It’s funny the things that you see on Twitter. When this tweet appeared from RetractionWatch guru Ivan Oransky, it got me wondering why a Pharma company like GSK would be selling off over 350 paintings.

A quick call to GSK’s Philadelphia,US, office provided the simple explanation. According to company spokesperson Jennifer Armstrong, GSK is moving its Philadelphia operations to a brand new building, which opens this weekend. ‘The new workspace is completely open, without any individual offices, so we don’t have so many interior walls to hang artwork. The walls we do have are also used for other purposes – they’re either glass, or for writing on or tacking things to,’ she says.

GSK's new Philadelphia home

GSK’s new Philadelphia home

I guess this is part of a trend of moving to more energy-efficient designer buildings. And while GSK’s employees enjoy the sweeping views of the city from their new glass and steel quarters, the artwork that hung in the old ones will be finding new homes. Employees were offered first dibs on any pieces to which they had formed a particular attachment through a series of internal auctions, Armstrong says.

Many of the paintings in the collection are by local Philadelphia artists. But one, The trial of the bow by N C Wyeth, was part of a series depicting scenes from Homer’s Odyssey, thought to have been lost forever. The company donated the picture to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which stands less than a mile from the old office building. The proceeds from the auction of the rest of the works will go to supporting local art charities.

The sale brings up an interesting question about workspaces and ergonomics. What value do you place on how your work environment looks and feels? Does having art on your workplace walls inspire and comfort you? Should it be relevant to what your organisation does? That can be a dangerously slippery slope in chemistry – especially if you end up with some random stock images or don’t check with a chemist first.

Phillip Broadwith

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