Office art is right up there with Elevator Music
October 4, 2006 4:17 PM   Subscribe

What kind of wall art is appropriate for a kinda stuffy but very friendly office environment?

Basically, they said I could put whatever I want on the walls. But honestly, I couldn't put whatever I want because whatever I want would clash with the dark green wallpaper and antique globe border (I like flashy, slightly distrubing, modern pieces). However, I desperately need to replace the thomas kincaid piece currently residing above my computer. It is, um, a little TOO illuminating / -ed for my tastes. Help meta! Any suggestions?
posted by whimsicalnymph to Work & Money (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
nothing a couple of nice framed demotivator posters couldn't fix.
posted by freq at 4:20 PM on October 4, 2006

I don't know what your budget is, but maybe you could help out some local artists.
posted by lobstah at 4:29 PM on October 4, 2006

Interesting old map of where you are.
posted by Eringatang at 4:34 PM on October 4, 2006

Abstract. Choose something that will go nicely with the wallpaper. I know, you aren't supposed to match art to walls, but in this case it might be a good idea.
posted by LoriFLA at 4:40 PM on October 4, 2006

Of course whatever you choose is mostly a matter of personal preference, but I really like a lot of James Koehnline's work. A lot of his stuff meets your "slightly disturbing" criteria, but in a subtle enough way that it wouldn't look ridiculous in a formal office. I've bought some of his prints and they're really nice quality. They currently go for like $20, which is pretty damn affordable IMHO.
posted by nixxon at 4:48 PM on October 4, 2006

What about some (faux-)old b&w or sepia-toned photographs? Choice of topics nearly unlimited, and they can be unsettling without being something that you can really argue against (WPA era stuff, maybe?)
posted by cobaltnine at 5:07 PM on October 4, 2006

For office art work you can't go past Hieronymus Bosch.
posted by oxford blue at 5:18 PM on October 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

dark green wallpaper? stuffy office? impress with your smarts - get a new yorker cartoon framed.

two examples:
“I’m right there in the room, and no one even acknowledges me.”

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

besides - if your office walls are dark green, you really need to lay off the color.
posted by krautland at 5:24 PM on October 4, 2006

How about a Miro print?
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:38 PM on October 4, 2006

Flashy and slightly disturbing that goes with the wallpaper comes up as Georgia O'Keefe. Flowers always go with green, and the subliminal eroticism of O'Keefe's flowers gives them an edge.

I also like the idea of patronizing local artists. Check out the art schools and small galleries.

If you're interested in patronizing MeFites, I have a small piece that can be modified to go with any wallpaper. The nail is included in the price.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:42 PM on October 4, 2006

The Whitney Museum sells a poster of a working drawing of the Brooklyn Bridge (Under "Prints & Posters" -$15 unframed) thats wonderful, among others.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:53 PM on October 4, 2006

Be subtly subversive: go Mapplethorpe.
posted by rob511 at 6:41 PM on October 4, 2006

Slightly disturbing, goes with an antique globe border... how about seeing if you could get your hands on some prints of Da Vinci's anatomical drawings?
posted by furiousthought at 7:21 PM on October 4, 2006

Vintage movie poster? Originals at or repros at any number of online merchants
posted by legotech at 7:37 PM on October 4, 2006

Mapplethorpe is not all that subtle, unfortunately.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 9:01 PM on October 4, 2006

Best answer: Public transit map of your area? These are sometimes really lovely.

I love this History of U.S Political Parties informational graphic; vintage, informative, classy, slightly disturbing snakelike shapes. You could find some similar piece of slightly-disturbing Victoriana, maybe?

In general for paintings in a conservative environment, you want either representations of landscapes, architecture, plants or still lifes, or non-threatening abstract. Here are some options:

Henri Rousseau is a painter just on the edge of modern and classical/representational, so soothing to the unobservant eye. Maybe something of his appeals and yet masquerades as conventional enough for your office? (Look on the web for other sites with his imagess since that site doesn't have all of them. Choose carefully so you don't end up with a cannibal chimp hidden in the foliage.) His palette will probably work well against dark green too. Here's one.

Some Matisse might be okay too, since he's so well-known. Nothing really disturbing here, but modern, clean, bright against your dark walls. An abstract Matisse print isn't anything your boss could complain about (I hope). I wouldn't go for one of the nudes, though. Here are some other safe, non-abstract, choices.

Albert Marquet has some nice safe non-abstract scenes that not everyone will have in their office.

Cezanne is another safe bet; his stuff is definitely safe and I think most of it is lovely. Maybe you can find some covertly dark stuff too.

A few more that caught my eye:
- Didier Mencoboni colored lines abstract
- Esteve Maurice blocky watercolor abstract
- Ton Schulten blocky landscape
- Hundertwasser Freidensreich, a little more of a stretch, abstract
- Karl Schmidt -Rottluff creepy daffodils
- Kirchner creepy forest
- Mondrian creepy red trees
- Paul Klee curly tree

More listings by type of painting/art movement
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:41 PM on October 4, 2006

Somehow my first Matisse link got eaten. It was this nice bright abstract.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:43 PM on October 4, 2006

When you say you like modern with a dark edge, are you thinking of Edward Hopper? There are some of his that might be ok, depending on your office, and they are definitely dark. Look through; sailboats and lighthouses should be ok in most offices, and Hopper's are full of tranquil menace (to me anyway).

And here's a Kandinsky that would be ok in a conservative office and would look great against green. And here's a Klimt.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:06 PM on October 4, 2006

Upon re-reading your question, I think my above suggestions are mostly more conservative than you're looking for. For some reason I was thinking "man working in a bank office", but it sounds like that's not your situation.

Goofy green cow
Degas dancer studies
Art nouveau ladies of the seasons
Picasso line drawing, like this one of bulls
Ona, Orange ladies with umbrellas

Okay, I'm having too much fun looking at the art website. One final suggestion: If the color is your main concern (to match the faded antique-map wall strip), try light-green-toned watercolors or prints. Japanese prints are one good place to start for this, if you don't like the conventional European watercolor look.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:36 PM on October 4, 2006

Framed botanical or other anatomical prints would work; you can get the right color and they'll be similar in spirit to the antique map stuff. You can be subversive in your choice of subjects (cephalopods or weird birds) if you mix in some non-controversial ones like ferns or apples. The website I was linking to doesn't seem to have good ones, though; maybe check your local flea market or old book/antique stores.

Also, a lot of Art Nouveau posters will have the right coloring and vintage quality, if you like their graphical look - for example, the queen of all biscuits and her loyal subjects here. You can look around until you find one that is quirky in the right way.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:06 PM on October 4, 2006

Response by poster: There are so many good suggestions that I am taking my time to decide. I will let everyone know what combination of subversiveness and beauty I choose.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 8:13 PM on October 6, 2006

I'll be interested to hear. Thanks for asking the question; I had a lot of fun looking. :)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:07 PM on October 6, 2006

Response by poster: So..I've decided on the Mondrian creepy red trees for my office. However, when I buy a house (someday) I suspect you'll find many of the suggestions in this forum gracing my walls.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 5:57 PM on October 22, 2006

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