Choose the right pieces for your business with Fine Art Associates

For centuries, art collections have tended to separate life’s winners and losers, and even among corporations, it’s easy to see who has the resources to invest in what some might deem a non-essential endeavor, by simply looking at the amount of artwork on view in their public spaces.

But the increasing presence of artwork, from the street level to clever ad campaigns, has raised a generation of visually sophisticated consumers who are pushing businesses at every level to consider the value of art, whether in collateral programs, in executive offices or public spaces.

There is yet another reason to add art to blank walls. According to Lauren Chesne Faulkner, co-owner of Fine Art Associates with artist Kelly Sueda, “Most companies are trying to put people at ease. When people walk into a space, they may not be aware of it, but walking into a space with no art can be unsettling and so cold. I don’t find it warm and friendly.”

But many individuals and companies don’t know how to start building a collection.

“They have no idea,” Faulkner says. “They’ll bring in committees where they feel like every person has to like every piece, and that never happens.”

She says the ideal situation is to begin a project from a building’s planning stages, when an art consultant can work with the project’s architects and designers to create the right lighting and ambience suitable to what a client wants to convey.

“Everybody has different goals,” Faulker says. “We help them to be clear about their goals, to have a focus and to be comfortable with making their selections.”

Generally, she says, “They want to convey a sense of who they are and what they want to represent in the community. Almost all of them are really trying to keep their money in Hawaii and to support local artists.”

According to Faulkner, it is particularly a priority for large national corporations trying to do business in Hawaii to convey the idea of being a part of Hawaii. Fine Art Associates has worked with a number of large corporations for 25 years. One of the most visible collections is that of the Neiman Marcus store in Ala Moana Center.

“No one entity has bought that much local abstract art,” Faulkner says. “They were really the first to come in and say they wanted mostly non-objective artwork. It’s a great showcase. We do get calls from people who have seen the collection.”

Consultants often serve as a watchdog offering a second pair of eyes, whether it’s to avoid fads or controversy.

“Some things are very ‘in the moment,’ or result from a process that identifies its look. We have a feel for things that are really hot now, but you can look back at it years from now and say, ‘That’s so ’80s,’ ” Faulkner says.

Pieces also may be criticized for cultural misconceptions when the last thing any business wants is to spark controversy.

“We do have cultural consultants come in. We always do the research for clients,” Faulkner says, though noting that the same piece of artwork may generate different responses among individuals.

Consultants often become art educators by default, helping people to expand their visual vocabulary beyond decorative pieces.

“I had one group come in, and they felt strongly that they didn’t like abstract art. They only wanted to look at landscapes and flowers,” Faulkner said. “I started bringing in flower images that were a little more abstracted, and they became more comfortable looking at it. In the end, most of the works they chose were abstract pieces.They realized they didn’t have to ‘get it.’ They could still have an emotional response that was different from others’, and it’s OK to have a different reaction.”

Adds Faulker: “It’s very exciting for us to see the lightbulbs go on.”

For more information, call Fine Art Associates at 591-2489.