In Pursuit Of Excellence – Stephen Schwartz

The CEO of Criterion Management discusses his office art collection.

The presence of art in the office is an essential part of the workplace design. A number of studies have shown that aesthetically pleasing and stimulating environment can lead to increased productivity, creativity, and heightened morale.

Stephen Schwartz is the CEO of Criterion Management LLC, a corporation that works closely with Wall Street professionals, and a long-time art collector. We spoke to him about his interest in collecting art for office spaces and how having art in the work environment can potentially benefit employees.

art for office
Artworks by Valentina Bilbao

“We at Criterion Management are building a business that seeks out the best and brightest, and we want to set that same tone.

The art we have been selecting has been predominately oil and acrylic. The pieces are hopefully thought-provoking and have a very positive feel. I always read up on the artist and enjoy meeting them when possible, but the decision to buy is based almost exclusively on the aesthetic. As the collection grows, we will consider circulating pieces and adding new ones but always staying true to the core principles.”

When you purchase works for your offices, are you thinking of a specific space to fill, or do you find the right space only after you purchase?

First, I have to fall in love with the piece; the painting has to resonate with me in a way that cannot be expressed in words. There has to be something there that reminds me of a feeling, a memory or sensation beyond the pictorial elements, after which I begin to consider the placement of the piece.

What is the impact of having art in your workspace?

I want the employees to hopefully feel what I felt when I walked into Lehman Brothers for the first time, and although the collection is not of the magnitude I saw at LB, the end result at Criterion is the same. At Criterion Management, our focus is on securing the best talent for the financial industry. How we feel about our workspace and the inspiration we derive, not only from one another but from our physical space as well, is crucial to this. Art humanizes a business, softens the edges, and provides a stimulating work environment for our employees and clients alike.

If you like art as much as we do, and want to be updated with the latest info about Agora Gallery, our exhibitions, and our artists, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter!

art for office
Artwork by Marlene Fisher

Some businesses circulate their artwork or get new artwork after a period of time to “update” their spaces. Have you done this? If so, what effect do you think it has?

I may decide to move pieces around one day, but at least for now, the paintings are in the right location. I have to admit that I do look around and consider adding to the collection.

What common elements do you look for in the works you purchase?

Color, color, and more color! I have grown to love abstraction: my daughter Marley has inspired me through her own appreciation for abstract art. She has made pilgrimages to the Chelsea art district and specifically to Agora Gallery on my behalf and has provided her informed feedback. It has been a joyful and bonding experience for both of us.

art for office
Artworks by Geneviève Nicolas

Does the artist’s history affect your purchase at all? Or is it purely aesthetic?

My final decision is based primarily on the aesthetics of the artwork, and how I feel when I am in the presence of it. I begin to learn about the artist during the decision process. There are times when it takes me a while to make the purchase because I want to go back and see a painting again to make sure that I still feel as excited about it as I did when I first saw it.

While there are a number of factors that can affect the mood of the employees while they are at their desks or interacting with their colleagues, art can definitely provide the extra element that makes a space unique. The properly chosen piece of art can firmly establish a room’s identity and purpose.

Related Article: Making Art Work: Art In The Workplace.

Have you noticed the effect the design of your office has on your mood or productivity? Would you propose changing things and how would you do it? Tell us in the comments!


Watch this section for more insight on the art collections of our clients and their process of selecting artworks for their workspaces or homes!

Feeling inspired? Check out our extensive collection of artworks on ARTmine.

*This article was originally published in ARTisSpectrum magazine.


  • As an artist I am really aware of how bare a wall can be when the art is sold, moved, taken down or at a gallery or show. Art just brings magic to a room I think personally and I am a great lover of colourful pieces. I admire realism and how artists can paint that way but I am an abstract artist through and through. I love that they all have a story and a thought as to how they start and sometimes I go off in a totally different direction. I love the stories and I love how I feel when I can share the thoughts I have with paint. Wonderful article. p.s. There is no room in the world for bare walls. 🙂

    • Hi Darlene! We agree with you, art changes the energy of a space!

Leave a Reply