VELVENOIR Founder Alexandra Schafer on How Art Can Transform a Space

Contemporary Art Expert Alexandra Schafer on How Art Transforms a Space

We can all agree on art’s potential to transform a space into a personal experience. But how does this potential turn into a reality? My recent talk with Vienna-based contemporary art and hospitality expert Alexandra Schafer sheds light on the creative and logistical process behind selecting, acquiring, handling and installing the “perfect” group of artworks for an interior design concept.

Over a coffee, Alexandra Schafer, the founder of VELVENOIR, an art consultancy firm that specialises in the sourcing and procurement of contemporary artworks, shared some of the interior design projects her internationally-focused business has recently filled with art in Canada, the US and Europe.

Photograph of the Japandi project by Andrea RodmanPhotograph (C) Ema Peter.

Art for a Japandi-style home in the coastal Village of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
This private-residence project, designed by award-winning Vancouver-based interior designer Andrea Rodman, was guided by the vibes of Japandi, a hybrid union of Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetics. While distant, both design styles are appreciated for their exceptional craftsmanship, simplicity, reverence for natural materials, and the beauty of embracing imperfection.

With this vision in mind, Alexandra and her team worked remotely from Vienna with Andrea’s Canadian-based design firm and proposed a list of contemporary artworks for the collectors, a couple with eclectic tastes.

Alexandra discussing artworks with her team

As Schafer explained, the carefully curated selection of artworks considered all aspects of the artworks, from their market value and relevance to the textures, styles, scale, and colour palette.

In this case, the project’s main features were wood, rattan, natural stone, and oak tones, so the challenge was to bring in works that would be statement pieces while at the same time complementing the project’s Zen-like aesthetic. VELVENOIR’s involvement did not end there as the firm, supported by its international network of experts, oversaw all aspects of the shipment, handling, import, and customs next to every minute detail of the framing and hanging.

The large abstract painting of yellow flowers by Canadian artist Bobbie BurgersPhotograph (C) Ema Peter.

For Alexandra, each artwork needs to add something to the story the property is telling about itself and its owners. For example, for the residence’s emblematic staircase, VELVENOIR’s team thought a large-scale abstract painting by Canadian artist Bobbie Burgers would be a perfect fit as its vibrant yellow colours and gestural traces contrast with the white-coloured porcelain pendants that hang from the double-height ceiling.

Another interesting find for this project was an abstract painting by Swiss artist Pia Fries, whose expressionist work and rich textures went perfectly with the project’s concept. “I fell in love with her unique approach and colours,” Schafer said.

Two images showing the artwork installed in ElysianPhotography courtesy of Laurence Carr Inc. (c) Kelly Marschall, 2021.

Elysian: A private residence with a sustainable concept
In Elysian, a private home located in New Jersey, Alexandra and her team sought to represent the clients’ love for mixed-media techniques and the work of emerging artists while at the same time honouring the design concept of renowned NY-based designer Laurence Carr, which follows an ethos of circularity, sustainability, and healthy living. This ethos reflected on how VELVENOIR handled and selected the artworks.

“Throughout the entire project, we ensured all shipments have been collected and/or managed as sustainably as possible to avoid carbon footprint,” Alexandra shared. As part of the sustainable practices, the works were shipped rolled up, and Schafer made sure the works were framed close to the collectors’ home.

Alexandra shared some of the residence’s highlights are works by Nike Schroeder, a renowned LA-based German artist who creates sculptural mixed-media pieces using hanging rayon threads arranged in subtle colour gradations. While not having an ecological theme, most of the artist’s works use rayon, a natural and biodegradable fibre. At the same time, the colourful artwork fit perfectly with the collectors’ interest in mixed-media works and made a statement on the living room’s double-height white wall.

Another work Alexandra lists as her favourite for the project is a lively coloured paperwork by emerging Brazilian artist Mirela Cabral that captures the eye and brings to life the office space of this residence. “The idea was to add powerful yet inspiring art to the vibrant interiors,” Alexandra said of the whole project.

Contemporary artwork specifically chosen to complement the living room colour schemePhotograph courtesy of STEININGER (c) Catherine Roider Photography.

Kensho: The sea as the protagonist in an artful Croatian villa
In this beautiful seaside property, located in Zadar, Croatia, Alexandra and her interdisciplinary Vienna-based team selected artworks that would connect to both the ocean, which is the project’s main character, and to Steininger’s minimalist design concept characterised by the use of materials like concrete brut, exquisite woods, and rare metal alloys.

At the same time, in this one-of-a-kind project, the architecture of the villa also came into the equation as the use of the famous natural stone from the Croatian island of Brač, which has been used for centuries for monuments all over the world, crates a great interplay between the residence and its breath-taking surroundings.

A large photograph of the sea on a bedroom wallPhotograph courtesy of STEININGER (c) Catherine Roider Photography.

Alexandra’s picks from this project, finished in 2019, are Jonathan Smith’s large-scale fine art photographs of seaside scenes, which enhance the poetic presence of the sea in the interior spaces of this lavish residence.

She also mentioned other areas of the property, like the living room and one of its bedrooms, which is filled with large-scale minimal textile works on canvas by Perry Roberts, characterised by their geometric forms and the exploration the artist makes of colour gradations. Remarkably, the artwork’s colour gradations seem to echo the colour palette of the villa’s furniture and finishes.

An image of Alexandra looking at art in a book, and another showing art in a home

After my conversation with Alexandra, something was clear. The pairing between art and design is no simple matter. It involves a deep art sensitivity; first-hand knowledge of the international art market and a direct line to artists, galleries, framers and art handlers; an understanding of the limitations and possibilities of space; and the ability to materialise the client’s interests and design concepts without sacrificing the quality of the artworks which, at the end of the day, form part of a carefully curated and valuable art collection. Like with all things in life, nothing happens by magic…

Photography of the Velvenoir team and Alexandra (C) Katharina Axmann Photography.

Read more interviews and conversations in our dedicated section here.

VELVENOIR Founder Alexandra Schafer on How Art Can Transform a Space 2

Natasha Godbold

Creative Director / Writer

Natasha is a co-founder of Luxurious Magazine® and has undertaken the role of Creative Director. She is a keen photographer and regularly accompanies Paul on hotel and restaurant reviews. Born in Moscow, Natasha like her husband Paul has experienced living in multiple countries around the world. She is bi-lingual and has degrees in English Language and English Literature. Natasha covers all aspect of the luxury industry in her work. Her hobbies include health and fitness, culture and learning about nature and animal welfare.

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