…In one corner of the room a cluster of people gather around a series of paintings, sipping glasses of wine, and debating the use of digital technology in creating works of art. On the other side, a couple quietly contemplates the image of a beautifully photographed young woman… And in another area, an artist is explaining her fascination with political campaigns and how it is manifested in the canvases on display.
No, this is not a trendy New York Gallery. But you could be forgiven for thinking it was, as the Art Appreciation Club officially unveiled the newest works of art that will soon be gracing a wall near you!
Last week, current and future art patrons gathered in the Williams Room of Spangler to enjoy the most recent contributions to HBS’ growing collection. The event drew a mixed crowd of artists, students and faculty-all united by interest and curiosity in the art that surrounds us on campus.
The concept of celebrating art in places of business isn’t a new idea, but is one that HBS has been pursuing with passion and the help of some very generous and knowledgeable friends. Since 1995, the school has welcomed several new pieces by contemporary artists. The tradition is the result of a tremendous gift from HBS alumni Gerald W. Schwartz (MBA 1970) who believes “the presence of provocative art promotes creative thinking.”
Each year, Mr. Schwartz gives strength to his words by working with famed New York dealer Gracie Mansion to hand pick the pieces that are added to the collection. This year, HBS received nineteen works ranging in size, style, medium and subject. Some of the pieces on display last week created an immediate buzz. A photograph by Lori Nix titled “Lost: Natural History” drew interest from those who wandered right to the work of art to take in as much of the chaos possible. There was something captivating about the piece. The work became a catalyst for many discussions over the course of the evening, ranging from comparisons to surrealist works by Dali, to the different perspective viewer experiences, each depending upon what angle they stand in front of it.
Avid Larizadeh, co-president of the Art Appreciation Club, is intimate with each work of art in the collection. She was deeply involved in the selection process as one of the student representatives who joined Mrs. Mansion, Mr. Schwartz, his daughter and granddaughter as they bustled through several galleries in SOHO last spring. Armed with slides and portfolios, they spent the whole day making their way around the city by minivan, meeting with gallery owners and selecting pieces to add to the collection.
Avid recalled that Mr. Schwartz was very decisive about the works he liked, having quick and immediate reactions to works he felt would be thought-provoking additions; however she also confirmed that the overall process of agreeing on a piece was democratic. Each person in the selection process was asked their opinion and reaction to the work in question before any final decision could be made.
There is no wrong way to look at art. Any reaction you have to a work is something personal to you. How you feel may not be the message the artist intended, but the fact that you feel something (even if it is dislike) is evidence that you’ve had an experience with it. That is the simple core of cotemporary art. It challenges you to look at the image or representation in front of you and think about what it means. Do the shapes, colors, and images remind you of something from your own life? Does it make you think about a feeling? Does it spark an idea? Does it make you want to do something?
Over the next few weeks I’d like to introduce you to some of the works in the HBS collection and hopefully give you a few pointers on how to enjoy them beyond a casual glance as you hurry to your next information session. If there are any pieces in particular that pique your interest and you want to know a bit about them, please email me.
In the meantime, next time you’re wandering the halls of Aldrich between classes, or in grabbing a bite to eat in the cafeteria in Spangler, or breaking a sweat in the Shad to break a sweat, take a moment to glance at the walls around you. The work on these surfaces should stir something inside-let them inspire, confuse, challenge and energize you. That’s what they are there for!