PAT Cast #4: How Art Creates Cities Worth Living In

24 / 05 / 22 - 14 minute read

Art brings beauty to real estate, improving the quality of life for people in big and small cities, public and private spaces. It’s touching and evocative, and it has the power to unite communities.

The PAT Art Lab is dedicated to bringing the joy of art to real estate, by collaborating with street and graffiti artists to create gorgeous murals and public artworks. In this episod


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PAT Cast #4: How Art Creates Cities Worth Living In

Simone Wipplinger: Art touches, enhances and connects. It has the power to bring people together to increase the quality of life for those living in big and small cities and to enjoy to public and private spaces.

Thomas Wels: Art is nothing else but vertical real estate. So it's combination of beautification and making it accessible.

Simone Wipplinger: I'm Simone Wipplinger and a warm welcome to the PAT Cast. The podcast from PATRIZIA, the leading investment manager and partner in global real assets. In this podcast, we offer you insights on hot topics from the real assets industry, from significant sector trends to key business developments and strategic decisions.

Today we're discussing the work of the PAT Art Lab, finding out how the worlds of art and real estate collide.

Tania di Brita: The world is asking for innovation. It's asking for disruptive changes, transformations.

Simone Wipplinger: That's Tania di Brita, Swiss art historian and curator of the PATRIZIA Art Lab who joins our conversation alongside graffiti and street art aficionados, Thomas Wels, Co CEO of PATRIZIA. Both of our guests have fascinating relationships with art, so let's start by finding out more about them. First, Tania explains what the PAT Art Lab is all about.

Tania di Brita: It was founded by the passion for art in 1984. And it's a work and research organisation for contemporary and urban art, but also for society and a sustainable future.

Our vision is really to inspire connect and ideally, and reach or enhance lives through art by designing murals or artworks in the public space.

Simone Wipplinger: Very interesting. But Tania, before we deep dive into PAT Art Lab, can you tell us a bit more about you yourself and your career as an art historian and, and of course, about your role in the PAT Art Lab?

Tania di Brita: So I graduated at the University of Zurich in art history and communication, and I gained various experiences in galleries, auction houses, and then started to take inventory and digitalize small to medium collections and here at PAT Art Lab, I'm the curator I lead, consult, but foremost, I try to empower the organisation to become this platform or hub that can really enrich cities to make them worth living and just make them more colorful and positive.

Simone Wipplinger: But Tania, tell me why this particular attraction to grafitti, street art and urban art?

Tania di Brita: For me, when I discovered it, it was one of the first art movements that just didn't have limits. For me, there are no limits in, in graffiti and street art because it can appear or an artwork can be created everywhere and anytime, and you can visit or see it at any time and it's all completely for free.

Simone Wipplinger: Also Thomas, as I know Thomas, you're a bit of a graffiti and street art aficionados. How did you get in touch with art and why does it fascinate you also that kind of art?

Thomas Wels: I think that started at school, so I was always interested in art very early. My parents brought me to museums, that was more the pop art time, the access to urban art I only got much later than this urban artist movement started. So the start of the movement was in the eighties I would say, I got access to it only 20 years later. So early 2000 for the first digital camera running around in Zurich and some rundown areas.

Simone Wipplinger: Can you tell us Thomas, a bit about the private art collection that you established?

Thomas Wels: I started actually with constructivist art, which is very formal and, uh, in 2005, I thought coming away from photography, into collecting the artists you see in the street, there was a very small step. I did something at that time, 2005, probably very uncommon. So I went to these strange places where you find urban art, so rundown areas, you find the signature, the scribble, and I started research in social media. That was 18 years ago. Instagram didn't exist or just started with that was the platforms, these new artists started to use. Auctions at art net, today this is all taken over by specialised auctions, but also getting access to the artists. So I know some of the Americans going to their, to their studios and, um, I thought I had this space for these pieces. I liked them living with these pieces of art and, uh, well, not, not the place. It's not a collection. My place is pretty much overcrowded with modern art, with urban art.

Simone Wipplinger: How does it feel to live with these pieces? What, what does it make so special?

Thomas Wels: My wife would say I live in a mini Louvre because it's so many pieces, but for me, it's walking around through a building, meeting my friends. It's soothing. All these pieces have a relationship to the artists I met either in New York or in Switzerland or places I connect to. So it's different to the formal approach to modern art.

It's more completely informal, it's building my own history or some people take photos. I have urban art from New York because it reminds me of having met artists, friends, there.

Simone Wipplinger: And basically you always in good company, aren't you?

Thomas Wels: Always in good company.

Simone Wipplinger: Now we've been introduced to the PAT Art Lab, let's dig deeper into the connection between art and real estate. Though the relationship between these two worlds might not be instantaneously obvious, the PAT Art Lab showcases just how interconnected they really are.

Thomas Wels: Art is nothing else but verticle real estate. It's about the walls. So it's combination of beautification and making it accessible. The larger firms, most of them have art collections. This art category is external and internal. So usually many of these companies, um, also in real estate, if you build cities say, you need to have a budget of 1% to invest, to beautify the landscape around the building.

So you don't find that in all cities, but more and more often. There's the ugly part, which is just scribbling and rundown places. And there's the artsy part, which is a bit more orchestrated, I would say. And we decided to do it internally and externally, so the mural outside but also the walls, because it's nice, it's beautiful. You can also buy wallpapers, but having access to an artist who did pieces, it's more fun.

Simone Wipplinger: Now on a more general level, Tania, how do you think that urban creativity contributes to the livability of a city?

Tania di Brita: For me, it's really the primary question behind it is what makes a city livable or worth living.


It's obviously not the grey and concrete walls, but it's also not just the amount of technology. Technological progress, for example. Another important pillar is really the culture or artistic promotion because in the end and we are all social human beings and PAT Art Lab wants to emphasise, to connect and also to, um, exchange about different topic in society.

And therefore art is a great topic to connect and to have an impact. And then this is how also more communication between different communities is created. It's really about this social coexistence of all people in a city that makes it more unique. Like if you go to a cafe, you talk to each other, and this is a point of encounter and this should be enhanced by art in the public sphere, in the public space.

Simone Wipplinger: Thomas is that also why those modern cities seem to be the party for urban creativity? Is that, is that the reason what Tania just mentioned or is there another reason behind, uh, urban creativity being particularly to be found in modern cities?

Thomas Wels: I think it's perhaps even the other way round, the creativity usually started in places which were not modern, but they were rundown so typically the redevelopment parts, uh, of a city, where investors would probably say, this is the next place for gentrification. When I went to Williamsburg in Brooklyn, some 20 years ago, this was a dangerous place, today it's the most expensive places in New York because it's the train is driving in 10 minutes to the Wall Street or to Southern Manhatten.

The issue is that urban planning is not really good in integrating all parts of what makes it interesting to live in these places. So if a city is, and we saw it in Zurich, we see it in Los Angeles. When Zurich was rebuilt, starting in the two thousands, all the old stuff was just torn down and replaced by architecture. For the first 10 years you would, you would have said, this is not the place where I want to live.

And actually the urban planning, forgot that people want and have to live there. So what was missing actually was, was color, uh, Switzerland and specifically Zurich, they, they, they love modern concrete architecture. And what was forgotten that you need a little bit of greenery. This is happening with, with a significant delay.

And my view is city planning and urban planning has to improve massively because living in places which are gentrified today, that's much more interesting because there's a combination of keeping the old and the new together, making sure that greenery is around and making sure that boutiques, galleries, cafes, and urban artists are living together because otherwise every city looks like a shopping mall in Hong Kong or Singapore. So we have to learn that, and some cities did it better and some cities didn't.

Simone Wipplinger: Which cities Thomas, would you say have done a good job?

Thomas Wels: I would say Copenhagen is a pretty good place. Um, Hamburg, um, London is an interesting one because, um, it's it's side-by-side so you can go to Brick Lane, go to cafes and Brick Lane is changing all the time.

The shops are changing all the time. And 10 years ago, Brick Lane, 15 years ago, Brick Lane was a dangerous place, but they didn't destroy the fabric of the past.

And there is another very good example is in Lisbon. For example, they really try to find the balance between, um, some places where it's completely up to graffiti and street art to appear.

And then they found the way to also have really commissioned murals that maybe have been created by more established artists because in the end. it's always finding also a balance within the local artist, street art or graffiti community, because not to forget, there is always a local crowd that is already expressing in the urban space.

And then when you invite an artist or commission a wall, it's obviously something from outsiders to come in. Therefore I think it's always about how to make it work for all the parties.

Simone Wipplinger: And I think no one would object to having colour on the wall helps a lot in terms of livability, but on the subject of graffiti, Thomas, we would all not be too happy if someone randomly started tagging our property. How do you approach the issue of art in public space?

Thomas Wels: I'm a little bit schizophrenic there, it drives me crazy if it happens to me. And at the same time, I think the way how to avoid that a bit is cleaning up fast, it's costly, but then the taggers they're not interested anymore because they want to have that stay. At the same time, if you don't orchestrate that in a city, you actually attract these guys and girls again, so you have to make space available where people have a bit more freedom. Only that way you can control and steer it a bit. You can call it orchestration of urban art.

Simone Wipplinger: Tania, can you tell us about the artists that are featured in the PAT Art Lab and is there like a, I dunno, how, how do you select them?

Tania di Brita: It's about positivity. It's about optimism. It's about bringing color and they really should have this, this unique or maybe disruptive signature. And we are always seeking to artists that also understand the whole package, let's say, of PAT Art Lab because it comes with this connection to PATRIZIA, but also to the PATRIZIA foundation.

So there is also this kind of understanding of the social responsibility. That is always part of our project.

Simone Wipplinger: Tanya already mentioned the Patricia foundation. This is the charitable arm of the organisation that's working to bring educational infrastructure to the places that need it most, ensuring all kids and young adults receive the education they deserve. All the proceeds from the PATRIZIA Art Lab go to the foundation. So let's learn a bit more about this collaboration.

Tania di Brita: When we collaborate, we really try to bring into action, the building communities and sustainable future, which is the vision of PATRIZIA. So it's really bringing together the people, the artists with the children, it's bringing together different communities, maybe from different parts of the world, but also from different social backgrounds or even bringing together the PATRIZIA employees and artists and talking about how creativity can create better in our normal or business life. It's important also looking from educational point of view to offer these children that we collaborate with a different perspective or also a different, let's say, nourishment for their soul or their, their brains that is maybe outside of the context of school or preschool, really to let them just paint around in a workshop and let them go a bit crazy with paint and the results have been shown to be really unique as well at this point, then I think it's all, there is also studies that really see art as a therapeutical approach to children, but also adults. The common ground I have talked to many, um, street artists, but also to people in general, when they think about their childhood, it's really the community that matters in the end, it's always the community to carry your path.

Simone Wipplinger: Thomas, you already mentioned the project in Frankfurt that we did not restrict the artists too much. Why is it so important that we offer places where artists can really go crazy and have almost complete creative freedom?


Thomas Wels: It really goes back into art history. How did artists, um, in the 17th, 18th, 19th, century actually make money. They made portraits of traders in, in the Netherlands. They, uh, did portraits of the wives and the girlfriends of the traders.

That was usually the church which was the big sponsor of art, but they all, they always gave guidelines. So the art, the Dutch artists would have done. If the artists would not have been dependent on this restriction of the sponsor probably would have looked completely different. So obviously there, there's also a commercial element that artists have to live somehow. And we don't, we want to avoid that we end up with a group of van Gogh's becoming crazy or poor. So it's, it's a commercial approach and we try to do it as with as little restrictions as possible so that the artists can use all the degrees of freedom, all his creativity to produce what he would have produced under normal circumstances as well.

Simone Wipplinger: Tania is the world ready for art as a service and giving the artists then a lot, let's not say complete freedom, but a lot of freedom is the world ready for that?

Tania di Brita: I think the world is asking for it. Like the world is asking for innovation, it's asking for disruptive changes, transformations, and I think in the right way, we need to observe how creativity works.

Creativity as such is, is, uh, is a very transformative force that can change or can enforce change. So I think it's really these collaborations that maybe the artwork itself is just a symbol or just a reminder of that process of creativity. But I think all the challenges in between to let's say, work out a contract or having the site ready for the artists and all these organisational challenges that often, are quite intricate in, in art project.

And I think regarding the, the process of creativity, I think there is a lot of force and therefore the world is asking for it, but sometimes unconsciously, uh, waiting for something to happen instead of really looking at where transformations or change really happens. And I experienced that through creativity. There is like a really disruptive kind of thinking that can help or enforce, promote change.

Simone Wipplinger: Thank you too our guests Thomas Wels and Tania di Brita. And thank you all for listening. I am Simone Wipplinger and you've been listening to the PAT Cast from PATRIZIA. You can subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. And don't forget to head over to our website,, to find out more. Now, stay safe and stay healthy and tune in again until the next time.

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