Tuesday 30 March 2021 1:45 pm

Culture Corner: Your regular City arts round-up

Entrepreneur & Consultant,

As we look forward to the City reopening for business, we’re ready to start up our Culture Corner series again, pointing you in the direction of the best arts and culture within the Square Mile and championing the role of the arts within the business community.

Read more: Picnic in style with our top restaurant-in-a-box delivery kits

So much is made possible when the culture, arts and business collide. It is at this intersection that we focus a lot of our projects and work and we believe that having artists on boards, on residencies in companies and in studios within businesses leads to innovation, wellbeing and quantifiable profitability. 

Supporting the creative industries, and specifically artists, makes business sense, furthering the benefits of creativity across society. There are many ways to do this and each month I’ll bring a new perspective to this column. I look forward to you joining our #artistsonboards revolution. 

What’s on?

Taking place in the heart of the City, The Gresham Lectures are not as widely recognised as they deserve to be. They are wide ranging in topic, specificity and thought leadership, with academics and experts in all fields inviting you into their specialist subject. Gresham College itself is a City gem, founded in 1597, and has been providing free lectures within the City of London for over 400 years. Here are our top picks coming up over the next couple of months.

Fiction and the Supernatural by Professor John Mullan , 6pm, Weds 14 April, (or watch later) 

Russian Piano Masterpieces: Shostakovich by Professor Marina Frolova-Walker and Peter Donohoe, 6pm, Thurs 20th May 2021 (or watch later) 

Performing with Toy Pianos by Xenia Pestova-Bennett, 6pm Wednesday 26 May 2021

The LSO have some stunning concerts coming up online through Marquee TV. Our top two recommendations are Thursday 8 April, when there is a fun programme of Bennett, Ravel & Gershwin, and one definitely not to miss on 22 April 22 with star violinist Nicola Benedetti, who will be premiering Mark Simpson’s new Concerto with the LSO, followed by Tchaikovsky’s heartrenching Pathétique’ Symphony.

Nicola has been sharing her practise journey through her Instagram account so you can peek behind the scenes with her there. Are you ready for that emotional rollercoaster?

The VOCES8 Foundation, also based in Gresham Street, will be giving their final concerts from their Live from London Spring Series, a series of online concerts featuring some of the world’s leading musicians, on 2, 4, 18 and 22 April. Music includes Faure’s Requiem, Bach Mass in B Minor, William Byrd and I Fagiolini. These concerts will be broadcast live and available On Demand, with all ticket sales going to support the artists, arts organisations globally and music education for students across the UK (including boroughs bordering the City of London). All information can be found here.

Gash Theatre is a queer and feminist collective all about fusing theatre and film into groovy audio-visual chaos. Their radical new show, Gash Theatre Gets Ghosted, is a performance piece on film deconstructing gender, sexuality, and fears of men, a topic that feels even more relevant after recent events. This new piece will be screened as part of Camden People’s Theatre’s online digital platform 21-24 April.

The 9th edition of Sculpture in the City will soon end, with the City of London’s annual public art programme, set amongst iconic architectural landmarks, being deinstalled over two weekends in mid-April. The exhibition includes works from contemporary artists including Nathan Coley, Jyll Bradley, Reza Aramesh and Elisa Artesero.

The artworks are displayed next to some of the City’s most famous buildings, including 30 St Mary Axe (the Gherkin) and The Leadenhall Building (the Cheesegrater). Sculpture in the City has also recently joined the Bloomberg Connects App with a free multimedia digital guide. The app offers audiences the chance to explore current and previous editions, and hear from artists featured such as Nina Saunders, Kevin Francis Gray and Nancy Rubins.  

60 Seconds with… Catherine Shearn, curator of the Linklaters Art Collection

Linklaters Art Collection is made up of around 2,000 artworks spread across their headquarters in Silk Street. It is a collection of paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture amassed over the past 30 years, with a strong focus on abstract work. We asked her all about it.

What is your role in the Collection?

I’ve been curating the art collection at Linklaters for over 10 years. We have a pretty extensive collection of modern and contemporary art, which we add to regularly.

We invest in art for our employees, we hope that the art on the walls makes the building a better place to work, and provides a bit of creative stimulation. Our visitors enjoy the artworks too, and we give regular tours of our collection; in non-pandemic times, at least!

Is your collection valuable?

I don’t spend a lot on any one artwork, I feel it’s really important to support the artistic community and not just buy work from established artists. I look for quality and good art rather than big names. We are lucky in London that there are so many incredible artists working and producing really exciting art. 

I feel that it is the responsibility of every corporation to try to support the surrounding creative environment and keep those industries thriving. London is such a great place to live and work because of all the artists and designers we have here – their influence filters through to us all. I want to do my bit to keep them here.

How did you adapt your collection over lockdown?

Things have been difficult over the past year because access to galleries and artists’ studios has been so restricted. We have bought more work ‘blind’, without seeing it first. For example, I supported artists directly via the #artistsupportpledge, a great initiative which helped a lot of self-employed artists survive. We have also bought works by the incredible painter Clare Woods, and a stunning mixed media painting by recent graduate Joban Gill. 

Our art collection has been crucial over the lockdowns. It has inspired many of our employees to rekindle artistic passions, or to start brand new ones. I have been so impressed by the quality of the artworks some of our staff have produced in the work-from-home months and it’s made me realise that the art can contribute to wellbeing even when we aren’t in the office.

How do you select your artists?

A lot of the artworks in the collection are modern, so produced in the mid to late 20th century. This was an exciting and influential period, especially for abstract work. I look for contemporary works which can work alongside these existing works, so that some kind of dialogue can emerge. This is challenging at times, but the results can be really interesting. 

Like so many established collections, the balance of diversity within our collection doesn’t currently reflect our wider values. We have a strong representation of women artists, but I take time to look for new artists from all backgrounds and feel it is important to have a range of voices within our collection.

Do you have any statistics around the wellbeing benefits of having art around the workplace at Linklaters?

It is so hard to quantify this. There are all kinds of studies, measuring mental health benefits, productivity, staff retention, employee engagement and creative thinking. A recent study by Cass Business School found that 80 per cent of those polled felt art in the workplace improved their sense of wellbeing. 

I only have anecdotal evidence to go on. The response and interest that comes back to me from our employees shows a high level of interest. Our staff can vote for a winner in our sponsored art prize at the University of East London, and the engagement is always high. 

I love the discussions that artworks can generate in a workplace. I am actually happy with a good or bad response to an artwork. Sometimes the negative comments can produce the most stimulating conversations, and I secretly like hearing that an employee ‘hates’ a particular artwork. It usually means they have thought about it… and there is always one they love with just as much passion.