Screen shot from "The Office"
Pam got me thinking about the idea of art in a corporate setting. I have also been working a corporate job for the first time in my life for about three months now, and working directly with the art that goes on the walls. For the purposes of this blog post, I have defined "Corporate Art" as: Art that was created for, or curated by, a medium to large business with the intent of being displayed in a building that serves as a retail outlet, sales office, or trading post for the company. (Pretty good, huh?)
I have compiled some images of so-called "Corporate Art" from three sources: 1.) Screen shots from "The Office," 2.) My own place of employment, and 3.) A mystery corporate setting that I happened to visit the other day. My apologies for the text on some of the screen shots.
Bathroom art that I see every day Pt. 1
My favorite piece from "The Office"
Bathroom art that I see everyday Pt. 2
Pam's painting of Dunder Mifflin
What I noticed about all of these artworks was the relative ease of interchangeability that they seem to possess. With the exception of Pam's site-specific Dunder Mifflin painting and the Great Lakes mural in the mystery building (bonus points if you know the building), any of these works could really go on any wall in any corporate building anywhere, and would make total sense. The paintings from "The Office" could replace the paintings at my job and nobody would blink an eye. I happen to know that the paintings at my job were purchased for the store a long time ago when it boasted a yellow and purple color scheme. The walls were since painted white, but the paintings remained, and do not seem to offend anyone for not fitting into the decor.
The wall art at Dunder Mifflin was slightly harder to document than the art at my job. Not only did it require me to pause the motion at just the right moment, often with only a split second's chance, but also because I noticed that the art was moving around from episode to episode, making it hard to find a specific piece if I wanted to go back and freeze it later. In some episodes a painting would be in the general sales room, and in other episodes it would have moved to the conference room for no apparent reason. It seems as if the show's directors just needed an object in the background from time to time, regardless of what the painting was. Pam's painting is special because it stayed in one place for a long time, and is the only piece of art that was ever talked about or acknowledged in the show at all.
The two bathroom pieces from my work that I mentioned, as well as the Great Lakes mural, seem to be the outliers in my collection. They are mixed-media works consisting of collage and mosaic components. The latter is also a permanent installation. The rest of the artworks are paintings; either non-offensive still-lives, or seemingly abstract corporate expressionist paintings that can be taken down or moved at any time.
As far as the actual artists of these works…I have no idea. Some of the paintings from my place of employment have an illegible name scribbled in the corner. I tried looking up the name that I thought was scribbled but found nothing. Pam is the only artist that I am sure of (although, who really painted that painting? That is the question).
It appears that regional celebration and the occasional mixing of medium are the only acceptable types of rebellion when it comes to corporate wall art. Outside of that, anonymity and generic, non-offensive blandness is what's in vogue.
I am reminded of a story my boss told me about a person who got angry at the graphics in a window display that he made a few years back. He was slightly worried that a recent window we made would be controversial and would cause complaints because of its 1960s imagery.
In my mind this is pretty tame, but you never know what will offend someone. [The Condom Pope comes to mind, but let's not go there].