Featured on FORBES: Is Co-Working The Future Of Art?

By Benjamin Wolff, Forbes contributor – Leadership section

Read the full article here.

Since exploding onto the scene ten years ago, co-working has touched almost every part of urban — and, increasingly, suburban — life. It has transformed people’s relationships to their workplaces, accelerated the growth of the gig economy and grown to be a major renter/owner of commercial real estate in cities around the world. Now co-working is poised to change the business of art and the lives of artists as well.

Painter Jenny Feinberg had just moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco in 2018 when she learned that Serendipity Labs was looking for large scale abstract art for its new Hollywood location. The turnaround was quick, but Feinberg was able to fill the space with her colorful paintings. “It happened to be two blocks from my studio. I literally walked the canvases over with a friend.”

Feinberg sold all her works at that first Serendipity Labs show, and she credits the opportunity for launching her career in Los Angeles. “I booked five shows after that Serendipity one because there’s something about having a solo exhibition that makes you look more established. You need a first validator who wants to let your art breathe life.”

John Arenas, CEO of Serendipity Labs, feels it’s part of his mission to be that first validator. Serendipity Labs provides artists with a commission-free venue to mount a six-month solo show — and, as Arenas pointed out, the space is architecturally sophisticated and welcoming to guests and potential clients. “With some of the exhibition spaces that emerging artists have access to,” he said, “you don’t want to park there at night.”

Whether it’s with their art program or community events, Serendipity Labs focuses on figuring out what works best and then replicating that success at all their locations. (Since her first exhibit at their Hollywood location Feinberg has already shown at another Serendipity Labs.) At The Yard, a New York City-based co-working company with additional sites in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., independently curated art gives each location a unique look and feel.

When an artist contacts Michaeline Sander, head of The Yard Art Program and founder of Sander Design & Art Consulting, she goes over their portfolio and arranges an introduction to one of the consultants who curate shows at each location. “I put artists in touch with curators who share a similar outlook and style,” said Sander. “I connect them so that they can begin a relationship and see if they want to work together.”

A good fit between creator and curator is essential because artists only show once at The Yard. “A lot of our members move between locations, especially in New York City. When they’re in our Williamsburg and Lincoln Square locations, for example, they get completely different shows. It’s like going to two art galleries in a day,” explained Sander.

But co-working spaces are not galleries. The people who see the art on the walls of a co-working space are primarily the members who pay to work there. So both Serendipity Labs and The Yard discourage art with an explicit agenda.

“Serendipity Labs wants to steer away from becoming a platform for messages we can’t manage,” said John Arenas. “Our guidelines are designed to reflect our brand values of trust and respect of all our members.” Michaeline Sander of The Yard concurred, “We try to be very aware of the different people who are working in our spaces, so we have rules about what is appropriate.”