Marleen Sleeuwits, LAYING BARE, Galerie Bart.
Did you know that people tend to be more open to collaboration and different ideas when they are surrounded by art they like, and recognise something of themselves in? And that looking at art for a mere half an hour can cause your stress levels to drop considerably? Researchers at the University of Westminster had their subjects visit a gallery during their lunch break and in just 30 minutes their cortisol levels, the notorious stress hormone, had dropped noticeably - a drop that normally requires at least five hours. What does that mean for art in the workplace? To answer this question, we asked specialists from tax consultancy KPMG Meijburg & Co about their experiences. Meijburg has been a partner of Unseen Amsterdam since 2015. As part of this collaboration, they annually award the Meijburg Art Commission. With this project fund, Meijburg wants to offer photography talent the opportunity to develop new work and show it to a large audience.
The effects of a few minutes of art a day
Art is the perfect form of distraction during your working day. For example, dozens of studies show that you only need to look at art for a few minutes a day to activate your brain: in terms of relaxation, creativity and an overall sense of well-being. At the same time, it has been found that looking at art can improve your concentration, which leads to increased productivity, in particular when you have to perform mentally demanding and repetitive tasks. Marc Temme (partner at KPMG Meijburg & Co): “Art in my working environment offers a meaningful resting point in a hectic life. It provides inspiration, the opportunity for reflection, conversation and often simply a feeling of warmth and happiness.”
Elspeth Diederix, Pastel Cloud, 2013, Galerie Stigter Van Doesburg.
MRI scans of people who look at art
MMRI scans show that looking at art - whether that is a landscape, a still life, an abstract work or a portrait - generates a lot of activity in the parts of the brain related to pleasure, emotions and reward. Art makes us feel good. It ensures that you consume information more efficiently. Art offers a means of slowing down for a moment, it invites you to be more patient and can even cause people to volunteer their services in a meeting. In 2013, the British Council for Offices conducted a survey and no less than 90% of employees stated that their productivity was increased by the presence of art in the workplace. Jeroen Dijkman (partner): “Looking at art unconsciously inspires and it widens your thoughts processes in your work environment. For me, the influence of art in the office also extends beyond just decorating a few white walls and the main hall of our office in Amstelveen.”
Non-verbal messages and innovation
Art provides an office building, which often consists of a maze of corridors and similar offices, with some unique landmarks. At the same time, art offers an opportunity to tell a non-verbal story, your first impression when someone walks in. Which values do you want to convey as a company? It can be a good way to show that you are not working in a conventional or traditional manner. It also works internally: art can implicitly show your employees what is important to you as a company. Michelle Rooijmans (tax consultant): “Art inspires and makes us think. If you work in an environment surrounded by art, there will always be a painting, photo or other art object that you’ll gravitate to during your working day.” An article in Virtual Strategy Magazine explains how innovative art installations can result in innovative thinking processes in the workplace, because employees unconsciously feel that innovation and creativity are a priority. Jannie Alting Sieberg-Kuipers (HR director): “The strength of organisations is determined by the degree to which people can connect in terms of task and intuition. Art can play a role in this. For example, art can be a source of inspiration, it can move and enrich us and can lead to dynamic movement. Art encourages reflection and learning and promotes creative thinking. Creativity in turn leads to innovation and new impulses in people and organisations. This way, working alongside art contributes in its own unique way to the further developments and innovations of the individual Meijburger and the Meijburg organisation as a whole, or at least that’s how I feel about it.”
Marleen Sleeuwits, Interior no. 39, 2013, Galerie Bart.
Art as a conversation starter
Elène Siem (tax manager): “Art has an inspiring effect, it adds appeal to the various spaces, but also offers a starting point for good conversations.” Loek Helderman (partner) agrees: “The photographs in our meeting rooms are a great conversation starter when we receive clients. The collection of "Shopkeepers" by Niels Helmink — photos of small entrepreneurs, one-man businesses — are peppered with interesting details, and every time you will see something new." That is not only true in regards to clients, the works also offer conversation topics for colleagues among themselves. Michelle Rooijmans (tax consultant) “How do I feel about the work and would I like to hang it in my own home? Especially in those moments when the art in the office is changed, the art provides new insights and material for conversation among colleagues. As far as I am concerned, art in the office is a beautiful thing that we should continue to cherish!” Jacqueline Moison (communication advisor) recognises this: "Art contributes to what you want to radiate as an organisation, it creates atmosphere and offers a nice starting point to talk about with relations.”
Support for artists and the cultural sector
Meijburg emphasises the importance of contributing to the cultural sector. That is why Meijburg annually awards the Meijburg Art Commission. Since 2015, the exhibiting artists at Unseen Amsterdam are invited to submit a proposal for a work for the Meijburg art collection. The winner will have the opportunity to realise the proposed work. The importance of supporting individual artists and the cultural sector in a wider sense is endorsed by the ‘Meijburgers’. Marc Temme (partner): “I value the importance of stimulating young artists, hailing from every corner of the world. At Meijburg & Co we wanted to provide a platform for this, and I am proud that the Meijburg Art Commission offers the space to do so.” Elbert Waller (director) also emphasises the importance of individual artists and the cultural sector in a larger sense: “Art provides a connection with society. By working in an environment surrounded by art, I truly feel that connection, which contributes to inspiration and creativity. It is great that Meijburg contributes to the cultural sector by means of the Meijburg Art Commission, but more specifically I think it is valuable that we offer young talent an opportunity this way, by acquiring artworks that are the result of 'Meijburg seen through the eyes of the artist'.” “It shows appreciation to the cultural sector. An appreciation that is translated into beautiful personal artworks.”, Says Esther Witbraad (senior service manager facilities). Jacqueline Moison (communication advisor) adds: “The Meijburg Art Commission offers talented artists a beautiful stage and a stepping stone to (more) fame. Meijburg thus makes a great contribution to the cultural sector and also provides us as an organisation with a unique work of art. I would say a win / win situation. This annually recurring initiative also says something about Meijburg's social involvement.” In the coming period, we will highlight the winning artists and learn more about what the assignment has meant for their career.