Paintings for profits

Written by J. Lynn Fraser

If doing business means you don’t have time to discuss Dali or peruse Pollock, consider reworking your schedule. According to new research, a corporate art collection can give you a competitive advantage.

That revelation comes from Dr. Chin-tao Wu, a specialist in contemporary art and culture at University College London, who interviewed executives of nearly 400 British and American corporations about their firms’ art collections. While unable to quantify art’s bottom-line benefits, she did conclude that artwork displayed in company foyers and halls acts as an “effective means of differentiating [a firm] from other competitors” and “enables a company to project an image of itself as progressive and innovative.”

Bill Gates wouldn’t disagree. Microsoft displays a large collection by emerging and mid-career artists in an effort to reflect its desire to do business with younger companies, says Michael Klein, the software giant’s curator. After all, he says, “How you look is as important as what you are selling.”

To begin your collection, first settle on the image you’d like your collection to convey. After that, a paid consultant can help even the most philistine CEO build an admirable body of art, dispensing advice from how much to pay for a piece to where best to display it. And you don’t need Bill Gates’ budget, notes Klein: “Most great collections, corporate or otherwise, were started by people who spent small amounts and then built their collections regularly.”

© 2003 J. Lynn Fraser

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com