Work of Art
Natalie Anglesey discovers what takes a hard-working Rector’s wife into the boardrooms and workplaces of the business world from Manchester to Madrid.
Sarah Samuels Fine Paintings: Art In Business has successfully been in operation for almost 30 years. Fine art dealer and Cheshire-based gallery owner, Sarah, is justifiably proud that she’s built her business on trust – between the artists she represents and her buyers, from both the private and business sectors.
“Art should be a pleasure for everyone to enjoy,” Sarah impresses. She’s spent a lifetime engaging with people in her role as the wife of a Church of England clergyman. “I’ve enjoyed meeting people from all walks of life during our years working in Rochdale, Luton, Tarporley and Chester. I still do, now my husband has retired, in Hoole Village, Chester, where our home provides the gallery we love.”
But how did Sarah become involved in Art in Business? “In the early nineties, it was the idea of Sir Timothy Clifford, the inspirational Head of the Manchester City Art Galleries, to take unseen art from the vaults and place it in corporate spaces. I was involved with The Patrons and Associates of the Manchester City Art Galleries which worked a treat until we were badly let down by a furbishers’ strike! So my husband and I literally took the art off our own walls, drove to the office in urgent need of pictures and hung the work ourselves - much to the client’s relief - and that was the start of what has proved to be an amazing career.”
Art in Business may seem an unlikely mix, but Sarah has the facts and figures plus the business acumen to prove it works. “I understand the German investment bank, Deutsche Bank, has the world’s largest collection of corporate art. This is not simply for prestige, or as an investment, but because the company encourages its employees to take a keen interest in the art, it displays in 900 offices, across 40 countries. It hosts talks by artists and even has an interactive app employees can use to discover more about the artwork on their office walls.”
Sarah is whole-heartedly in favour of projects like this. “Dr Craig Knight, at the University of Exeter, has studied the psychology of work environments and heads a research group. He thinks people are happier and work better if they are in an enriching workspace. When you are doing business with others, where you want to engage with them, should you not be making purposeful choices about art displayed for visual impact?”
We know that the concept of the single office has all but vanished, but the open-plan office has a mixed effect on its workers. Increasingly, more businesses are looking at improving office design to provide employees with increased motivation and better productivity, as Sarah clarifies: “Among my prestigious clients, the MBNA Bank had seen this proved successful and asked me to choose art for its new bank in Madrid. I loved the challenge.
“Just as the furnishings and décor of your home reveal something about you, so the same applies to your workplace which can also help tell the story of the company brand. It conveys an image, both outwardly to clients and inwardly to employees. Research from International Art Consultants, in partnership with the British Council for Offices, also looked at the positive effects of art in the workplace, and its applications for branding and identity.”
Sarah, generously, has some tips to pass on: “Resist the urge to be too top-down when choosing art for the workplace. Instead, consider asking employees their opinion. I remember walking through open offices with the CEO of a company when a woman working close to a painting she had to see every day, told me she hated it - and it was removed. When supplying new art to that company, they then asked that I give the staff choices of what they wished to have hanging near them.”
Sarah has also supplied paintings for private hospitals. “Art has proven to have a rehabilitative effect in hospitals. The belief is that environmental features can generate positive feelings and reduce stressful thoughts. Art has a therapeutic effect. Looking at it reduces anxiety and, in more traditional forms, can help restore a sense of balance and reduce tension across a wide age range.”
Research in America links landscape art with the lowering of anger levels. “A collaborative workplace thrives on people having positive, non-aggressive responses towards their work and colleagues. If you constantly feel angry and frustrated, your relationships suffer and so does the quality of your work. There’s likely to be increased staff turnover and instability as a result. Exposing people to images, they find pleasing can also make them more receptive to discussing different viewpoints and ideas.”
At some time most of us have visited businesses or hotels where the walls displayed stock images which were bland and therefore less engaging. Sarah believes that fine art can provide brand leverage because it conveys a clear sense of taste, and provides imagery that is thoughtful and inspiring.
“Think about that important first impression you makes personally in business. Extend that principle to your workplace. Choosing fine art for the workplace is not like choosing normal office décor. Think in terms of how people will relate to it.”
However, Art in Business is only one part, albeit an important one, of Sarah Samuels Fine Paintings. Sarah also sells to private individuals for their homes. “It’s the quality of the work that is paramount. I consider it a huge privilege that some of the UK’s most prestigious artists invite me into their studios to choose paintings specifically for my clients.
“Among them, I count James Longueville PS RBSA, considered one of the country’s finest landscape painters. Cheshire born and bred, he has been extremely important in the success of my gallery. The Royal Academician Ken Howard OBE RA NEAC has also been kind and supportive of my gallery since its early days. Susan Ryder RP NEAC, a painter of interiors and portraits, has also been a good friend and loyal artist. She has painted Cheshire family portraits and was the only artist invited to paint Lady Diana in her wedding dress. Her portrait of HM The Queen is also much admired.”
Buying art is personal – and can be a little daunting if you are a first-time buyer. But Sarah is an expert at establishing, understanding and matching her clients’ needs. She’ll offer reassurance, and an opportunity to buy art in the security and privacy of her own home where you can wander around amongst 70 paintings plus ceramics and sculpture.
Sarah sums up. “I had a lovely Christmas card from my friend and former chairman, Paul Lee who wrote: ‘So glad to hear you’re still spreading pleasure throughout Cheshire and beyond.’ That sentiment meant everything to me!“
Visit the website sarahsamuels.co.uk , email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0785 449 0220 to book an appointment.