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Don't treat art as frivolous says Rachael Brown of Capsule Arts

Don't treat art as frivolous says Rachael Brown of Capsule Arts

The co-founder and creative director shares her opinion on art in design projects

Rachael Brown of Capsule Arts
Rachael Brown of Capsule Arts
Artists Anais Landes produced this
Artists Anais Landes produced this
An installation in Vida Emirates Hills
An installation in Vida Emirates Hills
The work of UAE artist Melanie Cosgrave
The work of UAE artist Melanie Cosgrave

Art by its very nature is subjective, and that's the first battle for an art consultant working on any design project, be it residential or commercial. The second battle is how the stakeholders perceive the importance of art to their project's success.

Art and culture are a big draw in the travel industry, and that's no longer something hoteliers can ignore when it comes to design. Integrating artworks into the interior design creates authentic storytelling bringing together the design, brand and location, therefore making a real connection to guests. It's an important reminder to not shoehorn an artwork into a space for that Instagram shot if it's not a convincing aspect of the design.

I'm pleased to say that eight years after co-founding Capsule Arts, appointing an art consultant as part of the design team is more commonplace within the region, and is comparable with appointing a lighting or wayfinding consultant.

Despite this breakthrough there's work to be done. Art is still often treated as frivolous or is an unwanted responsibility. It's all too often a forgotten element left to the contractor with scant design intent to follow.

For a project to be successful, artworks and accessories need to be anchored to the design story yet stand alone as a curated selection. The term 'art for art's sake' has become a motto in the office with determination to replace the term 'art as décor,' which is what we see day-to-day in countless renders. Further, it's repeatedly the same artworks that crop up, and if we've noticed this, then so have the developers and operators.

In fairness, it's rarely the scope of interior designers to specify a detailed artwork and accessories package. That's where working with an art consultant is intrinsic to the design process, and will prevent the mass market approach.

It's true sourcing artwork and accessories for a project is a specialist process in our industry. Products range from more traditional forms of art and sculpture through to installations, decorative accessories, digital art, surface design; we've even done artwork for upholstery before. The final outcome of the artwork design is so interlinked to the production and supply that it makes sense to engage one team to carry you through the entire process.

We're not talking about simple procurement here as there are many specialist details that go into producing these products, especially when commissioning an artist or designing a custom-made artwork. It might seem that appointing the same team as consultant and supplier is a conflict of interest, it's best to consider what is in the interest of the project. Clients who work with a single, tightly-integrated team get the best results, not just in product but in project management and budget.

Another challenge we're faced with is the attitudes towards budget. Over the years there's been a positive shift in allocating funds towards art. That's not to say there aren't pitfalls still at play. One example is when a provision only considers the cost of manufacturing the artwork and not the cost of the artist. This component that's the crucial detail and a successful art consultant will guide their client in the artist approach, and adopt strategies to optimise budget without compromising impact.

The word on all our client's lips is originality, and art is important in achieving that. Whether it's a curated collection, a stand-out feature piece, or the perfect blend of accessory styling - art is no longer that last minute slap of lipstick. It's time to take it seriously as an essential aspect in the design process.

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