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The 5 Challenges of Art in Interior Design

Aug. 3, 2018

Asha Perez, interior designer at KAI Design & Build, discusses the five C’s on how to involve the local art community in interior design projects.

As we face challenges in our industry, we find the role we play as interior designers is significant to how we contribute to the built environment. We are leaders in our field, so as we navigate to become multifaceted designers it is important that we explore how we can enhance an interior. One way to do so is by incorporating art in design. A part of this challenge is understanding why we should include art, what type of artists we should seek, and how our selections affect the users of the spaces we design, including key information about the conversations we should have with our clients and counterparts. Collection, community, culture, collaboration, and creativity – these are the five C’s of art in design.


Why should your corporate client collect art for their space? Let’s look back to the year 1472, when the first corporate art collection was founded by Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, a commercial bank in Italy.

Photography & Artwork by Cbabi Bayoc.

Over its 546-year history, the bank has collected unique examples of renaissance and medieval art. Some of these pieces include ‘Madonna and Child’ by Giovanni di Paolo (circa 1450) and a 14th century crucifixion scene by Pietro Lorenzetti. Companies that collected art were often viewed by society as key collectors, giving an individual or family a certain social status or reflecting the CEO’s personal taste. In more modern times, art-collecting pioneer Monte dei Paschi bank did its research into the art market by analyzing prices of contemporary art pieces and predicting stability with a rarefied demand, which in turn created a greater effort in sustaining them.

A corporate art collection should reflect the essence of a company and how the company wants to be perceived by the community. The collection should be forward thinking, and art selection should be done by those whose interest will outlast that of the CEO. Some examples of corporate art collectors include Deutsche Bank, UBS, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase. The art collection of JP Morgan Chase began in 1959, a program established by David Rockefeller. According to the bank’s website, JP Morgan Chase understands the importance of “integrating art within the architecture of new buildings and incorporating an enlightened approach to acquisitions”, which allows the company to be a “model for corporate collections for other companies worldwide."

The bank's art program particularly supports modern, contemporary and diverse artists of color, such as Kennedy Yanko, Mickalene Thomas, Ana Mendieta, Ramiro Gomez and Sanford Biggers, to name a few. Understanding the disparity of representation of minority artists in architecture and interior design, I asked New York-based artist Kennedy Yanko her thoughts on diversity and art in design. She adds, “The artistic impact of people of color has been so great and yet goes unrecognized. Investing in underrepresented, overlooked, and minority artists communicates the importance of diversity within the community and the great value of sharing unheard or overlooked perspectives.”


If a corporate client does not have the means to start a collection just yet, but wants to explore the benefits of having select pieces in their space, what are the benefits of choosing an interior designer to assist them?

First, let’s explore the correlation of art and community. There are many advantages to the integration of art in spaces and its direct relation to the community. These include benefits to a person’s health, psyche, and interpersonal connections, in addition to economic, cultural, and social effects. Art improves an individual's sense of belonging or attachment to a community, while also enhancing the ability to work with others and communicate ideas. Art increases collective identity and promotes neighborhood cultural diversity and free expression. Evidence-based design principles regarding use of art in healing environments are proven to contribute to the patient's overall well being by reducing stress and pain and creating a calming effect.

Photography & Artwork by Cbabi Bayoc.

If art has these benefits in a healthcare environment, why not include it in spaces where we work daily, or visit with those we love? From an economic standpoint, art increases the inclination of community members to participate in the arts, spurring economic growth in creative industries. According to Forbes’ website, businesses may choose to be involved in an art collection or an art program through art sponsorship, commissioning art, or enhancing their marketing activities by creating art events and engaging new target audiences. This is a way to get closer to customers, community, and employees. It all begins with your mindset, not demographic.

As interior designers working with our clientele, we should be more open-minded and inclusive as we select art for our spaces. Most large corporations seek out diversity as a natural part of their business needs. Although this may be true, we often do not see the representation. So, what better way draw focus to the disproportion of such, than to display art within the spaces the community frequents? Art should be employed to improve and strengthen communities.


Lou Switzer of The Switzer Group says: “Diversity and innovation are related. When you have diversity you have variety, and to create something new, you need that diversity.”

Variety and diversity in spaces increases the sense of collective identity and value while building cultural image and status. Multiculturalism is important for the transformative potential of communities. Art-focused spaces provide a specified experience for those who visit and should be fixed within various levels of the organization. When this is done appropriately, art then creates a culture that defines the corporate character.

Although the approach of the business may change over time, art will maintain its own distinctiveness. When a business intentionally engages with art by collecting or using art in its building's architecture and interior, the company adds a heightened component to its business model by enhancing its brand image and becoming a major player in corporate social responsibility and outreach. Thus, providing much needed support for contemporary artists.

Tom Paule Photography. Artwork by Cbabi Bayoc.

As an interior designer, it is important to immerse yourself in the culture by attending national and local art events, shows, openings, and exhibitions, as these events highlight established and evolving artists. Contemporary artists are often featured at annual shows such as Art Basel Miami Beach. Contemporary artists translate and depict societal occurrences and current events around the world. Through first-hand exposure, interior designers can cultivate a familiarity with artists and their art and improve their overall skill set as a designer.

Interior design is an annex of art expression with interchangeable, three-dimensional, and fixed elements. Engaging and listening to our clientele helps guide the process of well-informed art purchasing and selection. Forbes notes that the value of the art market has increased by 154 percent since 2003 to nearly $66 billion. So why aren’t we creating art-specific budgets for our projects? Or when we do, why is art is often value-engineered out of projects or not thought of at all? It is the responsibility of designers to have this conversation with our clients.


Collaboration between interior designers and artists fosters a new dimension of creativity. When collaborating, two avenues of creative expression are combined bringing forth a newfound sense of innovation. We live in a society where technology is constantly developing while human relations diminish. Collaboration forces the hand of face-to-face human connection. According to Los Angeles-based photographer T. Thompson, we can create spaces where art and technology comingle. She collaborates with interior designers to create art in projects, some of which may be portraits of unfamiliar people, which she says engages the psyche of the users of a space.

“I use my art to bridge the gap between art and technology innovators,” said Thompson. “Art is a necessary companion as we seek to advance our societies through technology. Art reminds us that every technological creation should be a holistic boon to humanity,” she adds.

As we reach the depth of our creativity through collaboration, we should also embrace our clients’ input in this discussion process. As mentioned previously, selected art should be a forward glimpse, while reflecting the company’s values. To understand the core values of a company, we should have ongoing conversations with our clients during this process.


Imagine you can reach deep within your own expressiveness through color, material selection, and the overall planning of a space. Now, what if you can build upon that with a creative partner who has an acute ability to transform your ideas into broader concepts?

This creative partner can be an artist of different forms, dependent on the parameters of a project and the extents to which you are able to push your collaborative artistry. Potential partners can be sculptors like Doreen Garner, Pamela Council, or Nyugen Smith. Or perhaps a painter like Curtis Santiago, or photographer like Tyler Mitchell. What about a mixed media artist like Genevieve Gaignard, or multimedia artists Elia Alba, Theresa Chromati, or Rashaad Newsome? When you can work through ongoing ideas, they can be built upon not only with a creative partner but with your clients as well, shifting into cohesive and artistic interiors. This leads to innovative projects bursting with inspiration and ingenuity.


Let art always remind us of whom we are. We are community-driven. We believe in supporting artists from diverse backgrounds, especially people of color who are underrepresented and often overlooked. We know that collecting and engaging with art in our built environments will have cultural and societal impacts. Let’s collaborate with artists, broaden our perspectives, enhance our innovativeness, and educate our clients about the importance of doing so. Remind them with every project – it is our obligation as interior designers.

Asha Perez is a progressive interior designer with KAI Design & Build. Fueled by an industry she calls an art form, she is innovative about everything design – color, texture, furniture, lighting, and art – having the ability to breathe life into a space. At KAI, Perez has used her position to mentor minority students who have an interest in the design industry, sitting on the board for NOMA and ACE Mentoring. She is also an integral part of KAI’s art initiative which strives to connect local artists with their clients and decision makers, by giving them a platform to have their art placed prominently within design projects.

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