The first day of the New Year is a few weeks from now. As it approaches, and Art Basel Miami festivities fade, news stories about the art world remain exciting and cool. We want to be part of the art world! We want to collect art! We can do it! Wait, what? How?
Art is many things. It has character, form, and influence. It inspires various feelings - we like it or we don't. For some of us, collecting art is a passionate activity of acquiring objects that we love. For others, collecting art is a status symbol or a hopefully sound and reasoned means of investment.
Regardless why we collect art, with the quantity and kind of information zipping around the world, thanks to the internet, if you are a novice collector or an experienced collector and have decided to refine or manage your collection, there are a few questions to ask yourself: what are you doing, what do you want to do, what do you love, and what will you do? The purpose of first question is to examine your art collection activity so far, and determine if you like the choices you've made. The second question is to check in - it's obviously simple - what do you want to do? But it's also complicated - how do you know what you want to do - with respect to your collection or your art collecting goals? Thirdly, what entices you about art? What is it that draws you in and whets your desire to acquire anything? Lastly, what are your plans, and if asked, would you collect and manage your collection differently?
Hire an Art Advisor
An Art Advisor is a professional consultant who can help you develop your answers to these four questions. She is knowledgeable in art and all the aspects of acquiring and maintaining an art collection. She will have the best resources to help you evaluate and review your collection, and will guide and organize your collection to help you measure the aesthetic and economic value of your collection. She will help you acquire art that interests you, and will work within your budget and limitations to keep your work safe and your collection cohesive. When evaluating your collection, your art advisor will understand what appeals to you and why you collect the work you do. This is important because that is how she will help you continue to build your collection, and its value, with work that you like. Lastly, because collecting art is an expensive passion, engaging an art advisor is a great way to safeguard your investment and ensure your money is spent in support of your personal aesthetic and protective of your art work and your collection goals. Avoid risk by working with an art advisor.
What is an art advisor? An art advisor understands art from the ground up. She possesses professional knowledge about art, how it's made, as well as the history of art. She is an expert who knows how to present art to its advantage, and how to protect it. She possesses a deep understanding of the value of art, what can damage it, and which artists take care of their professions. Your art advisor invests time and effort to help you acquire rare art work, locally or from around the world after research and study. Your art advisor is a professional who works for you, and makes introductions, negotiates art acquisitions, and make sure it arrives safely. She is a professional advisor with a deep understanding of your goals and their relationship with art.
How would you select an Art Advisor?
Many resources exist online and off. Social media sites, such as LinkedIn, have search features to help you find an art advisor. Professional dealer associations have invitation only networks of dealers who work closely with art advisors. Other resources include your interior designor or favorite gallery, as they often work closely together, and don’t forget your personal network, as it’s likely you have friends who are collectors too who work with art professionals.
Evaluate your art advisor closely. Remember, this is someone who will help you make considerable financial decisions for something that may hang on your wall or rest in a corner of your home or office, and will be part of your daily life.
Understand the nature of your art advisor’s work and experience. Although she will probably not disclose her client list to you, she should be able to broadly discuss the kind of art work she has acquired for her clients. A detailed understanding of past projects can help you understand her limitations and experience. Be open about the work you have collected, or would like to collect. Describe what you like, and be specific about everything important to your aesthetic and collection. Engage your advisor with questions to understand whether she understands you, and ask her for ideas or suggestions, just be careful, as she may not want to be to open with this until you have a signed agreement in hand. An open conversation about the work is vital to understand her work and that she can understand your goals. You need to know, and convey, from the very beginning, the exact services you expect and what you expect from your art advisor.
Budget and financial limitations are important considerations. Collecting art can be expensive, to purchase and maintain, your art advisor must be aware of your budget and understand whether financial restriction are in place.
Discuss your art advisor’s fees. Is she paid on commission or on an hourly basis? Will she require a retainer? Does she have a minimum hourly requirement? Are her commissions based on price or quantity or project? The answers to these question will vary based on your goals and the work involved. Discuss as much as you can at the initial interview to avoid financial surprises. Discuss shipping charges, framing charges, insurance, restoration, installation, lighting, etc. You need to know exactly what to expect, and how much will be involved in your acquisition.
The greatest wealth of an advisor is access. An experienced art advisor will have resources to help you find art work. Understand the extent of her reach, and maximize yours accordingly. She may know of art work you seek coming up at auction, or, be in communication with artists whose work is only available within a closed network based on trust.
One of my favorite reasons for working with an art advisor is that she removes the impulse factor from your transactions. Emotion is a powerful force, and many of us have been foolishly driven by ego. Who hasn’t heard a passionate art collector say, “I only buy art that speaks to me,” or been tempted to spend over budget because of an artist’s or dealer’s influence? An art advisor is aware that her best interests are in protecting her client, and will not be swayed by emotion. She will make reasonable decisions based on reason and value, with a clear understanding of your personal aesthetic.
An art advisor should give you direction. If you are a novice collector, just starting out, or are unsure about what to acquire, an art advisor will help you understand the basics and design a collection path for you.
The market value of art work is like the stock market, it rises and falls depending on trends, often affected by supply and demand. Your art advisor will ensure you only pay the correct price for your acquisitions. She will simplify the process of buying art and navigate your way through the maze of artists, dealers, art handlers and installers, insurance, and any other professional (appraiser, conservator, restoration expert) necessary. Her knowledge and interest will help you acquire valuable workd. She will provide sound advice and will be the guide you need!
The world of art is very widespread and you definitely need an advisor to reach the corners and scale demographic distances. It also helps you associate with the very best in the market and completely negates the risk of losses or being cheated. Some people skip the process of working with an art advisor to avoid unnecessary fees and payments but in the end pay more for art pieces or completely miss the opportunity of acquiring something unique. It’s a small but smart investment that can maximize profit and be a fruitful investment in the end. Working with an advisor also helps you save time and money. They do all the running around and lengthy negotiations on your behalf. It may not be possible for you to travel from one place to another but an advisor will do it for you. In the end, you save time, money, effort and also get the reward of rare and unique art pieces that match your style and at the best prices! It’s a great deal!
For those who collect art as a form of investment it becomes even more important to reach out to untapped resources to collect rare pieces of art that are not easily available or accessible in the market. It just makes the investment more profitable. After all, the rarer the piece, more the value!
Footnote: Here is a story about a completely preventable and expensive situation that could have been avoided by the FBI and the GSA if they had hired a competent and knowledgeable art advisor, and, as an adjunct, who doesn't know the story of Richard Serra's woes when the government bought his site specific installation, Tilted Arc? It was the precursor for the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA). On LinkedIn here.
All photography Micaëla van Zwoll.