The words ‘finance’ and ‘banking’ are what pop to mind when you hear the name ‘Deutsche Bank’ – not ‘art’. Yet the fact that the German financial institution – with over 50,000 works of art across its offices in 90 countries – is one of the largest corporate owners of artwork in the world is a clear indication of how organizations turn to art to not just create aesthetically-pleasing and convivial ambiences for visitors, but also to enhance employee creativity and morale, and to bring their corporate ethos and vision to life.
The trend can be seen closer to home as well; in Qatar, where infrastructure development has been taking place at a brisk pace, businesses have been working with local artists to create personalized art pieces for their office interiors.
Recently, students and an alumna from the department of Painting + Printmaking (PAPR) at VCUarts Qatar helped capture Gulf Warehousing Company’s (GWC) corporate culture and vision in a series of bespoke artwork for their new Regional Center at Ras Bufontas Free Zone.
Ece Yigit and Alice Aslem, two PAPR students, and Salma Awad, a PAPR alumna, created 29 paintings for various sections of GWC’s office including the main reception lobby, meeting rooms and various locations within the building.
Yigit, due to her experience in collaborating with local fit-out companies for customized artwork, was initially approached by 1000 Walls, an interior design company tasked with fitting out the interiors of the new GWC Regional Center, to create artwork for their client. Over a series of meetings with the design company, and then with the marketing and communications team and leadership of GWC, Yigit familiarized herself with the creative proposal and conceptually developed the paintings over eight weeks.
“The brief that GWC provided was quite specific,” explains Yigit. “The artwork had to be in the form of paintings. Most of these paintings had to be abstract, complementing the interior decor and incorporating GWC’s corporate culture and vision.
“The company also wanted a few paintings in a more realistic style; these were meant to highlight the positioning of the company as a regional leader in logistics, and as the official logistics provider of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM. It was a process which, thanks to VCUarts Qatar – where learning to interpret a brief and create artwork based on specific requirements of a client was part of our PAPR curriculum – we were familiar with.”
Jawaher Al Khuzaei, GWC’s Marketing and Communication Director, further elaborated on the project.
"GWC strives to create an environment of productivity and creativity throughout our locations and operations,” she says. “To this end, we support local talent and youth development, whenever possible. This is a part of our vision for fostering the drive and tenacity to innovate and deliver.
“For this specific project, we wanted to incorporate the local and national character, while reflecting the intent and capabilities of our new GWC Regional Center at Ras Bufontas Free Zone. The result was this synergistic opportunity that presented itself when cooperating with the artists from the VCUarts Qatar community."
Following the initial meetings, Yigit reached out to Awad and Aslem. Before beginning the paintings, the trio created the frame-mounted canvases meant for each artwork, from scratch – including procuring the best canvas material available locally from Souq Waqif, and then manipulating them onto purpose-built wooden frames.
For Awad, whose artistic style inclines towards the abstract, “the thrill lay in working with a team to capitalize on art’s range of functional attributes and benefits.” The Class of 2020 alumna has a point, given that the relevance of art in the workplace was highlighted at a seminar held at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, where panelists demonstrated how workers in an ‘enriched environment’ could be up to 32 percent more productive than those in lean or functional environments.
“Having artwork in workspaces has a huge positive impact on one's mood, productivity and wellbeing,” says Awad, who recently participated in Qatar Museum’s Jedariart public art initiative, and in an art workshop for those with differing abilities. “It subconsciously brings out the best in people, even in those unfamiliar with art or creative processes. Personally, it’s richly rewarding to know that a piece of fine art I helped create has the potential to positively shift a person’s day.”
“In University, we tend to focus on individual projects. Hence, to be able to work with a team, and that too, for the official logistics provider for the upcoming world cup, was a special experience. In fact, when the project was over, we realized that – inadvertently – the three of us had worked on each of the 29 paintings!” she adds.
If completing 29 paintings under a tight deadline is a challenge for most – following the eight weeks spent in conceptualization, the execution process itself was wrapped up in 20 days – it was more so for Aslem and Yigit, who, as full-time students, had to balance their course work with the project. The experience, according to Aslem, gave her “a taste of what it was like to build a career in a creative profession”.
“Every single decision – and day – was a lesson in creating for a purpose,” she says. “For instance, a couple of our paintings had to counter the effect of the flooring in certain rooms, whereas the paintings meant for the offices of the senior leadership had to reflect the position of the room’s occupant.
“On a broader level – and thanks to the support of our Professor Michael Perrone who guided us throughout the process – we were introduced to the commercial aspects of creative processes, such as drawing up proposals and quotations, discussing budgets, overseeing logistics including the packaging and transporting of finished pieces, and how to build a two-way communication channel between us and a corporate client.
“As a full-time student, it was quite a hill to climb, but the view from the top – when we saw our work installed in the main lobby, and the different offices within the building – made it worthwhile. Given a chance, I would do it all over again.”