One of the purposes of working with an art advisor is to avoid transactional risk (i.e. overpaying for a work or not netting enough when you sell it). In order to make sure you don’t lose money on your art transaction, here are the three things to know about working with an art advisor.
The difference between consignment and sale
When you sell your artwork through an art advisor they will take the work on consignment. This means that instead of buying the work from you, they will act as your agent to help you, the principal, sell the work. For this service an art advisor charges anywhere between 10-20%. In contrast, when you sell your work to a dealer or gallery, they will own the work outright. This means that after the sale you have no control over the dealer’s sale process, including how much they mark up the price.
Ask how and how much they charge
Most art advisors charge a commission, a flat fee or a combination of both. Your art advisor should be completely transparent about how much they will make out of a transaction conducted on your behalf. As I mentioned before, most art advisors charge between 10 and 20% (at Tang Art Advisory we stick to 10%) and this percentage should be specified in a contract. More and more art advisors (including us) charge upfront deposits or retainers, to cover the substantial legwork they have to do before the work actually sells. Oftentimes these deposits can be deducted from the commission the art advisor earns on the transaction.
Be specific about the consignment period
Contrary to what you may believe, it is not ok for an art advisor to have a loose verbal agreement with you that they’ll sell your art and when it did not sell after 9 months or a year, to still expect a piece of the pie. The correct way to go about this is for you to contractually consign an artwork for a limited period of time (i.e. 6 months or a year) during which the advisor will usually ask for the exclusive right to sell your work, which is entirely normal. If after the end of the consignment period the work has not sold, the art advisor loses her right to a commission, except in cases specified in your contract (ie. the eventual sale was initiated by them before the end of the contract or you sold the work through a connection they made for you during the term of the contract).
This article is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.