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What does an art consultant do and why should you include them in your commercial real estate project from the beginning? We’re Texas-based art consultants Art + Artisans and this is the first in a series of blog posts explaining what we do and why our services make it easier for commercial real estate professionals to find artwork that brings their vision to life. In this article, we’ll go over the first part of our four-step process: discovery. Commercial real estate developers, interior designers, and architects should read on to learn what happens in a free consultation and how we help clients establish the criteria, budget, locations, and timeline for their artwork acquisition.

How well artwork integrates with the vision of your commercial real estate development depends entirely on how early you bring an art consultant on board. Ideally, developers should select an art consultant at the same time they select their team of architects, interior designers, contractors, and project managers. When an art consultant is involved from the very beginning, as the architectural design direction is developing, we can advise you on whether certain specified materials will work with the artwork you have in mind. This can make a huge difference to your overall budget and drastically increase the artistic options at your disposal. At the very least, an art consultant should be brought on board in time for the design development phase of your project to get the most out of your interior, framed artwork and before the schematic development phase to get the most out of your sculptural or external artwork. Any later and your artistic options will be vastly diminished which almost always leads to added expenses and artwork that’s less integrated into the property.

Pre-Discovery

Pre-discovery begins the first time we make contact with someone interested in hiring an art consultant to acquire artwork for their commercial real estate development or property. In that first communication, we’ll ask for some basic information about your project and set up a time to meet with you for a free consultation.

At the free consultation, we’ll show you a look book of completed projects similar to yours and give you a round figure of what each project cost. We’ll answer any questions you have and try to collect more detailed information about your project so we can come prepared to the kick- off meeting should you decide to hire us as your art consultants. Information that’s helpful to have before an art consultancy kick-off meeting includes:

  • Your Timeline
  • Your Vision
  • Your Architectural Plans
  • Your Budget

The Letter of Agreement (LOA)

After the free consultation, we’ll email you a copy of the presentation you saw during our meeting and answer any further questions you have. Once all your questions have been answered, we’ll send you a letter of agreement, or LOA, to review and sign. The LOA is a contract listing the scope of our services plus our fees and terms. A nonrefundable retainer, which will be applied to the final project total, is due upon signing the LOA and before work can begin.

IMPORTANT TIMELINES TO KNOW

For optimal integration of artwork into your commercial real estate development, art consultants should be selected at the same time as architects, interior designers, contractors, and project managers. At the very least, they should be brought on board for the design development phase if you’re planning to install internal, framed artwork and by the schematic development phase if you want to install external or sculptural artwork.

The Discovery Process

In the discovery phase, you’ll be assigned a project manager. This is your point person at Art + Artisans who will walk you through the entire process of acquiring artwork for your property. These art consultants are specialized professionals who spend all their time immersed in the art world, discovering artists, and making connections that allow you to make informed buying decisions. They know which artwork will work on a specified surface, how much to pay for it, and how to best to install and display it on your property. They can foresee timing issues that will affect your budget and can keep your team of stakeholders focused on milestones and deadlines.

The Kick-Off Meeting

The first thing your project manager will do is schedule a kick-off meeting with you and your team. Sometimes we get enough information during the pre-discovery process to go right into round one of artwork selection at the project kick-off meeting. But ordinarily, and especially when there are multiple stakeholders on your development team, the kick-off meeting is a time to clarify key decision-makers and establish vision, goals, criteria, budget, and timelines. At the kick-off meeting your project manager will:

  • Identify key decision makers — We’ll make sure that everyone is on the same page about project goals, criteria, messaging, themes, timeline, and budget.
  • Clarify the ultimate goal of installing the artwork — Do you need the artwork to increase foot traffic to your property? Do you need it to draw employees back to the office? Do you want it to tell the story of your organization? Or something else?
  • Clarify message, themes, or criteria for the artwork—Do you only want to work with local artists? Does the artwork have to be unlike anything else in your city? Is there a particular audience the artwork must connect with? Must the artwork be elegant and elevated?
  • Request scaled architectural floor plans and photos— We’ll ask you to bring scaled architectural floor plans which we’ll mark with the locations you and your team have identified for artwork installation. We’ll measure the floor plans, or visit the property and measure walls if necessary, so that we have a clear understanding of the scale of artwork needed. We’ll also get photos and ask detailed questions about the property to identify new locations for artwork installation that you might not have considered.
  • Establish your budget — Often a client knows exactly how much they want to spend. But if they don’t, we can recommend some numbers based on your criteria, the spaces you have available for artwork, and our prior experience on similar projects.
  • Set milestones and deadlines – One of the most important details we need in order to begin the artwork selection process is a scheduled timeline that includes the deadline for having the artwork installed. Depending on materials, artist availability, and supply chain issues, custom artwork can take months to deliver. Shorter timelines will exclude certain options from our search.
During the discovery phase, we’ll request scaled architectural floor plans to mark and measure locations you’ve identified for artwork installation, and identify new locations you might not have considered. This ensures we have a detailed understanding of the scale of artwork needed.

After the kick-off meeting, the project management team begins the art selection process, which is the second part of our four-step, art consultancy process. In the next article, we’ll go over that in detail. Including how our art consultants find a wide array of artwork that meets your criteria and budget. How we present the artwork to you and help you review, narrow, and finalize your artwork selections and installation locations. And how artists price their work.

Resources to Learn More about What Art Consultants Do on Commercial Real Estate Projects

  • Art Takes Back the Interior Design Canvas [Love that Design] – Global interior design platform Love that Design interviews a few of the leading players in the Middle East art and design market about the importance of bringing art consultants onto a project early.
  • Installing New Art? Here’s What Not to Do, According to the Pros [AD Pro] – Architectural Digest’s AD Pro talked to hospitality design and art professionals about pitfalls to consider when devising an art plan for your commercial real estate development. From leaving it to the last minute to not being clear about whose criteria and taste will be used for art selection. And more.
  • Lobbying for Art: How art consultants are adding value to commercial buildings [Propmodo] – Global real estate industry news site Propmodo explains that art consultants servicing commercial buildings are business-minded with a flair for aesthetics—and they have the art world contacts to back it up. (Requires free account creation to read.)
  • The Synergistic Relationship Between Architecture and Art [ADF Webmagazine] – An article from architectural and design publication ADF Webmagazine that makes the argument for why artwork should be considered during the architectural design phase of a building.