Finishing Touches

“Commercial Art demands mass appeal but without dilution of the response. It must be sensitive to its greater audience. It is usually striking and large in its effect as it’s about drama, sophistication and beauty,” says Samantha Fuller from Hamadeh & Co. As the most cosmopolitan and multicultural city in the region, Dubai boasts an abundance of hotels, resorts, fully-serviced apartments and offices. All of which demand finishing touches and attractive accoutrements to enhance and complete their spaces.

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By  Charlotte Butterfield Published  March 2, 2006

|~|Art-body-1.jpg|~||~|“Commercial Art demands mass appeal but without dilution of the response. It must be sensitive to its greater audience. It is usually striking and large in its effect as it’s about drama, sophistication and beauty,” says Samantha Fuller from Hamadeh & Co. As the most cosmopolitan and multicultural city in the region, Dubai boasts an abundance of hotels, resorts, fully-serviced apartments and offices. All of which demand finishing touches and attractive accoutrements to enhance and complete their spaces. The diversity and character of the different communities and projects provides an endless source of inspiration and diversity and as Fuller’s comment suggests, commercial premises are the ideal place to project some theatre onto otherwise plain walls.

Art in a commercial arena should first consider the function of the space. Is it to be a quiet, relaxing reflective space such as a spa? Is it to be an active space for a dedicated use: sports, assembly area, reception area, etc? Is it to be used exclusively for men or women, families or adults only, and is there an ethnic emphasis of use? The analysis of the intentions of use is the first stage, this then results in thoughts of colour, theme, size, and most importantly feel of the finishing touches needed to complete the space.

Elie Domit from Gallery One in Dubai says: “We have a responsibility to understand the environment we want to inhabit and think of what kind of atmospheric space we want to be in and what do we need to communicate to each individual in relation to that space. Anyone that comes in contact and lives in this space, albeit temporarily, will effect his /her mood and behaviour.” With over 100,000 images to choose from, Gallery One is well placed to offer advice on art. It is an integrated Art and Design company that specialises in developing site-specific artwork and design concepts on canvas, paper or any other surface, predominantly for international clients in the boutique hotel and hospitality industry. it believes fluidity is key in a commercial setting; art should enhance the space, not overpower it. Domit continues: “The most important thing is you follow the feel that the designers and creators envisioned and complement it, whether they chose a retro style, shabby chic, French country, minimalist, very modern or downright quirky, there are many feelings you want to evoke by bringing to the walls a new breath of fresh air.”
Unlike the majority of furniture or fittings, art is capable of evoking incredibly strong emotions and the wrong choice could be detrimental to the mood of the space. Carrie Nicholson, managing director of the Cornellian Gallery explains: “As they say, art is in the eye of the beholder. If it is a public space, artwork of a soothing landscape or soft subtle abstracts are typically more acceptable to the majority. However, if the room is already low-key in colour hues it may be desirable to use brighter colours or subjects of more intensity to liven up the room and provide bright accent interest.

Within restaurant or dining spaces, the impact of colours can be detrimental to setting the mood and can even affect the diners’ digestion. One will want to select subjects and colours which will make one feel comfortable, even romantic. Unless of course, if the restaurant profits on fast turn-over of clientele.”

Fuller adds that she steers clear of cold indigestible colours like blue that literally repress appetite, whereas warm cosy finishes encourage conversation and aid digestion. Carolyn Deed from art sourcing company, 4Walls, says: “Artwork demands have all been about themes and visual impact of the core of the premises or business. This could mean anything from a bar or restaurant wanting art to reflect the fact it sells food and beverages, to jazz clubs wanting to have some dramatic music related imagery or something as simple as golf clubs or residential developments wanting golfing or lifestyle themed art.”

Hamadeh & Co specialises in the design and execution of decorative paint finishes, polished plasters, murals, trompe l’oeil and fine art. Fuller explains why paint effects are gaining popularity: “The function of the space defines the artistic response. Hotel receptions and lobbies tend to require grandiose, stylish artworks and finishes as the vast space and high ceilings can take a dramatic piece of sculpture or art much more than any other commercial area.”
Brightening up plain walls needn’t be limited to hanging a piece of art onto it; painted feature walls are impressive additions to any space.

Hamadeh aims to create the unexpected; sensory shapes, atmospheric form, colour and texture. Fuller says: “A dramatic wall provides focus and personality in a space as well as tying all other design elements together. At Lotus One, we carved and painted a giant crocodile skin effect on a feature wall in the lounge. It was an element lifted from the upholstery and transposed on to the wall for an extra flavour of retro decadence.” Dramatic paint-effects not only enhance the feeling of theatre, they also create talking points — ideal for in a restaurant or bar.

At Oxygen Nightclub the designer wanted a multitude of bubble effects, which was re-created on the walls using 3D airbrushing techniques. Fuller continues: “Hotel and restaurant design in Dubai is often strongly themed so murals are a perfect way to bring that theatre to life. Trompe l’oeil (‘trick of the eye’) artworks are used to great effect to manipulate spatial constraints, giving the illusion of space, depth and height in a commercial space.”

Amwaj Seafood Restaurant at the Shangri-la commissioned Hamadeh to create an abstract wall art installation that reflected oceanic shapes to complement its unique design style. This was then accompanied by a large metal sculpture by Green Art Gallery, designed to be reminiscent of waves, which succeeds in providing a startling entrance to the restaurant. Feature walls and artworks should be contextual to the flavour and concept of the restaurant. Designers can take inspiration from the menu as well as the theme. Likewise, practical aspects must be considered such as the durability of a finish to elements such as cooking oil, cigarette smoke and high traffic.||**|||~|Art-body-3.jpg|~||~|
Commercial spaces such as offices and retail outlets have different considerations. Fuller explains that offices tend to be more about reputation and inspiration. Companies want to project a positive message about their business so striking feature walls and artworks can reflect a bold, innovative organisation. Another key element is staff creativity and productivity, which can be enhanced with uplifting colours and designs on office or corridor walls, or introducing emotive pieces that instill a positive response in the viewer, like the office jungle mural which also creates the effect of infinite space beyond the wall.

Deed agrees: “For retail, it is often a case of extremes in how much a business wants to create an impact via the art or more subtly complement their furniture or products. Showrooms with boldly designed furniture or products will often seek art which incorporates the theme and design elements without overpowering their products and taking the customer’s focus away from an amazing Eames chair or an eye-popping entertainment system. Others will look to head-turning works to further entice the customers in to their showrooms, so being able to customise finishing touches to suit a more marketing-oriented approach is an increasingly attractive option.”

Hotel bedrooms, on the other hand, tend towards smaller intimate and peaceful images, colours and textures. Louise Duggan from Green Art Gallery, whose high-profile projects include the public areas in the Shangri La, incorporating the Al Shams Presidential Suite, says: “Considerations when applying artwork to a commercial space are cultural observations; faces are not popular in this region neither are words from the Koran. When choosing artwork for a hotel we look at the site, colour schemes and then the artwork is either sourced to complement or contrast, depending on what the designer is trying to achieve. The interior designer often has a strong feeling of what they would like to see so our role is to source images and options within the given budget.”

Budget restrictions are causing much controversy in the art world. Nicholson explains that her Cornellian motto is: “Although art is often the last to be purchased it is the first thing that is noticed.” Simply translated, many projects leave artwork to the last.
She explains: “Construction budgets are usually under-estimated so at the end of the project everyone wants budgets or final expenses cut back so the art work suffers. It is important that hotel or commercial project owners establish early in the project their art source and budget directly with the art supplier, rather than engaging them through a sub contractor or several removed sources. Direct arrangement will ensure they are getting the full worth of what they originally expected. The art consultant will not be pressured to find ways to reduce his fees so that the contractor can make up his losses.”

It is a fact, not limited to the GCC by any means, that many commercial projects tend to look for the lowest price and are often too willing to accept using published prints which can be found in shops and in art folder sleeves in high street stores and galleries worldwide. Nicholson has first hand experience of this: “There have even been instances when commercial prints are scanned and printed on canvas, then painted over to sell as original works.”

“We have even had experience with our own original commissioned artworks being photographed, scanned and then presented as a competitor’s own sourced work to win hotel projects. Unfortunately, with the rush and pressure of projects to be built and opened quickly, this is sometimes seen as the easy, cheap, and quick solution. Although not ethical or legal, it is unfortunately happening. However, eventually these commercial operators will realise they did not get the originality or quality they thought they were investing in.”

Elie Domit from Gallery One concludes: “The most important element to consider is how to achieve individuality and personalisation to each project and working on each project as a whole. The idea is to provide artwork to interiors that are fascinating, exciting, visually, aesthetically and emotionally satisfying.”

Study what your lighting is or if additional lighting should be used. Using one portrait light over the artwork is very traditional, but might not be the mood or image you want for your hotel or commercial space. Installing recessed or hidden wash lights should be considered, or depending on where the art is, even upward lighting to create a dramatic emphasis. Gauging the level of natural sunlight is of utmost importance too. Ultraviolet light can be very damaging to sensitive artwork, so every effort should be made not to hang art in direct or bright indirect sunlight.
An additional consideration is that the space in which artwork is hung should have a maintained temperature between 18-24 degrees celsius. Too much heat may cause chemical reactions, which could cause the breakdown of materials. Humidity is also a major concern. Too much humidity can cause the painting under base material to expand or contract at a different rate to the surface pigment of originals, causing cracking. Humidity also can cause mould or mildew if the level is not maintained between 45 to 55.
Concerning framing options, many design professionals espouse the “less-is-more” mantra. Many also believe real art should make its statement by itself. “Although we do not disagree with this belief, there are circumstances where framing or special unique mounting or hanging of an artwork enhances and features a piece to a much more appealing and visible end,” Nicholson says.
“Don’t be afraid of trying mixed groupings of smaller artworks or mixed sizes of artworks, with varying subjects. Before hanging the work however, if you do not have a professional installer, cut out the shapes of the pieces with paper and adjust on the wall with tape until you get the layout that looks appealing to you,” she advises.
Typically, pictures are most effectively hung at eye level for single pictures or the centre of a grouping. This works for almost every situation, however, if there are major lines or objects such as mantels, door or window jambs, which might suggest that the top of a picture should be in alignment with, this often works better.
The selection of a frame is often just as important as the art within it. The type of mount and glass needs consideration too. Some prefer use of non-reflective glass, however, unless the glass can be placed directly against the artwork, there is frequently distortion or blurred focus of the art. Clear quality float glass gives the best visibility if lighting is correct, but can be distracting if sunlight or reflection of bright lighting is unavoidable. In conclusion, frames can help the artwork blend or complement the space, or serve to make it contrast.

Cornellian Gallery: 04 340 4934||**||

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