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Founder and Managing Director of Velvenoir, Alexandra Schafer talks to SBID about the role of art within space and shares how she and her team work with interior designers at a global level.

What are the origins of your consultancy?

My professional background is in hospitality and  PR/marketing while my passion is art. I love hospitality because it’s all about creating an experience for the client and art is all about the feeling. I lived in London and Sydney, working in hospitality, and when I was in Australia I was introduced to Aboriginal art. It really struck me how wonderful it would be to have access to those artists but if you’re not knowledgeable about the scene it can be intimidating. People have also told me they feel intimidated going into galleries. I launched Velvenoir back in 2014 to bridge that gap between art and the client.

How do you work with interior designers?

Ideally, we introduce art consultancy at the beginning of the process because then we know the budget, the direction of the project and the design brief; we can then work hand in hand with the designer to select pieces, discuss framing and any other topic that may arise and is relevant. We’ll look at the space and understand the client and the budget then propose anything from painting, fine-art photography to bespoke art installations to make the space unique. We then put a tailored proposal and presentation together, showing both the art and design – so the designer can present it to the client for discussion.

What if the designer isn’t used to working with original art?

We can train the designer to present the work confidently, especially where a designer might not be so used to working with art, or if they are presenting highly priced pieces. We make sure they understand the art and equip them to be able to stand by the proposal or have one of our experts on the ground join the designer to his/her client meeting.

Interior image of IHG Hotel Indigo Antwerp using art in spaces
If your consultancy is not involved from the start of a project, how do you ensure the art you select will be right?

This is more of a challenge. We receive all the renders and materials in confidence and based on those we can create renders or share videos from the artist studio of the art, so the designer and client can envision the art. It’s about feeling the art and understanding what it can do to transform your space. Well-chosen art really makes or breaks a room, so this process really helps both the designer and client to understand the look and feel. It´s a time-consuming process – yet I´ve experienced it in the past, our clients do enjoy and appreciate the open and transparent communication and insights into artist studios.

Do you think people understand the value that original art can bring to a space?

People confuse art and design, the design is so important, of course, but art is also vital to give the space a soul and character. This does not only work for residential projects, I also believe contemporary art from career artists will add a character and soul to the corporate and hotel space too. Again, you have to look at the bigger picture –  In a hotel, if you have a good strategy for your artwork you will get a good return on investment. We’re finding that increasingly designers are speaking up and educating the client about how art plays a role in the project and how it’s important to consider it from the beginning. These designers will push to allocate a separate budget for art and not just have artwork covered under the FF&E (furniture, fixtures and equipment) budget. If no one thinks about art until the final stages, the designer could have an empty wall to fill. It does happen in both the residential and commercial sector. In the end, you have to ask yourself what service and quality would I like to create for my client…

Interior image of IHG Hotel Indigo Antwerp using art in spaces
Are you seeing any trends in client requests?

I do feel that clients are taking more creative risks and becoming more open to buying different types of work. Designers are also starting to explore different options and understanding that engaging artwork is more than just decoration. I think it’s about using all sorts of mediums, not just paintings and the trend I can see now, is most designers do enjoy working with dedicated art consultants at their side since art sourcing and buying is quite time consuming – but a great service to add on to.

Why do you think designers value your services?

More designers are approaching us because they want to add value to their business. They can offer their client an art consultancy service to create an art concept tailored to their project. With so much reproduction in the art world, many clients want to own something unique. Also, if they use a consultancy, the designer or client can reach out and access art or art expertise instantly. It’s a time-consuming process to source art, to keep up with who the emerging artists are and to build relationships with galleries so we can manage the process. We also provide international access and curate a selection based on the client, the design concept and the given a budget and brief. We have independent art consultants around the world who we can bring in as we see fit. Each one has their own expertise, know-how, focus and we’ll bring them in to help us find the best artworks for our clients – internationally of course. This way, we provide different opinions and art suggestions, from different cultures and markets and at the same time, truly make art accessible at a global level for all of our clients.

(Image Credits: Hotel Indigo ® Antwerp interior design by IHG.)

Contemporary art consultants, Velvenoir, shed expert light on how contemporary art can make a difference in corporate spaces. Covering the power of a bespoke art strategy in increasing productivity and creativity; the important considerations to bear in mind when investing in contemporary art, and how art consultants play a vital role within this process.

As Deutsche Bank states; art builds, art questions, art transcends borders, art works… A corporate art collection should not only be focused on investment, rather it should align with the company’s every moral and value to become part of it’s DNA. An art collection can be a powerful communication tool that speaks to clients as well as employees.

In today’s world, we are busy on a daily basis, with barely the time to relax, take a break and simply enjoy the little things in life – especially when we sit in front of a huge to-do list in offices, surrounded by equally busy colleagues in an even busier workplace. This is where art – or better still – a curated art collection, comes into play. A carefully curated art collection allows people to connect, builds engagement, and inspires them daily. Some believe design is the key, but research has shown incorporating original artwork does not only offer various ways to inspire employees, but also allows them to relax and be part of the corporate culture that the firm has to offer. In the end, the art collection should be utilised strategically to make employees feel a part of the companies DNA; even incorporating team members in the selection and installation process. This article will outline the importance of incorporating original artworks in a corporate environment and how to make the most of your art concept to benefit employees and clients alike within corporate projects.

First, it’s important to understand that art inspires creativity and leads to an increase in productivity. A curated art collection embodies the corporate value behind a firm, reflecting innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. Various surveys conducted over the years have shown that well-chosen art makes employees and their workplace feel more welcoming and also improves the individual and collective wellbeing. Doctors have even started recommending art psychotherapy to help patients explore their mental health, so it seems visiting a gallery/museum could soon replace the popularised practice of retail therapy! It’s also important to note that art is also a financial asset – even when investing in emerging and up-and-coming artists. Making the right emotional and financial investment for your projects therefore boils down to the strategy behind it, and this is where an art consultant comes in to support the selection process.

How & Where 

First things first, you and your team should work in collaboration with the art consultant to establish the basic requirements of the project to align the art selection with the project brief. You should develop an overall vision and strategy for the art; an allocated budget; the desired locations / spaces in the office or building; as well as the deadline and initial ideas on how to utilise it. Once those questions have been answered, it becomes about researching local and international artists to start the selection process with your team. It is a very personal and hands-on approach in order to best source and suggests artists that reflect your vision, align with the interior design scheme, as well as convey the firm’s philosophy and overall corporate identity. Additionally, arranging artist studio meetings or inviting artists to showcase their work are all part of the process. Once the art selection is confirmed and agreed with you and your team, the acquisition process, logistics, and installation with professional art handlers are the next steps.

The Benefits 

The final art collection can feature literally any shape, size and medium that you desire or that is required for the space; from large-scale sculptures, interactive digital art, screen prints and textiles to paintings, photography and neon art installations. In the end, it all derives from the concept behind the collection and the detailed strategy developed and implemented to communicate the end-client’s values, philosophy and passion to support the culture of the company and enhance the overall interior design. Not to mention the potential of the art increasing in value over time, making for even happier clients!



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