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PEOPLE

Can office art change a company's vibe and culture?

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FTI, a business advisory firm specialising in finance and restructuring and one of Taikoo Place's newest tenants, is giving this strategy a try.

“We wanted something to signal a change in our workplace strategy to a more collaborative and creative one”
Alex Welch
"We wanted to create a better working environment for our staff [in our new office]," says Alex Welch, Managing Director of Strategy & Operations of FTI, located in Oxford House. "We wanted something to signal a change in our workplace strategy to a more collaborative and creative one, so the designer we worked with suggested bringing in Used Pencil to create artwork that reflects our new surroundings in Taikoo Place."

Covering a large wall, the mural depicts the history of Quarry Bay, with a stylised landscape including sea and mountains, and a boat carrying sugarcane to Taikoo Place.

FTI is usually seen as a conservative company. So bringing in Used Pencil was an edgy move. "It was challenging for us because we are not natural art brains," says Welch. "But we understood that street art made sense because it's one of the current focuses in Hong Kong. Our designer gave us the idea of making the mural to look like a large Japanese tattoo; we couldn't be more pleased with the result."
Ben Pickering, more popularly known as Used Pencil (so named because he thinks the pencil is the greatest invention ever), has been popular in Hong Kong for his participation in live art battle Secret Walls and exhibitions in venues such as Above Second and Sense 99. He lived in Hong Kong for five years before returning to the UK to teach art to children. "Art is so beneficial for young minds," he says. "I'm so passionate about the arts and feel like it is not appreciated or even valued in education. I teach my students to have fun with art, and about the projects that I get involved with so that they can see the whole process."
Luckily, Pickering still visits Hong Kong often and was therefore able to paint a mural for FTI's move from Central to Quarry Bay. "I really enjoy the process of collaborating with interior designers on murals for businesses around Hong Kong," he says. "I love it when businesses take risks with freelance artists."

The brief was to create a mural that reflects the history of Quarry Bay. Used Pencil's finished work explores Swire's development from sugar refinery and shipping dock to the current real estate development powerhouse with a workplace community, as exemplified by Taikoo Place. "I wanted the story along the walls of the office to flow like the sea as a reminder to everyone of where Swire came from," says Pickering. "Sugarcane first started to be refined in 1884 so I documented the boats that carried the sugarcane, and the refineries." The mural also depicts the evolution of the industry - and how Swire changed alongside it. "I tried to have this reflected in one of Swire's modern buildings," he says. "As you walk around it's a little bit like looking through a photo album, starting with the sugarcane all the way through to the modern architecture."
"The mural has become such a talking point, and we get positive comments about it," says Welch. "We actually have a client meeting with a law firm this evening and we're going to bring them to the office first [to see the mural] before going out. That is something that we wouldn't have done before."

Interested in more murals? We talk to Remi Rough, the artist behind Quarry Bay MTR's installation.
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