ART OFFICE

Art in the Public Realm

Isabel Vasseur, Richard Deacon Nose to Nose, Beginning To End 1988
Isabel Vasseur at Glasgow Garden Festival, Richard Deacon Nose to Nose, Beginning To End, 1988

Art Office was an art consultancy established and led by Isabel Vasseur that grew out of her activities in promoting, advising about and commissioning contemporary art during the early 1980s. The consultancy operated in various guises for more than twenty years. It has now closed its doors.

This website has been created to give researchers a brief account of the type of public art projects that were commissioned during a highly productive period between 1988 and 2008 and to direct those seeking more in-depth knowledge about commissioning art in the public realm toward Isabel’s complete paper archive held at the Henry Moore Foundation.

The consultancy was established by Isabel Vasseur in response to the changes in artistic practice, which during the 80s became much more diverse and complex in nature. Artists’ ambitions were gravitating away from traditions of painting and sculpture, toward site specific installation, performance, film and video and other disciplines. This creative diversification coincided with cultural producers waking up to the possibility that the visual arts could be an effective engine driving social change.

Isabel Vasseur’s Art Office archive is currently being prepared by the Henry Moore Foundation, for public access research purposes, in line with the Henry Moore Foundation’s commitment to the study and enjoyment of contemporary art, particularly sculpture in the public realm.
The Henry Moore Foundation may not facilitate access immediately, as the full archive will only be available from April 2019: +44 (0)113 246 7467
Click here for more

The claims made for public art provision were subject to heated discussion at the time. It is a topic that still has fierce advocates for and against, even now. However, what seems indisputable with the benefit of hindsight is that the role art was to play in rehabilitating areas of former industrial cities within the UK changed. Contemporary art was introduced to enliven under-invested in urban environments. Its inclusion helped shape new developments and introduced a role for public art that broke with tradition. Dark, bronze statues raised on plinths well above head height, gave way to art commissions designed to engage audiences who otherwise would not have come into contact with art.

These more complex and ambitious public commissions required a different approach from arts professionals too. Initially as Art Project Management and subsequently as Art Office, Isabel created the perfect vehicle with the necessary flexibility to bring in different curatorial talents for each project. Isabel was an early pioneer in adopting a more professional level of working with artists and attracting public sector funding, being more accountable to commissioning public art for a variety of contexts and circumstances and attracting new audiences.

Isabel was not the only art consultant working on public art projects throughout the UK at the time, but for a while she was one of the select few. There were only a small number of competing entities working in this field of activity. The three leading examples were established and run by women. A rare example of where the art world was ahead of the pack in terms of equality. There are many more agencies today, although these, like Future City tend to work across many different disciplines internationally and in many contexts. Public art is only one element of what they do, which is now termed slightly awkwardly as ‘place making’.

Public Art Consultancies

The Public Art Development Trust (PADT) was a charity, established in 1983, that was a much needed advocate for preserving existing public art, as well as procuring examples of contemporary art for a variety of locations, both publicly owned and private. They commissioned mid-career artists, as well as younger artists for ambitious developments like London’s Paddington Basin. Unfortunately they ceased operation in 1995. The PADT archive is also available for research at the Henry Moore Foundation.

Art & Architecture was an initiative overseen by Jes Fernie that commissioned art in relation to contemporary architectural developments, as well as competition based schemes like the Fourth Plinth Project in Trafalgar Square. While Art & Architecture ran its course in the mid 90s, Jes Fernie is still advising about art in a public context, having worked on commissioning the art content for the Olympic Park between 2009 and 2011.

Inhabiting similar territory to Art Office, Vivien Lovell and her consultancy worked on public art commissions, particularly in London during the 80s. The consultancy came together as a team of specialists, led by Vivien to become Modus Operandi (MO) in the late 90s. MO worked along side Isabel’s Art Office on commissions at the BBC. When the BBC Media City art programme was delivered by Art Office, Vivien Lovell continued to coordinate the art commissions for the redevelopment of Broadcasting House, among many other prestigious schemes. MO still works on public art schemes today.

Artists who collaborated with Art Office:

A

Jane Adam
Maurice Agis
John Atkin
Keith Alexander
Janet Allan
Jonathan Anderson
Ron Arad
Kenneth Armitage
Liz Arnold
Art In Ruins
Kevin Atherton

B

Raef Baldwin
Phyllida Barlow
Bateman / Crowther
Petros Bazos
Dail Behennah
Jeff Bell & Jules Armitage
Kate Belton
Lisa Bird
David Blandy
Marinus Boezem
John Bradley
Keith Bridgewood
Irene Brown
Keith Brown
Sandy Brown
Jason Bruges Studio
Robert Bruyninckx
Anthony Bryant
Samantha Bryant
Jim Buckley
Graham Budgett
Rod Bugg
Sjoerd Buisman
Daniel Buren
Balthasar Burkhard
John Burnside
Andrew Burton
Kate Byrne

C

Gerard Byrne & Nathan Coley
Marc C Chaimowicz
Ann Cameron
Shirley Cameron
Ashley Cartwright
Lucy Casson
Peter Cattrel
Ergin Cavusoglu
Norman Cherry
Fiona Clark
Lucy Clegg
Tessa Clowney
Doug Cocker
Richard Cole
Viera Collaro
Susan Collins
David Colwell
Chris Comins
Rebecca Constance Thomas
Christine Constant
Noreen Conwell
Jonathan Cook
Hattie Coppard
Siobhan Coppinger & Alec Peever
Patrick Corillon
Vairi Corr
Thomas Cox-Bisham
Andrew Crouch
Caroline Coyne
Tony Cragg
Louise Crawford
Jenny Crisp
Bill Culbert
Arthur Cummings
Ceraint Cunnick

D

Matthew Dalziel
Adam Dant
John David Mooney
Niki De Saint Phalle
Paul De Monchaux
Richard Deacon
Jeremy Deller
Roger Dickinson
Anna Dickinson
Dig Dang Dong
Mark Dion
Mike Disley
John Dix
Tom Dixon
Mike Dodd
Julienne Dolphin-Wilding
Stephen Down
Robert Drake

E

Jim Edminson

F

Luciano Fabro
Richard Farrington
Edward Fellows
Deborah Fladgate
Bill Fontana
Karen Forbes
Norman Foster
Freeform
Marianne Forrest
Carol Francis
Derek Francis
Susie Freeman
Raf Fulcher & George Carter
Adrian Funnell

G

Maria Gaisley
Szuper Gallery
Jochen Gertz
Ori Gersht
Debbie Gibberd
J&L Gibbon

Sir Alfred Gilbert
Cowdy Glass
Robert Goldsmith
Morag Gordon
Lothar Goetz
Alisdair Gourlay
Joanna Greenhill
Richard Groom
Gross Max
Stephan Gueneau

H

Hammie
Ian Hamilton-Finlay
Jane Hamlyn
Tod Hanson
Diane Hart
Ron Haselden
Christine Hatt
Tim Head
Andrew Heaps
Matthew Hilton
Jasmine Hixson
Jill Hlalo
Marig Hodgekinson
John Hodkinson
Amanda Hogg
Richard Hoggart
James Hopkins
Charlie Holmes
Juliet Hone
Hamish Horsley
Lousie Hudson
Kenny Hunter
Stephen Hurrel
Janet Hutchinson

I

Cristina Iglesias
Brian Illseley

J

Angela James
Rachael Johnston
Hazel Jones
Mark Brazier Jones
Juneau projects

K

Cynthia Karasek
Andrew Kearney
Jonathan Keep
David Kemp
Jake Kempsall
Paddy Killer
Lucy Kimbell
Phillip King
Andrea King
Shona Kinloch
Laura Kitchen
Graham Knight
Thomas Kovachevich
Mischa Kuball

L

Richard La Trobe-Bateman
Hilary LaForce
Anna Lambert
Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen
Thorbjorn Lausten
James Lee Byars
Patricia Leighton
Pamela Leung
Deborah Levy
Jo Lewington
Christopher Lewis
Edwin Li
Don Libski
Nick Lloyd
Alf Loehr
Hew Locke
Hew Lorimer
Ingeborg Luscher

M

Gus Mabelsone
Gareth McConnell
Martha MacDonald
David Mach
Tracy MacKenna
Jordan MacKenzie
Jamie MacPherson
Mari Mahr
John Maine
Kate Malone
Christian Marclay
Fenella Mallalieu
Lily Markiewicz
David Martin
Carol Mather
Sally Matthews
Duncan McAfee
Elizabeth McFall
John McKellar
David McMillan
Carol McNicol
Tanya Meditsky
Annette Meech
Vittorio Messina
Andrew Miller
Carol Milner
Dhruva Mistry
Elisie Mitchell
Lorna Moffat
Mark Monaghan
David Moore
Henry Moore
Juan Luis Moraza
Kunihiko Moriguchi
Paul Morrison
Peter Mortimer
Colin Mortimer
Andrew Motion and John Morgan
Leonel Moura
Stuart Mugridge
Robin Munro
Wendy Murray

N

Maurizio Nannucci
Martine Neddam
Mariele Neudecker

John Newling
Rosa Nguyen
Giorgos Nichola Ades
Peter Niczewski
Peter Noble
Titus Nolte
Jane Norbury
Jaqueline Norris

O

Jacqueline Oglesby
Meret Oppenheim

P

Giulio Paolini
Eduardo Paolozzi
Rowena Park
Tim Parkinson
Jim Partridge and Liz Walmsley
Jean-Marie Patois
Simon Patterson
Cath Pearson
Allan Peters
Cathie Pilkington
Michelangelo Pistoletto
Toucan Play
Matthew Poole
Dart Pottery
Marcelle Price
Bernhard Prinz
Katrina Proteous
Alan Provost
Nic Pryke
William Pye

R

Ronald Rae
Howard RayBould
Dave Regester
Ali Rhind
Tony Rickaby
Graeme Rigby
Tony Rix
Colin Rose
Ryan Ross
Mario Rossi
Giles Round
Martin Ryan
Sophie Ryder

S

Sanders & Wallace
Saki Satom
Gerard Scanlan
Benno Scholtz
Leon Schubiger
Hugh Scriven
Louise Scullion
Fiona Sharp
Yuko Shiraishi
Annie Sherburne
Kumiko Shimizu
Juliet Shotton
Alice Smith
Annalisa Smith
Ray Smith
Soraya Smithson
Amanda Snow
Michael Snowden
Andrea Stemmer
Helen Stylianides
David Swift

T

Taja
Neil Talbot
Fulcher, Tate & Carter
Linda Taylor
Sabina Teuteburg
Niele Toroni
Graham Tunnadine
Alison Turnball
William Turnbull
Stephen Turner
Roger Tye

V

Floris Van Den Broecke
Loes Van Der Horst
Joanna Veevers
Melanie Verhille
Michel Verjux
Nicola von Skepsgardh

W

Claire Waffel
Walker & Bromwich
Fiona Walker
David Wall
Gibert Ward
Sasha Ward
Jocelyn Warner
Cate Watkinson
Betty Waughan-Richards
Simon Webb
Robin Welch
Richard Wentworth
Jane Wheeler
Avril Wilson
Richard Windley
Toby Winteringham
Adrian Wiszniewski
Tom Wolseley
Richard Woods
Slide Workshop
Vincent Woropay
Elizabeth Wright
Anne Wrightson
George Wyllie

Y

Carey Young
Paul Young
Andrew & Joanna Young

Z

Jerilea Zempel