How can art consultancies help design from an early stage?

After over 10 years of experience as an art consultant, I’ve come to realise the importance of being on board a project from the early stages.

When we are able to collaborate with a designer during the initial phase, it allows us to fully understand the space and its function and ensure that the artwork is properly integrated into the design. In my experience, this leads to the most striking, innovative and original results, where the art can either work seamlessly within the design or be the focal point in a space, according to the brief.

One obvious benefit of bringing art consultants in at the start of a project is that with a longer lead time, there is more time to develop the artwork package and commission new, site-specific work, rather than having to choose from artists’ existing works. Capsule Arts co-founder Rachael Brown and I have always been passionate about collaborating with artists and we love to work this way whenever possible.

Speaking practically, having early conversations means we can be fully aware of structural requirements and limitations when selecting artworks, such as the weight that a wall or floor can bear. It also leaves more time for problem solving in case of any issues along the way. Lighting is another key factor because when we can work out the artwork placement before the lighting has been finalised, it can be designed and placed to help highlight the artworks.

Having a longer timeline is also beneficial in terms of budget. If you’re asking an artist to turn around an artwork on a very tight deadline, it’s usually going to cost you. You’re also looking at the cost of airfreight when it comes to shipping.

I always find that when I work with a designer early on, this helps me better understand the brand and identity of that place, which can then be incorporated into the art package. We recently completed a major feature installation for the lobby of Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates. The hotel has a unique identity that juxtaposes the world’s first and largest indoor ski resort with the UAE’s desert landscape, and it was important to the client for the art to reflect this.

We commissioned Giles Miller Studio to create an ambitious 8m high installation which references both the snowy terrain that inspires the hotel and the UAE’s undulating sand dunes. The resulting artwork comprises thousands of suspended brass-gold box elements that form a pattern recalling contour patterns left by the wind in both snowdrifts and sand dunes.

For our ongoing project with Bay La Sun Hotel in Saudi Arabia, we are working directly with the hotel operator, helping them drive forward their vision of building an art collection featuring established artists. As the first hotel to open in the King Abdullah Economic City, the hotel wanted this collection to reflect its context, with a strong focus on Saudi artists. As we were involved from an early stage, we were able to commission some really powerful works made especially for the hotel interiors. This has led to some spectacular results, such as a pair of huge canvases by Saudi painter Zaman Jassim.

The art will be a unique selling point for the hotel that helps draw guests, and also holds value as a collection.

This is something that we are seeing more of in the Middle East – art being treated as a key part of the interior design rather than an afterthought, as well as an investment for the brand. We’ve been working on more boutique hotels in the region recently, where the client has a real interest in art.

The art hotel is something that is already firmly entrenched in Europe’s hospitality sector – in London there is now a hotel where guests can actually stay inside a sculpture by celebrated artist Antony Gormley. As the boom in new developments here continues, we hope to find more designers and architects working more closely with art consultants, as this will surely achieve truly stunning and integrated art schemes.