The Michaelangelo effect: how perspiration needs inspiration to thrive

A Kiwi is waking Danish companies up to the benefits of art in the workplace

The Sistine Chapel’s ceiling was bare once. From 1480 until 1508. How that must have irritated the worshippers, with nothing to look at for a full 28 years.

Hugo Ludbrook – the Kiwi founder of Kunsthavn, a company that provides art to brighten up office space in Denmark – encountered the same problem when he first arrived in Copenhagen.
“Empty walls and terrible abstract art that has been in the same spot for ten years,” he recalled.

“This was the reason I started Kunsthavn. I got sick of visiting offices where there were a bunch of white walls or art so terrible and old that no-one gave it a second glance when they walked past.”

A bit of dynamism
Kunsthavn, a recent Creative Business Cup prize winner that directly translates as ‘artport’, offers its services to companies to make their working environments more welcoming and interesting. 
“I liked the metaphor of a port where everything is in a constant state of change,” explained Ludbrook, who moved permanently to the capital a little over three years ago.
“I wanted to bring a bit of dynamism to offices by offering a service where artworks could be replaced every six months for example.”

Good for productivity
According to Ludbrook, it is well proven that there is a direct link between the productivity of an office and the workplace environment. 
“Just look at what Google is doing in all of their offices around the world,” he contended.

“They are investing in their staff so that they feel welcome and want to stay at work. What we’re saying is, you don’t need to go to the Google extreme, but let’s at least make a start by getting some fresh art on the walls, start investing in your staff a bit more, because in most cases they represent a company’s largest expense, so keeping them happy is a good investment.”

Outsourcing makes sense
After all, companies outsource the care of their plants, water coolers and coffee machines, so why not art?
“Art is one of those tough products where there is no right or wrong answer and the problem companies face is who should select the art for their walls,” Ludbrook continued.
“The CEO? The secretary? The HR manager? Who knows the most about art? We’re offering a service where we’ve gone out and found art that will more often than not please everyone and yet still look good.”

Getting known
However, it’s not been plain sailing so far. While Ludbrook needed minimal investment to launch the business, he initially found it difficult to get Kunsthavn on companies’ radars. 
“We’ve had great feedback since we got started, but it’s tough getting a foot in the door,” he conceded.

“Art is a very low priority for most companies – they have more important things to focus on. But we’ve found that once they understand they can outsource all the work to us, they realise how easy it can be for them.”
Since then, there have been some pretty major deals.
“Signing up Maersk Oil as a first customer was a huge deal,” enthused Ludbrook.

“From there it was just about maintaining the momentum.”

Fired by a passion
Finding artists, on the other hand, has been an easy task. Ludbrook has a well-established network of 30 to draw from thanks to his previous involvement in Copenhagen art circles.
It is clearly an area that he is passionate about.

“I get to talk and meet with artists, see a bunch of great artworks and meet lots of new people,” he said.
“Sure, there’s way less money and security, but it’s so much more fun!”

With prices starting at just 55kr per work per month, it’s easy to see why some companies are interested in Kunsthavn. Find out more by emailing or at