A typical day for Patricia Hanna might include a studio visit with an artist, a bid or two at an auction house, and planning for her next international art fair jaunt. But Hanna isn’t a museum curator or a gallery owner – she’s the Related Group‘s art director, managing the real estate development company’s entire visual art portfolio.
“I came from an art history background, and I had always envisioned myself in a museum or non-profit,” Hanna says. “When you’re in the arts, you don’t necessarily envision yourself in a corporate organization, so it was daunting and I thought ‘Wow, I’m totally switching gears, but I find that it’s actually given me quite a bit of flexibility in developing programs that are totally unique.”
The Related Group, founded in 1979 by visionary developer and art patron Jorge Pérez, is often touted as Miami’s most active and transformational real estate developer. Pérez, an avid art collector and named benefactor of the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, understood the role visual art can play in the development and revitalization of urban centers. He approached Hanna, a former commissions manager at the Cisneros-Fontanal Art Foundation, about the gig.
“There wasn’t a set job description, but we wanted to build an art department and do programs that are different than what we were seeing,” Hanna said. “We worked extremely closely to develop the art program we have today. Over the last four years, we’ve tailored it to our interests, and what we want for Miami and the cities were developing in.”
By developing a dedicated art program, Related Group leads a growing class of real estate developers in Miami and New York infusing their latest development projects with visual art. Hanna notes that, with the practice becoming more and more popular, artists and art curators have a unique – and albeit, unusual – new opportunity for patronage and landing steady consulting work.
“Developers are working more and more with cities and city governments to beautify the cities and create more opportunities for public art, but art placement within the building I think is becoming something people want to live with and see,” says Hanna. “It’s becoming so much more of your experience, and it will continue to grow.”
Here, Hanna talks to Artrepreneur about the Related Group’s distinct approach to their art department, gives some insight into her day-to-day, and shares her best advice for artists, curators, and consultants interested in finding positions in a corporate organization’s art department.
Related Group Manages Both a Corporate Collection and Commissions and Public Art Program
Real estate development is a transformational process, and art has played an important role in the evolution of societies. By merging artistic vision with real property development, the Related Group is literally shaping a community’s interaction with the world around it.
It’s a responsibility Hanna doesn’t take lightly. “As a developer, you’re making such an impact on a cityscape, and there’s much that goes into building that, like traffic and urban planning, so we really take it extremely seriously to also impact city on cultural growth,” Hanna notes. “We’re making a huge mark on the city with these buildings so we think the cultural aspect is super important, as well. Every major city has its museum and collection and iconic public art piece, and we want to be involved in creating those specific points that will be a reference.”
Related Group’s art program, directed by Hanna alongside Pérez, has focused on elevating emerging and mid-career contemporary artists like Liliana Porter, Agustina Woodgate, and Jaume Plensa through its corporate art collection, public art commissions, and juried competitions. Currently at over 500 objects, its corporate collection is distributed throughout the company’s various development projects. Meanwhile, the company frequently focuses on commissioning artists for public works – the facades of their new developments, a sculpture in a building’s outdoor garden, or a monumental lobby installation. In addition, Related Group launched a juried competition in Buenos Aires, in which the winner, Argentine-born, Paris-based artist Marie Orensanz, will be commissioned for a sculpture installation in a public park in the Puerto Madero neighborhood.
Hanna notes that while she works for a corporate organization, her role is decidedly similar to that of a museum or gallery professional. “When you think about it, I’m not placing art in museums and curating exhibitions, but I am curating experiences in the cities we’re working in,” she says. “The audience is different but the process is the same. I still have to research, go to art fairs, visit studios, and find artists.”
As a result, Hanna work days are varied. “I frequently travel to art fairs with [Jorge] in New York, Latin America, and Europe. I work with a lot of different artists to commission pieces,” she says. “This means we follow the market quite a bit, I’m involved in a lot of auctions because we do buy quite a bit – we are buying artwork multiple days out of any given week. Most days, I have to walk a building with some designers and confirm art placement. And I do leave time at least once a week to make it to a local gallery.”
Exploring the Nexus of Art and Architecture
What makes Hanna’s role especially unique – and thereby creates an opportunity for artists and art curators or consultants to expand their practice – is considering how a building might respond to the artwork it houses. In that respect, working in an art department for a real estate developer is distinctly site-specific, and provides an opportunity to enhance an exhibition portfolio or stretch your ability to create works for specific spaces.
That aspect of her work requires plenty of flexibility, says Hanna. “I think one thing that that’s imperative to this job is being flexible – you have to have the ability to be able to see art and how it might work outside of the museum world,” she says.
That affability is crucial to the job, as Hanna describes working with various agents who must adhere to their own metrics and development goals. “At the outset of a development project, I’ll meet with Mr. Perez and our marketing department and development. We get involved in buildings from the moment they’re being conceptualized and architects are being selected,” she says.
“There’s two ways of incorporating art into the building: site-specific installations interacting with architecture and the placement of art in common areas. We then take it a step further by taking a significant role in public art, working in tandem with city governments as we’re developing a new project. We’ve been donating the land to the cities to create public parks because we want to be a catalyst for public art in these projects.”
Hanna points to another sculpture competition held by Related Group, where the organization held an open call with the National Young Arts Foundation, adds that artists are often invited to give artist lectures and offer insight into a project.
Related Group’s sheer stature and development pace keeps Hanna busy. “Art is always a percentage of budget of project, and Related Group has three divisions – luxury, market rate rentals and Related Urban, our affordable housing arm, and we put art in everything.”
Here, there’s an excellent opportunity for emerging artists, who are often sought out for some of Related Group’s more income-diverse projects. “The budgets are the whole gamut, so I may have less to work with on a rental or affordable housing project, but I kind of peel it down to students or recent graduates of art schools, as opposed to the luxury condominium developments which puts a focus on artists that are showing in museums all over the world,” she says.
Once a project has neared completion, Hanna focuses on drawing attention to the development’s art program with catalogues and artist meet-and-greets. Much like a museum curator, Hanna works with the marketing department to create a catalog of the building’s artworks, writing text and including images that give condominium buyers some context about the work housed in their buildings.
“When you’re buying into these buildings, you’re buying into a collection,” Hanna says. “The artwork becomes an asset to the association and the owners become the owners of the collection, and they take care and maintain it. I publish a book for all the residents, that includes a compilation of artists and their bios, and some text about each piece, which is given to everyone in the building.”
Another major perk of working in the arts within a corporate organization? Often times, salary ranges are more competitive than a museum or non-profit settings, where salaries are notoriously low. “It’s certainly competitive, and often more attractive than museum salaries since it’s a corporate setting,” says Hanna.
Plenty of real estate developers forgo an in-house department and opt to work with art consultants on a project basis, instead. For many independent art consultants, real estate development projects offer the opportunity to work with multiple and diverse works of art at once, and companies like the Art Production Fund are gearing their business towards working exclusively with real estate developers (You may recognize their latest installment, Jeff Koons’ Seated Ballerina, from the Rockefeller Center).
There’s no shortage of real estate development firms in fast-growing cities across the world, and reaching out to a real estate developer with a proposal for a disciplined art program may be a vital strategy for growing an art business. Whether you work on your own art consultant, are looking for work as a curator, or are considering whether you might be a fit for a public art or development project, Hanna suggests that being both flexible and creative with a working knowledge of art’s interaction with architecture.
“You have to have the creativity and wherewithal to know whether an artist has the potential to work with an architect and do something within the building. You have to know their strengths and understand their materials, and determine whether their proposal will work within an allotted budget. It’s similar to programming an exhibition, only the scale is much bigger.”
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