Ugly Office Art

As a consultant I tend to move around a lot, and one of the things I’ve realized is that there is some terrible office art in the business world. Here is a prime example.

Painting in Neo-Crayola

This painting hangs in the office of a marketing firm in Philadelphia. The firm sits in a high rise along a very picturesque section of the Schuykill River, and half of the offices overlook it, with the other half having a less picturesque view of the Schuykill Expressway. However most workers are trapped in low walled cubicles in the center of the building, blocked from any view by the ring of offices. I suppose someone felt bad and bought this painting as a consolation.

I’m not an art critic. I believe that you don’t have to go to school to appreciate art, whether it’s a Bach concerto or a Nine Inch Nails concert. I tend to not like much that’s oversized and abstract; what I call the “School of Big” and the “School of Masking Lack of Talent with Cleverness.” This piece tends to blend these schools. It seems to me the artist took the crayons his kids never used, melted them onto a canvas then ran a rake over the mess. Bing! Neo-Crayola! That’ll be $10k please. I suppose it’s good work if you can find it.

Other installations I’ve seen were just as bad. One office had 3D paintings literally shedding paper and feathers onto the floor, causing many of the obsessive-compulsive employees to pick up the debris. Another office had a huge two-story indoor mobile with pipes personally hung by the artist and his assistant on fishing line creating a clanging cacophony with the slightest breeze. The latter might have seemed like a good idea in studio or art museum, but in a functioning office with hundreds of people moving around and entering and leaving the building, the lack of foresight was noisily apparent. Soon the artist was flown across country to weight and tie his work down to make it quieter. Final cost: $50k.

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