Does Art Work for You? Glyn Mon Hughes on Why Turning Your Office into a Gallery Can Have Impact on Business

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Byline: Glyn Mon Hughes

FINE art always seems to attract the wealthy and successful.

Charles - brother of Maurice, now Lord - Saatchi has famously collected art for many years and founded the Saatchi Gallery on London's South Bank. The Sainsbury family donated millions to set up the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia which housed part of the family's extensive collections. The supermarket dynasty also contributed to the extensions to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, London.

But the Saatchis and the Sainsburys were in the enviable position of being able to purchase works outright. What about companies which would like to get on the rickety ladder leading to the artist's garret and purchase works for themselves?

Practically impossible, in most cases. Prices quoted for many pieces resemble telephone numbers, thus putting Picasso totally out of the reach of the average solicitor from Porthmadog - probably.

Yet there are ways round the problem. According to Rachel Jones, director of Arts & Business in Wales, the demand for installing art in the workplace in Wales has seen an explosion in the last year.

``Quite often, it will be a simple exhibition in the workplace - popular with solicitors and accountants, '' she said. ``We're even brokering an event in a members' club, which is unusual.

``These kind of people can't afford to buy art by well-established artists but they can offer space for an exhibition in which they will use the opportunity to put on a show by young, emerging artists. It's good for their client base but, even more important, it's good for these young people to have an exhibition in a place they'd never normally consider as a venue for a show. If clients come in and the artist is there, they can explain their works, can talk to people and sell their work. ''

Peter Saunders, chairman of Tywyn-based Halo Foods, is an avid collector of art, and finds that makes a substantial difference to the workplace.

``There are two aspects of art in Halo Foods, '' he said. ``Outside the factory shop, we have the sculpture park. There, a number of sculptors have designed seats, so people can buy a honey ice cream and sit on a sculpture to eat it! It also means the 120, 000 visitors a year to our shop come into contact with works of art.

``In our offices, we have lots of original works of art. They're mine, really, and I spread them around as there's not enough room in my house.

``I've always loved art and people do remark on it when they visit. They get a sense of quality and an idea this business is different - it's a quality business. ''

But does it suit all the workforce? Is it rather exclusive?

``Quite the reverse, '' said Saunders. ``It doesn't matter whether someone wears a suit or wears overalls. I've come out to find someone I don't know looking at a work of art and that has opened a good many conversations for me.

``At present, I have a six feet by five feet contemporary work by Shani Rhys James in my office. It certainly provokes reactions! And that's what it's all about. ''

Art is also being used in staff development programmes. One North Wales company which successfully employed these methods was Llanberis-based DMM International.

``Shelley Hocknell, an artist who paints climbers, worked with staff to create a gallery using recycled materials from the factory, '' said Arts & Business's Jones. ``That got a lot of people involved in an art project. ''

Lorraine Hopkins is the Llandudno-based North Wales representative of Arts & Business. Her experience is similar to that of Jones.

``There are loads of projects taking place in North Wales, '' she said. ``Take Heritage Hardwood Conservatories, of Gaerwen, for instance. …