While most family business owners have a desire to see their business sustained through the generations, only a few capture the memories in portraiture. Michael Finnigan talks to one next-gen looking to bring back the tradition
After a close friend commissioned a portrait based on an old family photo, taken shortly after World War I, second-gen Lina Linkevi?i?t? saw an opportunity to get entrepreneurial. She launched Timeless Paintings—a Paris-based portraiture business aimed at capturing the stories behind family businesses. But like any new venture, she says the trick is to avoid painting oneself into a corner.
Before I founded Timeless Paintings, I completed a bachelor's and master's degree in theatre in Lithuania, where I was born. I've always been interested in culture, so it made sense to move to Paris—the centre of the world for art, music and theatre. But I also wanted to gain experience in business, particularly the luxury market, so I studied a MBA in marketing studies at the Ecole Internationale de Marketing du Luxe. I've always thought of art in this luxury context.
Timeless Paintings came about by coincidence. A close family friend from an aristocratic family here in Paris, Gilles Lugan, found an old black and white photo of his father standing with his family. The photo was taken just after World War I. He asked another friend who works as a painter to commemorate his family in a portrait. When I saw this painting six months later I was completely stunned. I was blown away by the power of the portrait, but also because it seemed like a sound business idea.
Immediately after seeing the painting, I went back home to Lithuania and talked to my parents. I told them that we should commission a family portrait. One afternoon, I asked my mother to dig out the old photo boxes. What came next really surprised me. By looking to the past and listening to my parents joke about when they were young, we had a completely new family experience. It is just part of the process that I hope our customers will enjoy.
While we're happy to take commissions from any interested party, we have specifically targeted Timeless Paintings at family businesses. The main reason comes from personal experience: when looking at the market, I noticed that so many family stories go untold. So, for example, you go to the supermarket and you buy a bottle of wine, a candle, or even a car, and you don't realise that a family created this product.
Marketing is at the forefront of my thinking with Timeless Paintings. When a client asks us to commission a portrait we will discuss what they're hoping to achieve. That might be as simple as hanging the portrait in the lobby of their headquarters, or to use the piece in their promotional material, website or when launching a new product. To make sure they get the right look and feel we will discuss style, the type of paint, and the individual who will produce the portrait. We hope to promote the spirit of the company.
We're working with artists who take advantage of modern painting methods. For example, our artists could produce paintings in oil or acrylics. We also have experts in various painting styles, including photorealism, contemporary interpretation or street art, produced at a wall at home. We hope to employ a huge variety of artists from different generations and countries. It is important to have young artists. We have already invited one of the winners from the BP Portrait Awards by the National Portrait Gallery in London, Laura Guoke, whose painting Petras now hangs in the gallery, and also Vilmantas Marcinkevi?ius, who recently produced a series of portraits for the Danish royal family.
We offer our customers a personal service that includes researching the photograph to creating something from scratch. Prices vary according to size but to give you an idea, an 80x100cm portrait in oil, featuring five individuals, would cost a family between £15,000 ($18,894) and £30,000 ($37,788). As the painting process unfolds, we send you two photo updates and details of the progress. Upon completion, the family portrait is carefully packed, insured and sent to a preferred address.
The next step is to grow out the business. We're about to launch our website and a presentation video based on Gilles Lugan's family story. We are going to participate in several events, like the European Families in Business Awards 2017 in Prague and in Salon du Luxe in Paris. We are looking to find some sponsors and partners who share the same values as Timeless Paintings.
In the long-term, I hope that Timeless Paintings will grow internationally. We would like to create a travelling exhibition under the name “It all starts in the family” which looks to celebrate family stories and to connect with those families through this artistic context. It's important for families to honour the present moment, their personalities and the important work they do in creating better societies all over the world.
To find out more about Timeless Paintings please visit timelesspaintings.fr. Lina Linkevi?i?t? will also attend the European Families in Business Conference 2017, hosted by Campden Wealth, in Prague on 20-21 June.