This may come as a surprise but the opacity of the art market is not just confusing for art collectors, it’s also confusing for those of you who want to work as art advisors. So let’s cover the basics here.
What Does An Art Advisor Do?
An art advisor advises emerging and experienced art collectors on all matters related to the acquisition, sale and management of their art collections. Art advisors provide value by acting as their clients’ advocate. By providing market research and art expertise, art advisors save their clients money and time, and reduce their transactional risk (such as buying a painting with title or authenticity issues). Art advisors often collaborate with other experts, such as wealth managers, trust & estate attorneys, conservators and appraisers.
How Do You Begin A Career In This Field?
There is no clear career path for art advisors. Many successful dealers, gallery owners and art advisors started at the bottom and worked their way up to the top over many years, gaining invaluable experience in the process. Others had successful careers outside of the art world and decided to change gears and make a living out of their passion for art.
What Education Is Required?
No education is required. Anyone can call themselves an art advisor and start a business. And there really is no substitute for developing an eye for art by viewing art and reading about art as often as you can. That said, of course it will be helpful to you to have had some form of education on art, for example the study of a particular art-historical period. This will also help you to determine the area of the market you’d like to work in (i.e. Contemporary Art or Impressionist Art). An art business degree will help you to understand the art market and how it functions.
How Can I Set Myself Apart As A Professional, Best-In-Class Art Advisor?
It starts, of course, with your eye for art and ability to successfully navigate the art market on behalf of your client. You simply have to be good at what you do. But in an unregulated market like the art market, it’s possible to distinguish yourself by how you conduct your business, in other words, your ethics. You set yourself apart by following best practice: transparency on remuneration, avoidance of conflicts of interest and complete independence from auction houses and galleries.
How Can You Distinguish Between A Novice And An Experienced Art Advisor?
There is of course no substitute for experience. The longer you do something, the better you become at doing it. Just be open with your clients about how long you’ve been in the business. Art advisory is a trust-based profession based on personal relationships, so the earlier you start building a referral network the sooner you’ll start getting recommendations from colleagues, friends and happy clients and grow a successful art advisory practice.
Watch Now: Art Advisory 101 Module 1 - Art Market Fundamentals
Students exploring job opportunities in the contemporary 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.
Developing Your Eye For Contemporary Art
It seems obvious but having a great eye for art is invaluable to being 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 let’s face it: most art collectors want a piece of art that 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, fairs, online) to hone your skills in picking the best artworks for your clients.
Understanding The Art Market
Besides the art-historical and aesthetic recommendations you’ll make to your clients there are transactional matters to consider. Let’s look at the acquisition of a painting. Establishing that your client loves the work and it fits in her home is not enough. You need to do your price research to make sure that she does not overpay and your due diligence in regards to authenticity, title and condition. 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 have to be tuned into your clients’ requests even if you don’t always agree with them. You 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.
Want to understand more about the complexity of working in an unregulated industry? Annelien’s book ‘Managing relationships in the art market’ is now available on amazon.com.