Three steps to becoming a great art advisor

Students exploring job opportunities in the art advisory field often ask us what it takes to be a really good art advisor. Here is our three-step approach: develop your eye for art, build a deep understanding of the mechanics of the art market and polish your interpersonal skills.

It seems obvious but having a great eye for art is invaluable to a good art advisor. You need to be able to select the best works available from the oeuvre of one artist or from an entire movement. Additionally, the wall power of an artwork is often considered of secondary importance to its art world cred but you need to make sure the art you purchase for your clients fits in with the decor in their home. After all, they have to live with it. How to develop your eye? View art as often as you can (museums, galleries, online) to hone your grasp of the concepts of value and importance in the art market.

Besides the art-historical and aesthetic decisions you will make, there are transactional matters to handle on behalf of your clients. For example, in the case of buying a painting, having established that your client loves the work and it fits in her home, you need to do your price research to make sure that she does not overpay. You may have to negotiate if necessary. As a part of the purchase process you will need to educate your client on sales and other taxes that may apply to her acquisition. An excellent understanding of the mechanics of the art market is essential to being an accomplished art advisor.

Finally, your interpersonal skills are vital to your success. Art advisory is a service business. You will have to be tuned into your clients’ requests even if you don’t always agree with them. You will need to manage your clients’ expectations, for example when they are selling a work and in the current market it is not worth as much as they had hoped for. You will also have to work with teams of advisors (trust and estate attorneys, wealth managers or family offices) to accomplish your clients’ goals in areas that are related to the ownership of art but that you don’t necessarily have expertise in: estate planning and art lending, for example.