Some can and some can't , but how can you tell the difference?
Great Art Consultant
an intimate knowledge of art, and the art market.
An art consultant does not have to be an expert in all
fields of art, but must have established a wide enough
network of contacts and sources to be able to procure
and find out about any area of the art world from antiquites
to South American textiles to American prints from 1930's.
History of Art Consultng
as a good pyschiatrist by helping you understand your
taste and what you really want from collecting art. She
works with you to get to know your sensibility and finds
good art at the best prices that reflects you. But she
doesn't stop there. Based on her knowledge of available
art and a clear understanding of your personality, she
presents you with options that stretch your taste and
your intellect. She opens your mind.
advises, and happily shares her knowledge with you. She
introduces you to her sources and takes you to artists'
studios. She hopes that, eventually, if you want, you
will become so enamoured of the art market that you'll
strike out on your own. You won't need her any more, rather,
you will refer her to your other "less experienced"
totally transparent financially so that you have a complete
understanding of your art costs and how much she makes
from each transaction. Most likely, she charges by the
hour, plus a percentage of the total budget or, if she
may make her money on her trade discount. Either way she
should tell you exactly how much she is making.
the mid 80's it seemed as if everyone was becoming an art
consultant. Hundreds of suburban women looking to get back
in the work force took it up as an easy way to create a
business from home. Primarily, most consultants depended
on business from start-up corporations interested in collecting
art, and worked with private clients as a secondary source
of business. Some were very competent and reputable but
many more were not.
this day there has never been any sort of regulation of
art consultants. However, there is one important association
that tries to establish standards of quality and fiduciary
responsibility - the APAA or The Association of Professional
Art Advisors. Their members have been trained in art history
and all have track records of helping major corporations
build important collections.
primary criterion consultants for joining APAA is not based
on the size or splendor of the collections they have built,
but how they operate their businesses. APAA members cannot
have inventory and cannot earn their money on the discount
that dealers might give a reseller. They must charge by
the hour, by a percentage of the value of the entire project,
or some combination of the two. They believe, as do I, that
an art consultant should be treated the same way as any
other professional - a lawyer, accountant, etc., and that
consultants who own inventory or earn commissions from dealers,
have inherent conflicts of interest and cannot objectively
acquire a piece of art. Whatever discounts are received
by a consultant should automatically be passed on to the
client. The discount structure or the ownership of art is
not a factor in the decision to buy.
Lack of Standards
date, the attempt to universally impose these standards
has not been successful. Many very competent art consultants
do not belong to APAA, and use all sorts of fee structures
based on their clients' desires.
people prefer not to pay by the hour because they believe
it to be more expensive in the long run. An art consultant
who charges $125.00 per hour is seen as expensive; it is
believed hourly rates somehow escalate more rapidly resulting
in a larger total sum. But, like an accountant or a lawyer
(professionals who normally charge by the hour) an art consultant
is also a professional. Typically, the total sum, based
on an hourly rate, is equal to or less than a set fee.
to Buy at Auction
again, Do Your Homework.
you see something you're interested in, go to ArtNet
or Adec - both are online
databases which track the sales and pricing of artwork sold
at auction. Look up works by the same artist, the same size,
the same subject, at the same point in their career as the
works in which you are interested. Although Artnet and Adec
are the best online sources, both charge a monthly access
fee. I just found another source, however, and its free!
It is icollector
- this site, however, does not have the most up-to-date
auction prices and does not have many illustrations. Remember,
the market value of a certain piece of art often varies
depending on the subject matter as well as the period of
career in which the work was done. You'll often find that
still lives by a famous artist will sell for a lower price
than her landscapes, or vice-versa.
check condition. Works sold at auction may be by a famous
artist, but even Sotheby's and Christie's will not disclose
a condition problem or the fact that a piece has been restored.
auction companies that sell "antique" furniture also try
to pass off artwork by artists such as Erte or Miro as originals
when, in fact, they are not. Many of these items are photomechanical
reproductions and have no value. Look very closely at the
artwork through a piece of glass. Can you see the dot structure
of a screen? If so it's been reproduced on a printing press.
History of the Auction Houses
the early 1970's the auction houses have had a major impact
on the contemporary art market. For decades auctions were
the purview of a small band of dealers that understood the
market and purchased at lower prices for resale.
first major jump from this rather self-absorbed little society
into the larger cultural consciousness came in the early
'70's when Robert and Ethel Scull sold a portion of their
late 60's Pop Art collection for a huge profit. The auction
market hasn't looked back since. If you recall, art was
touted as a hedge against the rampant inflation of the'70's,
and more retail money started flowing in.
the mid - 80's Alfred Taubman, a real estate developer,
bought Sotheby's and changed the auction world by marketing
to the masses. He established the Arcade auctions, which
sold works of art at lower prices and drew in hundreds of
new retail clients. Through marketing he attracted the new
money from the Wall Street Boom, plus the seemingly never-ending
supply of money from the Japanese. The art market was no
longer made up of club-like cliques.
and Christie's liquified the auction market by extensively
increasing their client base. Because of this liquidity,
for the first time, art could be - and unfortunately was
- viewed as a commodity in which one could invest.
art bought at auction was truly chic. Important CEOs, when
persuaded to attend auctions, found themselves surrounded
by peers and collegues alike. Their acquisitions received
great press appearing on Page Six column of the New York
Post. As a result, prices continued to sore. I remember
one auction at which a Jasper Johns print sold for a ridiculously
high price. My friend, a print dealer who had the same print
in stock for much less, had to keep herself from jumping
up and yelling "Don't buy it here. Buy it from me!".
music ended in 1990 and the auction market tanked, leaving
the Japanese with thousands of overpriced mediocre Impressionist
paintings and many Wall Street tycoons, with a lot of art
they really didn't want in the first place.
how is it now? Well, things are strong again. Excellent
work gets excellent prices, but there is not the sort of
tulip bulb frenzy that reigned in the late 80's - Thank
God. And the print market, which suffered the most, has
yet to come back with the same force as the market for painting
and sculpture. Collectors, today, are rationally cautious.
How the internet will affect this in the future is anyone's
guess. Sotheby's will start on line in the Spring. We'll
Net and The Art World - A New Dynamic
internet is now three years old, and the amount of art on
the net is enormous. Just put "art" into a search engine
like Yahoo and you'll get millions of results. And yet,
the art world remains relatively unchanged. What you see
is a migration of the same three basic markets- the local,
the tacky, the legitimate - from physical to virtual space,
and as you would expect, the most ubiquitous art site is
that of your neighborhood artist. There are literally millions
of artists who have put their own personal art sites on
the net. Not to mention thousands of awful galleries. In
order to spend your net time wisely, follow my links under
net has made it much easier to find auction price history
for specific works of art. There are two sites which have
huge databases that trace auction prices over the past five
years - Artnet and Adec.
They both charge a small fee for montyly access. The majority
of auctioned works on these sites have images so that you
can compare your Renoir print with others. It is a lot easier
than going to the library and sifting through tons of old
catalogs. I find it to be an indispensable source.
I asked a very prominent dealer several years ago if he
would put his expensive works on the net, he said, "Of course
not." He said that if anyone could compare his Dubuffet
that cost six figures with other Dubuffets available on
the net, his might not look so special. He, of course, now
has his Dubuffet on line, but he's right. It doesn't look
so special. Much of buying an expensive piece of art is
context, ambiance, and pure face to face salesmanship. The
web, therefore, is not appropriate for all expensive objects.
It is also important to remember people prefer to sell their
expensive works through art dealers rather than auction
houses because they require a certain level of discretion.
No one has ever accused the internet of being discreet
the success of Ebay, the big auction houses have decided
to go on line. Sotheby's will soon hold its first major
auction and ArtNet just opened the first site selling expensive
material- both to a smashing success. It should be interesting
to see how well expensive art sells online. Also in the
mix, Ebay just bought the prestigious San Francisco auction
house Butterfield and Butterfield. But judging from
what I see on Ebay, I assume there will be a few bargains.
Internet fever seems to take over the otherwise rational
minds of auction buyers, and the most mundane items frequently
sell for more than they would otherwise.
modern photography market is a recent phenomenon, which
began in the early 70's with a wonderful dealer named Harry
Lunn, recently deceased. Harry and a handful of other dealers,
started insisting that the art world look at photographs
as a form of legitimate artistic expression. They exhibited
photographs, made catalogs, books, and published limited
edition prints from the estates of deceased photographers.
primary distinction in value of a photograph is whether
it is vintage or modern - vintage, being printed by the
photographer within 3-5 years of the time the negative is
made. Modern reprints, prints from negatives either done
late in the photographer's career, or made posthumously
by the photographer's estate, are considered far less valuable
from a market standpoint. Despite the fact that the image
may be equally appealing. Other factors have to do with
paper, condition, and edition size. It's a highly technical
market which defies easy understanding. If you are going
to spend under $1000 on a photograph, enjoy. If you're going
to spend more than that be sure to do your homework.