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The 'Art' Of Retention

In the last five years, the importance of art in commercial real estate spaces has been on the rise. As tenants and talent search for a sense of place and developers try to set themselves apart from the rest of the pack, art budgets and art’s priority in the decision-making process have both been notched up.

Barrow Hanley Dallas interior

Art budgets have increased 50% to 70% over the last decade. The old range used to be $2/SF on the low end to $5/SF on the high end. Now, budgets can go from $6/SF to $10/SF, according to Perkins+Will Senior Project Interior Designer Gardner Vass.

According to him, art has almost risen to the stature of other coveted amenities like fancy fitness centers and loaded cafeterias. These days users factor in art as a necessity in the budget from the get-go and it is one of the highest-priority questions in conversations regarding the space, Vass said.

More businesses are willing to invest in art because it holds its value, and can remain relevant for a lot longer than other amenities that either fade with fads or depreciation.

“The value proposition is the voice it gives the project, and what I mean by that is, it gives the project a sense of identity and a sense of personality. I also think that art is the one area, especially in commercial and multifamily projects that, if done well, is not likely to get dated,” TRIO Environments founder and CEO Angela Harris said. “Making a larger investment in that portion of the project not only sets it apart when it opens but it also kind of carries the project through 10, 20 years as other things have to be updated and changed out.”


For most companies, effective art selection means bringing in a third-party consultant for the arrangement and curation of a building's aesthetic elements, from furniture and finish, to paintings, sculptures and digital art installations. 

Lauckgroup associate principal April Coover said she has seen an increase of willingness in companies to hire an outside firm that specializes in art curation to take charge of their spaces’ looks as opposed to five years ago when it was a more common practice to simply do art curation in-house based on the personal preferences of the higher-ups or their family members.

Eight years ago, Jason Gracilieri founded TurningArt, a company that curates and commissions art for its clients. In 2017, Gracilieri’s company doubled its revenue over 2016. Vass, Harris and Coover all report increases in demand for their services as well.

This willingness to do art right is a sub-trend of the macro trends of talent wars and the subsequent amenities arms races nationwide.

“People are more interested [in] their brand because corporations and companies that have a strong brand understand the importance of it, and that’s the hallmark to really retaining some of the top talent," Vass said. "And here in Dallas, I would say that that’s probably one of the biggest fears aside from maintaining profits and production is maintaining the talent that you have.”

CORRECTION, March 7, 5 P.M. CT: A previous version of this article misspelled both a company's name and that of its founder. The article has been updated.