I Blame It All On SCIENCE


Let's be honest, nothing truly prepares you for that first job. We all know that learning how to do something is not quite the same as actually doing it. But if you're anything like me, you will completely ignore that fact and dive in!

Liberty Leading the People, by Eugène Delacroix

When I started my consulting company, I thought I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. After all, I'd been working in the art world for roughly 5 years before going out on my own. So when I finally landed that first corporate client, I had no fear, no hesitation, no "OMG what have I gotten myself into" moments. I mean, I had this. I got the client, didn't I?

And then came installation day. When I tell you it couldn't have gone worse, I mean it couldn't have gone worse. Perhaps if the secretary pool had pitchforks readily available, it could've been worse.

And before you think I'm just being dramatic, let me explain what actually happened. This was a big project, it covered 3 floors and over 50 works of art.

I worked for months with both the company's interior designers and Vice President of Facilities. So when installation day finally arrived, my only other real concern was either the works wouldn't all show up or we'd break something.

What actually happened was no one (including myself) had considered what the people who'd be looking at the art thought about the collection. Looking back on it, this was obviously a massive mistake.

The installation started out pretty normal. The crew began working on the lower floors, slowly making their way up to the executive level. The crew had maybe installed a total of 3 works when we began hearing rumbles. Unlike most revolutions throughout history, ours started out slowly.

It started with an executive assistant who became visibly upset when a painting was installed on the wall in front of her cubicle (see image below). She felt the work was offensive and refused to work across from it. Before I could say or do anything, we noticed a small group of female employees making their way toward us. And that's when demands for all the work to come down started.

I was at a complete loss. It's not like we didn't get approval for all the work. It had been seen by a number of people and not a single one expressed a problem with it... So what had I missed?

And this is why I blame it all on science!

Looking back, I now realize that everyone who approved of the collection were male. For them, the works conjured up memories of time spent in the oil fields. They focused on the figures sun-burnt skin, the details of the machinery, and the equipment, dirt, and sweat-drenched clothing.

For the female employees, the works offered no emotional connection. Rather, they served only to reinforce the "good ol' boy" mentality of the industry. And highlighted the disconnect between themselves and those they reported to.

Lesson learned... the hard way!

What seemed like a perfect marriage between artwork and company turned out to be anything but. I've always known artwork had the ability to stir strong feelings within all of us. And each and every one of those feelings are valid.

But I have to admit: just how strong was somewhat surprising.

Ultimately, we ended up removing all the offending works and brought in works that spoke to everyone. At the time, I felt like a massive failure—after all, I was the "art professional". Looking back on this experience, as painful as it was, I realize I planted the seed for the philosophy behind Mona Loves Gustav.

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