Making the business case for ‘soft skills’ and ‘soft acquisitions’ is increasingly familiar in the corporate sector, especially as people turned so much to the arts throughout the pandemic. I caught up with Patrick McCrae, CEO of Artiq, who has been selling the tangible benefits of art in the workplace for over a decade.
What is it that attracts corporate clients to rent and buy artworks?
Corporates see the benefits of having art in the workplace as twofold: to retain and attract talent, and to tell stories that resonate with their company’s identity.
The pandemic has pushed wellbeing and staff retention higher up the agenda, and studies show that art makes the workplace a more stimulating place to be. Clients are increasingly more specific in the kind of art collection they want to rent or purchase.
For example, one client might want to showcase local artists to celebrate its roots, another might want to marry its global outlook with celebrating artists from around the world who resonate with their ethos and identity and increasingly, we are seeing big city firms focussing on their ESG credentials, using art to highlight their commitment to a specific issue. For example, a Black History Month collection, an all-women collection, and a non-binary pop-up exhibition.
What do you see as landmark moments coming up for the art world in 2022?
This June sees the 50th Anniversary of the first Pride in London. It promises to be a significant moment of celebration, for the wider community, for the talented LGBTQIA+ artists from across the capital, and for businesses who want to visually highlight and celebrate diversity. Many of our clients are already putting plans in place to best decide how they can work with our network of artists to reinvigorate their collections, or to host an event or workshop.
Another change we are seeing is a desire for more art in public spaces. That is a trend to look out for, and we will be involved in the upcoming Enhance the City programme, bringing more artworks to the city, and activating unused spaces with artist studios.
Are there any particularly telling stats around the business benefits of engaging with art?
Statistics used to be crucial in how we engaged corporates with art, and research shows that 84% of people who undertake artistic activities report a greater sense of wellbeing.
Interestingly, the pandemic has rendered the stats ancillary to the anecdotal stories of how art has prompted conversations, told stories, or been used as a team engagement tool by our corporate clients.
According to the University of Essex, those who experience art and culture have a greater perception of their meaning of life. That would have been a tough sell to a client a few years ago, but we are undoubtedly seeing a shift in corporate attitudes to art.
What does this exposure to the corporate sector mean for the future of the art world?
I have long believed that art needed to find a funding model that was more sustainable in the long-term. Historically, the sector has been very reliant on philanthropy and government support. Both of those are still important sources of funding, but the more that art can convince the corporate sector of its value and of the opportunities for collaboration, the more opportunities there will be for emerging artists to make a viable career.
And can this pivot also bring in new audiences?
Artiq clients use their collections as a staff engagement tool, in some cases they even vote internally on which pieces to include in their collections or form internal art committees.
It’s no secret that the art world, which is skewed towards freelance work, suffered greatly in the pandemic. In this broader context, 97% of our clients have remained with us throughout the pandemic.
They wanted to show their employees that they valued their wellbeing and shared environment, and they wanted to support the artistic community. I am more convinced than ever that we are only scratching the surface of the relationship between the art and corporate sectors.
How does your business model support artists?
We are unique compared to most art institutions in that we are entirely self-funded. That means all of our work has to be self-generating.
When Artiq clients rent artworks from us, that creates a regular revenue stream for artists that is not contingent on sales. We pride ourselves on the fact that in 100% of our exhibitions, unless for charity, our artists get paid.
Income uncertainty is a major challenge that artists face, and our model is sustainable, and teaches artists how to value their time and skillset.
90% of our clients change their collections at least once a year, which means that different artists are being shown, and to an ever-growing audience.
• Visit artiq.co for more information