ArtStar interviewed interior architect Lauren Rottet about how her taste in art has evolved over the years, and her advice for individuals and companies looking to start their own collections. Find out about the hottest gallery shows, and learn what Houston’s art scene has to offer according to Lauren.
ArtStar: Your projects include art collections for Artis Capital Management, Paul Hastings, Target, and United Talent Agency. Do you have advice for start-ups and younger companies with smaller budgets who want art in their spaces? How should they start?
Lauren: Even a start-up company can buy art:
1.) Find out the best art school in the region and the most well-respected teachers. Typically there are art shows for at least the graduating class. Call ahead and find out which students’ work the teachers feel is top of class, but keep an open mind when at the show, as you might discover something. For example, for the James Royal Palm in Miami Beach, I went to Fredric Snitzer Gallery and found a few pieces to buy (on the lower priced side). I started a relationship with him knowing that he was well known in the Miami art scene and could most likely introduce me to some good young artists. I completely lucked out, as he was having a show for his graduating class from the University of Florida's New World School of the Arts that very night! I had a wonderful time and found several artists who later provided amazing works for the hotel.
2.) There are also typically art leagues in a city. For the James Royal Palm, I went to Bakehouse Art Complex and found some intriguing artists - two of which I used in the hotel's collection. In Atlanta, where we are currently buying art for a hotel property, we reached out to SCAD with amazing results and also to the Atlanta Artist Collective.
3.) Go to the well-respected galleries and let them know you are looking to start a collection on a small budget, that you want to be careful about what you buy and do not have to buy it all at once just to fill the walls. Develop a relationship with the gallery. Even if you buy only a small piece, they will typically help guide you to the well-respected local artists, as they know if you are well educated on art, you will be a long term client. And, they will enjoy helping you. If a gallery is rude to me or to one of my team - it will be a very long time before I go back. The pursuit of good art needs to be enjoyable!
4.) Research yourself through online sources like ArtStar, local art publications, who is exhibiting at the Biennale, the Whitney, etc. Who do they hang with and where did they go to art school? It takes a while, but it is worth it and you can build a wonderful collection with a careful eye.
ArtStar: In your opinion, how does art impact company culture?
Lauren: I appreciate it when a company will hang art that is not necessarily safe. I realize that a company cannot hang art that is offensive or lewd, for sure, but art that expresses real life issues should be possible. I had a client in NYC for whom I curated a photography collection. I was not as familiar with photography as I was with other forms of art, so I really had to do my homework and spend a great deal of time with this collection. We found an amazing Miles Coolidge piece that was shot in LA at an archery range in a public park - it was a life-size image of the backstop, so we knew it might have some inappropriate words on it. We had it inspected and no one found anything until the day we hung it. The owner of the firm looked at it and immediately saw a rather provocative phrase written in graffiti. We all thought we were going to be fired and he simply smiled and said, "That’s art.” I personally love art that can make a statement and still be beautiful to be around.
ArtStar: Do you have any morning routines or rituals that help start your day?
Lauren: That is a good question actually - I do, and when I get the routine out of order or do not do it I am a bit "cloudy headed" as we say. If I am home, it starts with slipping out of bed while the dogs are still sleeping and putting the water on to boil for a strong French press coffee. Then I take the dogs out for a quick break while the water boils, typically walking circles around the long pool. I say a quick prayer or meditate for a few minutes - nowhere near long enough - and then I do my most mind-intensive work. I am most creative in the morning so whatever demands the most creative thought is what I do first, and I order my day based on least-intensive act last. Sometimes, I will go to bed relatively early so I can wake up at about 2 am and stay up until about 4, then sleep again from 4 – 7 am, giving myself another mini-morning where I can be creative! If I am in Montauk - a beach walk (after the French press coffee) is always in the cards.
ArtStar: What is your favorite summer vacation spot?
Lauren: I like sun and the beach and good friends, so I love St. Barths. I also love Montauk, but more so in September than in the summer. I like to take one "exploratory" trip where we see new places, and one where we go to the same beloved spot and just relax.
ArtStar: If you had to choose 3 words to describe your ideal client what would they be?
1. Open-minded to design - Knowing that good design makes a difference
2. Honest - about the budget up front, but willing to take a risk
3. Eager to learn - takes the time for education
ArtStar: How has your taste in art changed over the years?
Lauren: The older I get the more open minded I become about art. While I am more accepting of more avant-garde art than ever before, I also find I am more discriminating about what I really want to own. I can go through a huge show and remember two or three pieces that moved me. Before, I might have been confused about what I thought was best for me.
ArtStar: What are some tips to consider when selecting art for the home? What are your tips for selecting art for a workplace environment?
Lauren: Art for the home can and should be anything that moves you and that you want to see day after day! Be careful of placement, though, as some works cannot take direct or even filtered sunlight over long periods of time. If you have young children, buy the art anyway, but if it is fragile make sure it is not within reach until they are a little older. Do not try to match your art to your home décor! That may change, but the art is good art, it will be passed on for generations! I would say - buy what you like, but first educate yourself. Why not buy an artist whose career can give you enjoyment to watch and whose passionate pursuit results in your piece escalating greatly in value?
For commercial - don’t try to please everyone, as you will not. People love to talk about how they love one piece or hate the other. It is not about making all the art 'milk toast' so no one is offended. Art can be a wonderful icebreaker and conversation starter and can relax, excite and inspire those who work around it. Good art does that. Mostly with buying art for commercial, I have to think about size - does it fit, will it "hold the wall?” Meaning, can I get away with just painted drywall if I use this wonderful piece of art - as it will be my total budget?
ArtStar: What was the best gallery show you saw in the last 2 months?
Lauren: Well, it was not in the last few months and in the National Gallery in DC, but the Lichtenstein show was amazing to me. He started trying to perfect the brushstroke and perfected his own personal art. His last few works brought back the brushstroke. I enjoyed the Mark Flood show at CAMH (the Contemporary Arts Museum) in Houston. I also enjoyed the show at the 21c Museum Hotel in Oklahoma City - probably in part because seeing good art in a new hotel on the outskirts of downtown Oklahoma City so pleasantly delighted me.
ArtStar: What questions does your team ask the client when they want to start a collection?
1. Why do they want to start an art collection - personal enjoyment, giving back to their employees, offering their hotel guests a unique experience, for the investment? All of the above? Often with commercial office projects that we have not designed, we simply hear that they "want some color" or sophistication. That is okay, too.
2. Who will make the decisions on what is ultimately purchased? If it is a large committee, we will most likely need more time and fee. One visionary is obviously the best. We had this situation with United Talent Agency - of course, the project came with an existing amazing collection. We are okay with committees, but it is usually best to have one or two people chose the major pieces and let the committee select a few.
3. What is the desired budget range?
4. Are you willing to take time to find the right pieces or do we need to complete the entire collection by a certain date?
ArtStar: The studio is based in Houston. What is your favorite local art haunt?
Lauren: Houston has some wonderful galleries and museums. The Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Menil Collection always have good shows, as does the CAMH, and the three museums are so different in their shows that you can frequent them all and have an extensive art experience. There are also more grassroots programs like DiverseWorks. For galleries, I frequent Barbara Davis Gallery, as she has a true eye for finding artists. I believe she was the first to show Julie Mehretu when she was at the Glassell School. I also frequent Carrie Inman's gallery, Hiram Butler Gallery and Texas Gallery. I am currently also visiting Sicardi Gallery and Moody Gallery. We are very fortunate to have a deep and diverse art community.
ArtStar: What are your top 5 favorite artworks on ArtStar right now?