THE REMIX

5 Questions - Lamensdorf and Stoetzel

Jennie Lamensdorf  &  Lee Stoetzel

The Director of Art-In-Buildings & the Director of the West Collection reflect on their respective roles


 Jonathan Schipper “Death of American Muscle” at the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia (home of Philadelphia Orchestra)

Jonathan Schipper “Death of American Muscle” at the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia (home of Philadelphia Orchestra)

 
 
 
 
 Lee Stoetzel, "Jeep" at SEI, London.

Lee Stoetzel, "Jeep" at SEI, London.

Jennie Lamensdorf:
Hi Lee: I would love to do 5 questions with you! I agree it would be fun.
Lee, as my former boss, I feel like you have to pose the first question!

Lee Stoetzel:
Hi Jennie, Here’s a shot at my first question for you:
We’ve collected and are familiar with a lot of the artists you’ve worked with through Art-in-Buildings. While I am interested in those projects, I am also interested in the way your team measures the success of putting interesting shows in buildings. How does the art affect the place and the tenants in real terms? Have you seen it work as a “two way street” where tenants want to rent there, buy work, or support the artists? We once did a survey in our corporate setting and asked employees if it would affect them if we removed the artwork from the SEI environment. Overwhelmingly they stated that it would be devastating and team identities depend on the works, etc.

JL: I love this question because this is the question I'm asking when I evaluate or
promote Art-in-Buildings. A huge part of my job is to advocate on behalf of the Art-in-Buildings program and demonstrate that it is not a vanity project put on by our CEO because he happens to be an arts patron. I think because he is an arts patron he was able to anticipate the real value the arts could contribute to his company, Time Equities Inc (TEI).

At its core, the Art-in-Buildings program will hopefully demonstrate to a potential tenant or resident that if all things are held equal across the properties they are considering, TEI is a company that cares. One can reasonably assume that if TEI cares enough to put an art exhibition in its lobby,it is also a company that will be quick to repair a leak or fix a problem. More broadly, the Art-in-Buildings program contributes to a feeling of community in a building. Since we rotate the exhibitions, it hopefully makes the properties more interesting places to live, work, or do business. And, rotating the exhibitions evokes the feeling of being a newly refreshed place without the expense of renovating a lobby. All of this benefit is in addition to the content and aesthetic value of the actual art objects, which of course I am biased to think is amazing.

In terms of measuring the benefit, we've done surveys that have revealed interesting
feedback, but I think the best way to track the response is through conversation.
Typically, those conversations are not with me because I tend not to have direct contact with most tenants. But, I was recently at an event at 50 West, a luxury condo building TEI built in Lower Manhattan, where I met a resident who told me point blank she and her husband had bought in the building because she loved the art program and that 50 West was the first place she'd lived in NYC that felt like a home. You really cannot beat that kind of response to the program.

Another great story is of a tenant near Detroit who said, "I don't really get this modern art, but I like that the landlord cares enough to do this kind of work in our building and I think it sets a good tone for the whole building."  Of course, not all feedback is positive.  But, the good thing about Art-in-Buildings is that we rotate our exhibitions. Most of the time when we get complaints we say, "thank you so much for your feedback. Our next exhibition will be in 6 months and it will be totally different. We really hope you will love that one."  Usually, when people realize they don't have to live with something for the rest of their lives they take it in stride.

You also asked if tenants want to buy the work. Selling art is a serious business and it is not one that we engage in. If anyone asks about buying work, we direct them to the artist (or a gallery if they have one) and we do not take a fee.  I have been running the program for just over 6 years and I am convinced that it creates real, tangible added value to TEI, our properties, and the artists’ careers. We can't forget the artists.

 Yong Ho Ji “Shark Tank” at SEI Oaks

Yong Ho Ji “Shark Tank” at SEI Oaks

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The West Collection is involved in a lot more partnerships than Art-in-Buildings (I'm thinking about the West Prize, Kimmel Center collaboration, and public school art programs). When I worked for the West Collection, none of those programs had been launched, so I'm curious to hear more about how they developed and if any more are in the works. I'd also like to know if the relationship between the collection and SEI has changed in tandem with these programs. Do you think there are opportunities for 'art thinking' to influence their work? I'm curious in large part because I've recently been thinking and talking a lot about STEAM learning (as opposed to STEM) as something that Art-in-Buildings could implement to diversify the way people at TEI think and problem solve.

LS: Thanks Jennie.
Paige (West) and I started with a very specific task: to program for 1,200 financial
services workers at SEI’s headquarters in Oaks, PA. I don’t think either of us could have predicted the challenges of introducing content-filled contemporary art to this audience. We learned a lot quickly and were shocked by a lot of reactions (much of it negative) early on. But through quite a lot of experimentation and feedback we learned what could work with our audience. When we started to truly engage with the employees and let them vote artworks in and out of their work spaces, which effectively was handing over some of the curating to them, we started to gain acceptance. Now we’ve adopted that as a core philosophy with anyone we partner with outside of the company: Who is the audience and how can they participate in this thing?

After our initial five years of work at SEI, it was almost easy to take elements of the West Collection art program over to a public school, or to do a program at the Kimmel. I have a lot of insane ideas and Paige needs to keep me in check a lot of the time, but the one thing we both agree on is that we should push and keep trying things so that each art installation will feel surprising or unexpected to whoever the audience may be. Whether it is a shark tank (with two rubber tire-clad 1:1 scale sharks) installed on a work floor at SEI, or the Schipper crashing muscle car artwork at the orchestra hall (the Kimmel Center), we try for the unexpected. Occasionally we get the reaction “I don’t like that being here” or “this is not art,” but we also get reactions like “I can’t believe it is here. How cool!” “What is that doing in here?” and “You cant believe it - we have a shark tank on the front steps of our school!” Those comments are what makes it all worthwhile.

Jennie, why did you feel you needed to leave Philadelphia after school and go to NYC?
Is your favorite color gray?

JL: My favorite color is blue!

I moved to NYC after graduating college only after I initially went home to Sarasota without a clear plan. In Sarasota, the most lucrative thing that happened was I made $300 betting on horse racing at the dog track OTB. This is a true story. I learned to handicap horse races in an English class at Penn called, "About a Horse." We read Seabiscuit and bet on the ponies. Tenure will do interesting things to people.

Most of my friends had moved to NYC and it was 2007 so there were loads of jobs.  Before I had time to get cynical, you had passed my resume to Julie Saul who passed it to her neighbor, Leslie Tonkonow. The rest is history.  Lee, how'd you get your first job in the art world?

LS: I was finishing my MFA at SMU in Dallas and was freaking out about how to get a job in either LA or NYC. LA sounded easier to me. So my girlfriend at the time was friendly with the gallery director at Dan Weinberg Gallery. Dan showed Jeff Koons, Terry Winters, Robert Irwin, and Chamberlain. I said I’d do any work they had, so Kelly told me to come out to LA the following week and start doing the installations. (I could barely figure out how to forward and reverse on the drill.) The first show was of Jeff Koons basketballs in glass vitrines. I had no clue what I was doing. Meeting some of those artists ultimately gave me the confidence to go to New York....

 
 Caitlin Cherry, "Arctic Sovereignty" through Art-in-Buildings, 125 Maiden Lane (2018)

Caitlin Cherry, "Arctic Sovereignty" through Art-in-Buildings, 125 Maiden Lane (2018)

 Caitlin Cherry, "Arctic Sovereignty" through Art-in-Buildings, 125 Maiden Lane (2018)

Caitlin Cherry, "Arctic Sovereignty" through Art-in-Buildings, 125 Maiden Lane (2018)

 Caitlin Cherry, "Arctic Sovereignty" through Art-in-Buildings, 125 Maiden Lane (2018)

Caitlin Cherry, "Arctic Sovereignty" through Art-in-Buildings, 125 Maiden Lane (2018)