visitors.
“If they have got dynamic work on their walls, it’s saying something about their business and that they are inspired and inspiring and investing in people and staff.
“And also it’s putting out their corporate identity – it’s a clever way of doing PR activity.”
* Art Of Ideas runs from November 11-14and will feature a series of talks and events throughout the region to introduce the idea of collecting as a viable, fun and accessible proposition