New York City skyline conceptualizing SAP Gallery of Purpose public art

SAP Gallery of Purpose: Public Art Gives a Voice to the Marginalized

Public art is powerful because it unites people around universal themes, opening minds, and — just maybe — changing the world for the better. This is the goal of the SAP Gallery of Purpose program, which commissions artwork that so far has addressed gender equity, education, homelessness, hunger and food waste, and the role of technology.

“Every one of the pieces is connected to our corporate commitments to purpose, including diversity and sustainability, like Learning for Life and Business Beyond Bias, as well as to SAP software driving the Intelligent Enterprise in the experience economy,” said Janis Fratamico, global head of Brand Experience at SAP. “Equally important, this artwork reflects SAP’s support for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which include quality education and responsible consumption and production.”

Art Shows How Tech Humanizes Customer Experience

When I last talked with artist Markus Sebastiano, he was developing his first piece of artwork on gender equity for SAP Gallery of Purpose, which was displayed at SXSW. Since then, his second creation, “The Recipe,” drew crowds at the recent SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference. The richly textured, digitally enhanced photograph depicts a timeless kitchen scene of a young girl baking cookies with a modern twist. As her mother in the background suggests, “1/2 cup of sugar darlin’,” a bubble text from a virtual assistant answers, “Well… Grandma never measured.”

Public art from SAP Gallery of Purpose
“The Recipe,” from artist Markus Sebastiano, drew crowds at SAPPHIRE NOW

“I wanted to show how the future of business has feelings,” said Sebastiano. “In this case, the technology reminds the mother of something she may have forgotten. Recipes are lost or written over. With additional information, the digital assistant connects the little girl to her grandmother, forging family relationships.”

We might think analytics that track our movements are cold, but Sebastiano wanted to show how technology can be humanizing.

“Although I’m a solo artist and SAP is a large corporation, we’re both passionate about the intersection of the customer experience with technology,” he said.  “My partnership with SAP is expanding my perception of how art affects the world for the better of people.”

Quality Education Expands Opportunities

New York-based artist Liam Alexander used the element of surprise to magnify the power of shared learning in his piece of artwork for SAP Gallery of Purpose, “The Great Equalizer.” It portrays a girl and a boy, who at first glance appear to be still images. The girl reads a book and the boy stares ahead. After a few seconds, the children come to life in a continuous video loop, with the girl passing her book to the boy who takes it and starts reading, while the girl picks up another volume.

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“I want people to experience wonder when they see this artwork,” said Alexander. “Curiosity opens our minds to new ideas. If everyone is educated, we can solve so many of the world’s problems.”

Significantly, the artwork portrays a non-traditional approach to education. Modern learning is an ongoing, shared responsibility among children, adults, business, and the community.

“What’s very cool about this project is how SAP is connecting its work for the greater good of humanity,” said Alexander. “Transforming education might not be automatically associated with enterprise software. However, these small things we do can have huge impact. If you have 7 billion people trying to solve a problem, we’ve got a real good shot at figuring it out.”

Sustainable, Beautiful Art Inspires

SAP Gallery of Purpose public art from Cara Piazza
Artist Cara Marie Piazza created “Reuse, Respect, Reclaim,” primarily from waste materials

Creating abstract artwork from reclaimed flowers and vegetable scraps destined for the trash, New York-based Cara Marie Piazza describes herself as an artisanal dyer. It’s hard to believe the color-splashed, quilted patchwork of silk triangles she created for SAP Gallery of Purpose was fashioned out of wilted roses, outer cabbage leaves, coffee grounds, lemon juice, onion skins, and rust water. However, using natural, plant-based colors and materials was the point of Piazza’s multi-layered artwork, “Reuse, Respect, Reclaim.”

“I re-appropriate what others might consider waste to create something sustainable and beautiful,” she said. “Art is about storytelling, a way to break out of our personal social media echo chambers. Partnering with a global technology company like SAP, we can make art more accessible and reach people in a different context.”

Piazza said she chose triangles for her artwork because that shape represents resilience and reclamation. Multi-layered with yellow splatters and darts of blue, the piece aims to cut through people’s frazzled attention spans.

“Art in public places like this can uplift and bring to light people who are marginalized and don’t necessarily have a voice. It can build community and foster relationships,” said Piazza. “People can slow down, reconnecting with nature and each other.”

Public Art Rallies People Around Change

Artwork from the SAP Gallery of Purpose will be displayed on the second floor of The Shops at Hudson Yards, adjacent to the company’s New York headquarters at 10 Hudson Yards, as it’s created. The pieces will be mobile too, and appear at events worldwide.

“We hope to inspire people with what we are doing with others to make the world run better, introducing a broader audience to who we are and what we do,” said Fratamico.


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