Williams-Sonoma President/CEO Laura Alber C’90 inspires employees through art

“We have always had a legacy of spaces that inspire our people,” Laura Alber C’90, the president and CEO of Williams-Sonoma, Inc., told me recently. “It’s consistent with the business we’re in, which is a very visual business.”

It seemed only natural, then, that as the company readied a new building in San Francisco to house its IT team, Alber  thought about how to include eye-catching inspiration. Natural light and open work spaces were clear first steps, but Alber says she also realized the importance of “putting art there that would inspire them and be relevant.” But where to start?

Through her ties to the ICA — Alber is a member of the museum’s Art Council — she reconnected with fellow alum Chris D’Amelio C’88, who runs the D’Amelio Terras Gallery in New York. “We shared and brainstormed ideas about what to do in that building, and he just had fantastic suggestions,” Alber recalls. “We gave him a general sense of what we were looking for, and then we gave him carte blanche to choose the art. At one point, he brought in a manila folder of options, and I thought every piece was spectacular.”

In the end, 35 works of contemporary art were installed in the new building. Last fall, Alber invited Penn alumni to tour the new collection — an event that the ICA blog wrote up here.

When we spoke earlier this year, Alber named Wolfgang Tillmans’s paper drop (star) III (2008, pictured above) as her favorite work in the group. The 20-by-24-inch photograph — part of the artist’s “paper drop” series — celebrates Tillmans’s fascination with paper and turns photographic paper itself into the subject of a photo.

Here are a few of the other works that Alber and D’Amelio selected:

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