Increasingly, artists are invited to design capsule collections for brands, become integral to the identity of hospitality concepts, or, simply, invited to showcase work beyond traditional exhibition spaces. They are also attractive for the way they perceive the world. For example, as AI technology suffers from flaws in racial bias, a social robot built by artist Stephanie Dinkins has garnered attention from industry professionals for its ability to discuss race, gender, and social equity. When Azuma Makoto launched a Bonsai tree into space it ignited conversations about borders, technology, and climate change, but also built a cachet for JP Aerospace and GoPro who were involved in the project. How do these partnerships come about and who can help mediate between partners and artists?
“This is a water you have to tread lightly in as audiences and artists alike will sniff out disingenuous intentions and it can do more harm than good.” says Emilia Börjesson, founder of Placemeant. Placemeant is an art advisory and strategic branding agency that connects the dots for emerging and established artists with the outside world, and companies to artists through partnerships, collaborations, content development as well as physical and digital experiences guided by authenticity. “It all comes down to purpose and execution,” she says. Most importantly, she continues “as a brand you need to be ready to let go of control and accept that you’re working with an artist, not a vendor.”
This is easier said than done. Many artists are open to partnering with companies but may not have the contacts necessary to find willing collaborators or the time or know-how to advocate for their project. Likewise, an interested brand-manager or executive who has not yet worked with an artist will probably need help formulating why and how a partnership with an artist is beneficial to the rest of their team. Börjesson has mastered and fine tuned these complex skills. She creates projects that instrumentalize art to bring joy, beauty, interaction, and inspiration to projects allowing brands to push communities to engage thoughtfully and have the power to make steps toward social change.
This fall Placemeant is realizing a plethora of exciting projects. Arjé a fashion brand founded by wife and husband duo Bessie Afnaim Corral and Oliver Corral and one of Börjesson’s founding clients, has contracted the agency to help reimagine their brand with the lifestyle concept The Arjé Home. Börjesson has forged multiple partnerships helping the concept come to life as both a physical space in New York City, and a digital space merging fashion, homeware, furniture, and art. Paris-based artist, Louis Thomas, is touring the world painting commissioned portraits in different locations. In New York, Los Angeles, and Austin, Placement are working on hospitality projects that range from placing artists in hotel collections to ideating new design. Placemeant is also curating and releasing new catalogs for their artists, including Jessalyn Brooks and Heidi Lanino, among others.
“Art influences society by changing opinions, instilling values and translating experiences across space and time. Art is uniquely positioned to move people, inspire, inciting new questions and provoke curiosity,” Börjesson says.
Her suggestions for artists who wish to engage with brands is that they find one that aligns with their message and values in a way that is meaningful. “It can give you visibility and an incredible chance to exhibit your work at a greater scale than before. The collaboration in itself can also make a point and reach audiences that otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to your art, or art in general, at all,” she comments.
With a background in branding within the fashion industry Börjesson is not confined by the hierarchical structures of the traditional art world. She has a profound belief in the power of art, but is part of the avant-garde of strategists that see artists, not galleries or dealers, as agents of their own career paths. She sees juggling the roles of being both an artist and entrepreneur as the greatest challenges for these artists today. She helps take the pressure off artists to promote and sell their work.
Often Börjesson works with artists who chose to, or find themselves, circumventing the gallery system. Many use Instagram as their main sales channel. “Being able to engage directly with buyers means that they can engage with you too,” she reminds artists. “So you’ll need a plan for how you’re going to manage the requests and ideally channel the demand in a way that builds both you and your audience.” More and more buyers who care about profit are also focused on purpose. They look for art choices that support communities and good causes. There has definitely been a positive shift in the art industry and this trend does not seem to be slowing down.
Börjesson believes that technology and digital tools will contribute to create a more transparent, equal, fair, and diverse art world. “Art has always been purpose driven and lately we’ve seen a lot of work and artists that focus on equality and justice. I think climate and sustainability will be part of the next wave,” she says.
Although she finds that we are experiencing the beginning of how the digital aspects of our world will evolve how art is being created, presented and owned, she predicts that we will soon see a counter reaction; ”more focus will be put on physical experiences and connections between humans,” she says, but points out that they will be facilitated by digital tools, and brought to life in the real world. What impresses me about Börjesson is that she is acutely attuned to how the art world is innovating, but also where it is not. She is dedicated to helping artists leverage and navigate these shifts. “If you, as an artist, can optimize the digital tools at hand and combine it with a killer business strategy and community management, the sky is your limit.”
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Anna Mikaela Ekstrand is editor-in-chief and founder of Cultbytes. She mediates art through writing, curating, and lecturing. Her latest books are Assuming Asymmetries: Conversations on Curating Public Art Projects of the 1980s and 1990s and Curating Beyond the Mainstream. Send your inquiries, tips, and pitches to email@example.com.