News Column

'Mind Fitness': An artful prescription for business success

June 27, 2014

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- "Let's take a look at this one," says Paolo Antonini, a representative from the Milan-based consultancy Art for Business, as he shepherds a small group of people on the Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art's "Mind Fitness" tour to a position about five meters away from Azade KÖker's giant green art piece on the wall. Antonini asks us, "What elements has this artist used?"

We guess things like a canvas, paint and a video camera. "Let's look closer," Antonini said, as he pulled us directly in front of the piece. "Now what do you see?" A completely different response came from the group. "Spiders!" was the collective reply. "Yes, you can see it's a giant collage of hundreds of pieces of paper and the smaller ones form spiders," he explained. "In this case, she's created a giant spider web over another scene. Now we're seeing layers of small and large detail."

Antonini says art can "make the visible invisible." And that: "Your first impressions are often wrong because you need time to digest more. Finding the little details helps you make your conclusions about what you see."

If all that seems obvious, after he brings it to our attention, it is. But it takes someone to point it out, and his doing that helps us think better. "Mind Fitness" is a mini-course Antonini gave over several days last week at Elgiz Museum in Maslak in which he led nine tours around the contemporary art collection.

"Art for Business" is one of the many programs the Milan cooperative TrivioQuadrivio developed to help business leaders adopt creative approaches to achieving success. Looking at art, according to Antonini, is the ideal learning tool for creative thinking.

"The main objective of business to make money," states Antonini. "So how does art contribute to making money? The relationships between the players on a team determine its success. The great American car manufacturer Henry Ford said, 'Success is to be able to intercept other people's ideas and thinking processes.' Art doesn't provide the answers, it provides the questions. And questions create dialogues to solve problems."

'Are you afraid of art?'

Aside from the problem-solving benefits of looking at art, there's the background psychology to consider. "Are you afraid of art?" is the inherent question in the program's concept. "The fear of art is very common," says Pinar Akalin, marketing consultant to the Elgiz Museum. "When many people look at contemporary art, they say, 'Oh, I could have done that myself!' Or, because when we look at art, we are questioning life. For a lot of people, that's outside their comfort zone."

Antonini steers us to a pair of paintings by David Salle. "So, let's take a look at these," he says. "What do you see here?" Though the two are on opposite walls, the resemblance is striking. They contain abstract images and objects that are seemingly unrelated, in a patchwork style arrangement. "A plate of fish, a group of fruit, a statue and design textures," is the group's answer. "Yes, it's a study in what author Arthur Koestler calls 'bisociation' -- putting unrelated things together [in a way] to create a connection," Antonini explains. "The casualness of this connection plays a role."

So it becomes clear that our minds can make associations among images or concepts that, at first, don't make sense together. Our minds can also distinguish between a textural grid, which has its own unique design world, and a work that tells a story. In fact, we humans seem to need that aspect: "Though art is fiction and not reality," says Antonini, "It can deceive us. But it nevertheless seduces us with a story."

Business leader participation

A participant in this group, a representative from the private banking community, has been taking active interest in the "Art for Business" principles. He prefers to remain unnamed, because, as he explained it: "It's not about me, it's about the process. The synergy and brainstorming I get here is only on paper. In reality [in Turkey], people worship the boss' power. Here [at 'Mind Fitness'], that doesn't happen.

"I believe the 'Mind Fitness' idea is strange for Turkey. But a new generation of CEOs here wants to learn. This second generation has been learning how to use art pieces in daily life over the last four to five years in Istanbul. Before, classical art was considered an asset. But now, contemporary art is an asset, too. That is why we've chosen to work [this program] with Elgiz Museum. If CEOs are invited here, they will produce new ideas and create new financial connections. Art can be considered not just an investment, but for your own pleasure!"

"Personally, being on Elgiz' terrace [where there is now a new outdoor exhibit, in place through Aug. 23, of sculptures by artists under the age of 40] is unbelievable -- it's like being in mid-Manhattan! I have already picked out my favorite piece -- it's art but it's a useful toy, it's multi-functional."

Cheat sheet for looking at art

Antonini has constructed a simple "cheat sheet" for people to use as they walk through a museum or gallery. "The museum is a gym for sense-making," he explains.

First, he recommends looking at the small details, no matter how random they may be. Second, notice what materials the artist used. Third, think about why the artist chose to do what he did. Fourth, consider: What does it remind you of? What connections does it make in your mind?

What we took away from the tour was the realization that there is no right or wrong when it comes to the interpretation of any art. We can feel free to enjoy our own subjective and personal responses, which will differ from someone else's. "Many people say, 'Just tell me what I have to do,'" says Antonini. "So I encourage people to be curious, to be interested in the details, even if they are not so relevant."

And lastly, Antonini advocates allowing more time to think: "The average person spends only one minute in front of a work of art. Give yourself more time!"


For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel

Source: Cihan News Agency (Turkey)

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