The art world is a wonderful place, filled with enthusiasm, interesting ideas, and that effervescent spirit of creation. But it can also be complicated. Very, very complicated. That’s why it can be very beneficial to get the assistance of an art advisor.
We are living through the most diverse, byzantine art market ever. There are constantly new big names, changing trends, new materials and styles, and the shifting winds of change in art market preferences.
The more money that an art collector is looking to spend, the more important it is for them to get everything exactly right. Similarly, many art collectors just do not have the time to spend at art auctions, getting on the phone with galleries, and scouting the best new voices.
That’s when an art advisor comes to the rescue.
What’s An Art Advisor?
An art advisor will help their client do all of the above and more. For their troubles, they will either be paid a commission on every work of art purchased (say, 5-10% of the original price), or they will be paid regularly (say, monthly).
This might seem like a middle-man at first, but they play a vital role in the art market. They demystify art for their clients and give them a clearer understanding of how the market works. They also connect those looking to sell art with those looking to buy.
While most art buyers are never going to spend enough money to justify paying an art advisor, those who will often find their services essential.
Let’s look at the primary features and duties of an art advisor below.
Education and Qualifications
As with any profession, art advisors need some kind of credentials if they are going to be charging clients for their knowledge and savvy in the art world. There is no clear credentialing body in the world of art advising, and each art advisor will likely bring their own unique education and experiences to their role.
This is why One Art Nation created our Art Advisory programs. No industry-wide standard exists for best practice and advisors are left to their own devices when it comes to navigating the idiosyncrasies of the art market. Art Advisory 101 and Art Advisory 201 have been created to cover the key aspects of running a successful art advisory firm from how to navigate the art world and run a successful art advisory business to following best practice and managing client relationships.
Almost always, an advisor will have an education of some extent related to the art market. Art history is a common education track. But a degree alone is not likely to get many clients. Most advisors will have extensive experience working in the art market, whether as a gallerist, as a curator for a museum, or for an auction house.
This experience gives them a rich web of personal connections, good instincts, and a working understanding of how these institutions and businesses work from the inside out.
Consultation with an Art Advisor
One of the most basic ways an art advisor can serve their client is consultation on a piece-by-piece basis.
When an art collector is interested in a work, they might want confirmation about a few things. Is the price fair? How can I tell if the provenance is real? Is there a different piece that is available and is superior to this one?
Those are natural questions if you are about to spend serious money on a work of art. An art advisor can answer these questions and put the mind at rest.
In this same vein, art advisors can be more proactive in consultation. With a set budget and clear ideas of their client’s tastes, they can find available work that matches these terms. This saves the buyer a lot of leg work, which is crucial for the art lover who always finds themselves busy.
Keeping the Client on Track
When are collectors are looking to build a serious collection, there are many factors to consider to do it right. Unfortunately, most people with the resources to build a collection do not have the time to become experts in a niche of the art world.
Art advisors can help their clients stay focused on the pieces for sale that will build their collection and create synergy between the pieces.
And given that a particular collection has a narrower field of artwork to pick from, an art advisor will also spend their time on the lookout for buying opportunities.
An art advisor will be expected to keep their finger on the pulse of the market, know what is becoming available and where, and have the deep reservoir of specialty knowledge to make all of this relevant for their client’s collection.
Representation at Auction
Auctions can be intimidating places. For the uninitiated, they can come across as chaotic places where bidding wars lead to price tags in the tens of millions.
A good art advisor will be at home at an art auction. They will come armed with research on everything going on the block. Art advisors will know the intricacies of bidding. They will even know some of the other bidders.
For these reasons, art advisors will often represent their client at art auctions. With their connections and knowledge, they can maximize the value of their client’s budget.
Making the Connection
It’s who you know — it’s an old saw that fits the art market very well.
In some markets, there are so many prospective buyers and so little product that the only way to get your foot in the door requires a connection to the seller. Art advisors, with their experience in the field, can be representatives for their clients — leveraging a contact list built over a career.
Why Art Advisors
Art has value. Of course, you can see that in the price tag, but more importantly, you can feel it when you look at it.
But that value can’t be measured precisely, especially if you are looking to purchase art that will maintain or increase its monetary value. There are clues: the artist’s name, the projected market demand for the style, etc. But those aren’t laws of nature, and there are no guarantees.
To make matters more complicated, there is an enormous amount of specialist knowledge and insider connections required to really succeed in building a great art collection.
Art advisors provide this incredibly complex service. They have to bring many traits and specialties together, but when they do, they unlock the door to amazing art. And that’s a service many art buyers are willing to pay top dollar for.
The 59th edition of the Venice Art Biennale, under the title of “The Milk of Dreams,” opened to the public on April 23 – November 27, 2022. The exhibition takes place in the Central Pavilion of the Giardini and Arsenal. There are also 88 National Pavilions throughout the city. The curator Cecilia Alemani, the first Italian woman to curate the Venice Art Biennale, responds to the convulsions of our time: Covid 19, climate change, disruption of war, loss of community and culture – by asking us to imagine new forms of co-existence with society and its social structures, technology, and nature: how is the definition of the human changing? What constitutes life and what differentiates plant and human? What is the human relationship to technology?
In an interview, Alemani stated:
“There is a lot of spirituality in the show, especially in the historical micro-exhibitions, which I call ‘time capsules’.
One of the pillar themes is the “post-human” inspired by authors like Donna Hardway, who challenges the idea of the individual being at the center of the world. These ideas are about imagining other kinds of relationships, rooted in togetherness and symbiosis.
At Venice Art Biennale, I was looking at artists who were trying to break with the familiar polarities and dualities that came out of the Enlightenment – mind and body, nature and culture, feminine and masculine and so on – to imagine a world that is more fluid and in-between. That is where the occult and the spiritual come in.
The Milk of Dreams takes its title from a book of Lenore Carrington (1917-2011) in which the surrealist artist describes a magical world, which is constantly reenvisioned through the prism of imagination where everyone can change, be transformed, become something or someone else.”
Alemani states, “In this climate many artists envision the end of anthropocentrism… Others react to the dissolution of universal systems, rediscovering localized forms of knowledge and new politics of identities. Still others practice what feminist theorists call the ‘re-enchantment of the world’, mingling indigenous traditions with personal mythologies in much the same way as Carrington.”
Notwithstanding, it is a paradox that Alemani’s focus remains so rooted and anchored in the Western paradigm: the individual artist and the power of art and the artist to help “us” (the viewer) imagine new modes of co-existence and infinite powers of transformation. Alemani’s curation is brilliant, well researched and the source of new discoveries. Women artists of all generations dominate and others without voices are heard. However, spirituality and magic did not start with the Surrealists. Alemani’s focus is on adding overlooked artistic voice and identities to broaden the western aesthetic canon.
Images from Milk of Dreams Illustrate Alemani’s Curatorial Perspective at Venice Art Biennale
Founded in 1955 in Kassel, Germany, documenta is a quinquennial international art exhibition that carries heavy intellectual weight in the art world, customarily programmed for a duration of 100 days in venues throughout Kassel. While held in high regard among artists, curators and institutional directors, perhaps less so among collectors and dealers given its often more academic, intellectual and less market-friendly nature. Normally, the artistic director is a well-recognized international curator: Adam Szymczyk (14); Catherine David,Pompidou Paris 1997 (10); and Okwui Enwezor 2002 (11).
Breaking with this tradition, documenta fifteen poses a radical artistic response to the world’s crisis, at first encounter, a seismic shift in envisioning not only the role of the site and the exhibition, but the very role of the artist and the systems of art production. documenta fifteen is not theme based. It is about process and practice: how do people create the material and immaterial infrastructure they need to nurture and sustain themselves and their ecosystems?
documenta fifteen takes place from June 18 to September 25, 2022, under the Artistic Direction of ruangrupa at 32 venues in Kassel, Germany. The Jakarta-based artist collective has built the foundation of documenta’s fifteenth edition on the core values and ideas of lumbung, the Indonesian term for a communal rice barn.
The Indonesian word ruangrupa loosely translates as “art space.” ruangrupa’s work is based on a holistic social, spatial and personal practice that is strongly rooted in Indonesian culture, where friendship’s solidarity and community are of central importance.
lumbung as an artistic and economic model is rooted in principles such as collectivity, communal resource sharing, and equal allocation and is embodied in all parts of the collaboration and the exhibition. lumbung is the concrete practice adopted by ruangrupa and the Artistic Team, lumbung members and lumbung artists and all participants on the path towards documenta fifteen, throughout its 100 days and beyond.
“We want to create a globally oriented, collaborative and interdisciplinary art and culture platform that will remain effective beyond the 100 days of documenta fifteen. Our curatorial approach strives for a different kind of collaborative model of resource use–in economic terms but also with regard to ideas, knowledge, programs and innovations.” – ruangrupa
The artist is seen as mediator, and “now we are looking back and asking, ‘what is harvest?’”
14 lumbung members or artists collectives and 53 lumbung artists participate in documenta fifteen. In turn, these artists have been to include their networks.
ruangrupa and the artistic team are aware of the paradoxes in this event. In documenta fifteen, lumbung is still approaching the economy using old paradigms. documenta fifteen is still using the language of and can be understood as a conventional/mega event despite the artistic attempts to approach it as more bottom up. Notwithstanding, the aim here is ultimately the community,ruangrupa stated “lumbung is not only ours now… Own it, and make your own lumbung – ultimately, then, the energy and power of becoming and being is transmitted by the artistic experience transcending the boundaries which divide us to connect us in spirit. The practices and methodology are different.”
Thus, in the opening press conference, the artist Agus Nur Amal PM Toh informs us of his project with students in Kassel which facilitates a series of storytelling sessions based on the Sudanese life principles, Tri Tangua: “Public space contains a multitude of narratives, all competitions for how they can function as truth within the context of an authoritarian state or one where the powerless have no media access, native histories become a site to find answers.”
documenta fifteen takes place in three geographic zones of Kassel: (1) Mitte, the central city part – museums, Fridericianum***, documenta halle***, WH 22; (2) Fulda – Hafenstrasse 76 and (3) Bettenhausen*** – The Fondation Festival Sur le Niger*** (Hubner-Areal) and Atis Rezistans | Ghetto Biennale *** (St. Kuniqundis).
*** Don’t miss these.
For the duration of documenta fifteen, the former exhibition building has become Fridskul (Fridericianum as school) and is being used by artists and collectives to apply and demonstrate different models of horizontal education that are rooted in life. ruangrupa see it as a – a practice of sharing and a form of architecture often used to store harvests in Indonesian. As a lumbung, as both a domestic place and a social space where all can gather, the cold museum space of the Fridericianum becomes a warm and dynamic place. Artists are sleeping at Fridericianum, eat there communally and hold student encounters at the space.
documenta Halle (Mitte)
Wajukuu Art Project
documenta fifteen advocates for the collective to substitute for art institutions. However, the idea of the collective making individual artworks is more complex and nuanced and warrants further discussion based on each collective’s processes.
Artists in the Wajukuu Art Project have created not only as a collective but as these images reveal, have created powerful works of artistic authorship based on a new aesthetic of the slum and its materials. Wajukuu Art Project’s architectural installation is a tunnel inspired by both Makuru traditional housing and informal aesthetics of the slum. Aesthetic values rest on cultural heritage, cultural attitudes and accessibility of materials.
Britto Art Trust
The Bangladesh-based Britto Arts Trust creates a bazaar, a family kitchen and a large-scale mural all exploring geopolitics, land rights and food.
La Fondation Festival Sur le Niger (Hubner-Areal)
At this time of dislocation and social upheaval, global pandemic, the crumbling of our international legal order and its institutions, immigration, destruction of cultures in the wake of globalization, documenta provides guidance. The Fondation Festival Sur le Niger, founded in 2009 by Mamau Daffe and its individual artists, look to traditions, music and social practices as a means of identity and social cohesion.
Performa, the New York performance Biennale introduced in its last biennale the importance of the role of architecture and architectural space as an element of visual performance artists. Traditional Malian culture recognized the bulon as a sacred space and social structure as early as 1653 with the founding of the Mali empire. The Bulon symbolizes the heart, the past, and the present of the family, a place of decision making and community with the ancestors. It is also a space for teaching and transformation. In this sense the Fridericianum also becomes a Bulon space. “True art,” writes Andre Breton, the Surrealist, “is the one that strives to give expression to the inner needs of man and humanity.” While Alemani’s inquiry begins with and credits the Surrealists, for this new art aesthetic, documenta fifteen takes us to more ancient cultures. The Maaya is an integral concept of humanity based on the relationship of the individual and the community. This is a convergence of views where the function of art and social practice are the same.
One of the most powerful installations is created by the collective Atis Rezistans from Haiti. A fluid collective of artists, working in the Grand Rue neighborhood of Port au Prince, Haiti, the collective was founded by sculptors Andre Eugene and Jean Herald Celeau in the late 1990’s. Coincidentally, my client in the famous case of AFP v. Morel was with Andre teaching art students during the 2010 earthquake that sparked the case that established photojournalist rights on the internet based on the Twitter TOS. The sculptures embody the spirit of the collective – the style derives from popular culture, Haitian history and voodoo using a range of found objects, mostly what is available in this country for artistic production.
There will be those who ask is this a proper role for documenta? This small sized town in Germany of under 250,000, for more than 75 years has provided intellectual content to the art world as an agent of thought and discussion. Could this have been a conference or a symposium? Maybe. But it is a work and experiment in art making that is important. It is, as was said, not the last documenta but the first lumbung.
The seeds of what is germinated here have yet to fully harvest. However, kernels can be found in artist activism in the U.S as either the practice or a practice of sharing with the community. One has only to look at the number of artist-endowed foundations, the renewed study and importance of archives, and the focus on artist residencies and leisure time, conversations and storytelling. Black Quantum Futurism, based in Philadelphia, is a documenta lumbunginter lokal member represented by three projects sourced in African diaspora, nonlinear temporalities, quantum physics and housing futures as framework. Numerous artist-endowed foundations supplement individual artistic practice to use foundations as a community-centered artistic practice or to provide artistic residencies for artists to think and reflect. Derrick Adam’s Charm City Cultural Cultivation Inc. embodies such lumbung themes as the importance of leisure time and conversation and the power of archives as identity to regenerate and cultivate the rich traditions and culture of Baltimore. Its Last Resort Artist Retreat residency subscribes to the concept of leisure as therapy for the black creative, Titus Kaphar’s NZTHVN, provides an arts model that empowers artists and curators, education and access to a vibrant ecosystem to create a sustainable art community in New Haven. Art as social practice and process – the spirit of lumbung– may not replace biennales or art fairs, but it is a present and a future and awaits the harvest.
Barbara T. Hoffman is a preeminent international art lawyer with an undergraduate degree in art history. She has been a passionate follower of the contemporary art scene for years and a regular attendee at the Venice Biennale since the early 1980’s. She has written frequently on law, art and politics for a variety of publications and is a member of the International Association of Art Critics as well as the attorney for AICA USA. She serves on the Board of Performa, the visual Performance Biennale, found the Washington State Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and is on MoMA’s Contemporary Arts Council and Friends of Education. She serves on the board of several artist endowed foundations and advises museums and artist foundations on issues of governance, including board development and conflict of interest. www.hoffmanlawfirm.org. Thank you to Faron Stalker, legal assistant.
It seems non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are constantly in the headlines. That’s especially true for art lovers. Their world is becoming dominated by news of the latest major NFT releases and the fortunes made overnight by crypto artists.
But what are NFTs, how are they changing the art world, and what can we expect to see in the future thanks to this new technology?
We’ve put together this helpful guide to understand NFTs, cryptoart, and take a peek into the future of this strange new technological phenomenon.
What is an NFT?
A non-fungible token (NFT) is a bundle of information stored on a blockchain that links to a unique, one-of-a-kind asset. That unique asset can be any kind of digital information: from an image file to a sound file to a tweet and beyond.
They are called non-fungible because — unlike cryptocurrency that is also run on a blockchain — they aren’t all equally exchangeable.
When you have a dollar, it is equal to every other dollar in existence. That is called fungibility. Similarly, when you have a bitcoin, it is equal to every other bitcoin in existence.
But NFTs are connected to specific assets. If one NFT is connected to a GIF of a cat and the other is connected to a song about a cat, these are not the same thing. People can sell these NFTs for any price they want, and it is up to buyers to decide if they are worth the asking price.
NFTs have allowed artists, particularly digital artists, to make money from their work by selling to the public. They can create (or mint) an NFT for an image they make and sell it on the market. A blockchain, most popularly Ethereum, will track who owns it — the same way blockchains track the ownership of cryptocurrency.
One especially attractive feature to NFTs are smart contracts. These can be built into the NFT itself, and artists are using them to build in an automatic royalty paid to them every time the NFT is resold. This has an obvious appeal for creators, but there are many applications for smart contracts beyond the art world.
Today, many digital artists are using them to finally have a way to make money on their art by directly selling to the public. Previously, they would either need to print off a physical copy or make their art in the context of another project — like an ad campaign, film, video game, etc. NFTs allow them to sell the “original” work of art, just as painters and sculptors and all other kinds of visual artists are able to.
What do you buy when you buy?
One of the biggest controversies around the explosion of crypto art is this question: what am I actually buying when I purchase an NFT?
Owning an NFT does not give you copyright of the image. In fact, other people can still access the digital image and make copies as much as they want, storing them on their own computers to view at their leisure. It also doesn’t give you a physical object of the work of art.
Buying an NFT gives you a kind of “ownership” over the “original” digital artwork. It’s similar to buying a certificate of authenticity for a painting, though not necessarily the painting itself.
If this sounds strange, you’re not the only one. Many critics point to this as lack of any real ownership of the art as a fundamental issue. Others are not so concerned. Those who see virtual reality worlds (like the much talked about Metaverse) as the next big thing think that NFT art will necessarily become the way most art will be bought and sold in the future.
Where can I buy and sell NFTs?
The past year has seen an explosion of NFT marketplaces. There really isn’t enough room to list them all, but some of the biggest sites include:
OpenSea: This is the largest NFT marketplace right now. It has all kinds of assets to buy, like collectibles and artwork, but also other assets like domain names. It also allows you to create NFTs easily. It’s compatible with more than 150 different kinds of payment options.
Rarible: Another major player is Rarible, which is entirely based on the Ethereum block chain. Like OpenSea, you can easily buy and mint NFTs on the platform.
SuperRare: This NFT marketplace is hyper-focused on digital artwork. Many features appeal to artists, including smart contracts that pay royalties to creators every time a work is resold.
While there are plenty of other platforms to explore, many of them quite reputable and honest, one should make sure to learn a lot about a marketplace before sending it money. The explosion of popularity in the NFT market has given rise to many scams, thanks to how many people are both interested in buying and not super sharp on the technical details. Be safe and do your research.
Where do NFTs go from here?
Crypto art and collectibles have been a major throughline for much of the NFT conversation. There are also many communities where membership is now built around owning an NFT. But these are the early days, and there is no doubt that new applications for this blockchain technology will be used in the future.
In that sense, NFTs are here to stay. But what is the future of crypto art in particular?
Opinion is divided. Some believe it is a Tulip Mania style fad that will end in a few people making millions and many more losing everything they put in. When you buy a work of art, whether it’s value goes up or down, you still get to enjoy it. But with NFTs, you don’t get to enjoy it any more than anyone else. That means the only real reason to buy is the hope that it will increase in value someday.
Others believe that it will slowly take up the entire art market. Even physical artworks will begin to use NFTs for certificates of authenticity, and as virtual spaces become more prominent in our lives, we will want to put art up on those computer-generated walls. And that art will come from NFT marketplaces.
Without a crystal ball, who is to say? But no one can deny that, in the short term, NFTs will continue to be a major part of the conversation and art market.
Covid-19 pandemic continues to create disruptions in particular for art fairs and galleries. We are now in the process of sifting through its impact and seeing what remains after two years of painful change and loss.
For art fairs and galleries, their entire model was based on in-person experiences. But the field proved nimble, and they began adapting at rapid speed with the use of digital integration.
That digital pivot, along with the meteoric rise of entirely online art ownership through NFTs, have allowed art fairs and galleries to weather the storm. But what does their ongoing survival look like in the years ahead?
Galleries: A Prognosis
The Art Dealers Association of America surveyed gallery owners last year to see how they were handling the pandemic. At the time, things were uncertain to say the least. Among their findings are a few key insights:
70% of galleries had less revenue in 2020
65% were stilling planning to expand their artist rosters
78% did not have to make layoffs in 2020
The overall picture seems less bad than people were predicting when lockdowns went into effect in early 2020. That’s not to say that 2020 saw no furloughs or layoffs for art galleries, or that the massive falloff in revenue didn’t shutter some galleries forever. But coming out of 2021, things are not so dire.
And now in 2022, with vaccination rates up and restrictions easing, the trends seem to be going in a positive direction.
In fact, the move to online sales proved a winning strategy for many galleries, and the fear of massive closures by the end of 2020 appears to have been overwrought.
The Return of Art Fairs
Miami Art Week in late 2021 proved a testing ground for a new trend in art fairs: online augmentation.
The strategy is simple. Implement ways for people to enjoy (and buy) art online without taking away from the physical experience. In fact, while you are creating these digital tools, you might as well make them work with the physical art fair, too.
With Art Basel and many satellite fairs debuting digital sides to their experiences, it feels like the change is permanent. Remember, these were events that were allowed to be held in person and were attended by thousands of people. These weren’t just ways to make things happen in the face of a lockdown.
That combination of physical and digital appears to be the way that art fairs are going to not only keep numbers up during a pandemic, but grow their numbers in the years to come.
But no matter how much digital augmentation goes on, art fairs are uniquely appealing due to the experience of actually being there. For that reason, 2020 and much of 2021 saw an incredibly anemic scene. Yet art fairs have one advantage over galleries: they don’t have to pay the bills month in and month out.
Art fairs are much more capable of surviving a year or two of postponement, while galleries have employees who need a paycheck to survive and consistent overhead to keep their space. In this way, the survival of art fairs is much less precarious than galleries.
Art Investment: The Good and the Bad
Inflation is now ramping up around the globe, which generally means investors will turn to assets like art. In an inflationary situation, the general thinking is that art performs rather well, and that will provide some boosts to the art world, at least at the top levels and in the short term.
The continued interest in art as an investment has good and bad influences on galleries and art fairs, depending on where you land on the spectrum. Gambling on emerging voices rarely does much for artists trying to establish their name in the long run, but there are some galleries that can serve this desire while still developing their roster of artists in a responsible way.
And with lots of investment dollars comes lots of speculation. This is nowhere more clear than in crypto art and NFTs. These marketplaces are now hotspots for collectors of all kinds.
Is that a problem for traditional art fairs and galleries? That depends. Many people buying NFTs are first time collectors, drawn in by their interest in other blockchain applications like cryptocurrency. In a way, NFTs might be a backdoor for more people to become comfortable with buying art as an asset and making the move to buying physical art.
On top of that, many traditional art sellers (in particular auction houses) aren’t waiting around to get involved in the NFT boom. This presents a new avenue for sales, and as long as it doesn’t eat into their traditional offerings, this embrace of NFTs seems like it could be great for galleries and art fairs.
Art Fairs & Galleries Endure
It seems that art fairs and galleries have made it through the worst that the pandemic had in store, and their ability to meet customer needs online was successful.
While the art world is emerging into a much different landscape than before Covid-19, it is well equipped to face the new challenges and even find opportunities in them.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Frances Zeman, who has been an active member of the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) since 1980. Her broad client and appraisal experience includes Insurance placement and loss, Estates & Trust matters, Charitable Contributions and other Wealth Management strategies.
But when we really got deep into things, we found out that in reality, her profession allows her to satisfy a favored passion for retail therapy! So, let’s see what else we can find out about Fran…
What do you do in the art world?
I am an ASA accredited appraiser of Fine Art and Decorative Arts and Antiques.
Did you receive any education, training or mentorship that has helped you excel in your career?
A good academic education, including an MA in art history provided a sound basis on which to expand my love of the arts. Joining the American Society of Appraisers and availing myself of their outstanding educational programs provided me with an understanding of what it means to be professional, that appraisal is a profession rather than a trade, and that there is a specific vocabulary to know and methodology to follow; all of these helped me to advance my career. Many experienced appraisers in the organization provided encouragement and mentorship – both of which were so very important.
What are the most interesting – or most challenging – aspects of your work?
Every appraisal is an argument for value. Among the most challenging and rewarding problems involve unique properties that seemingly have no answer – but there always is. Every client is different and to be able to serve each and to meet their needs is one of the most rewarding aspects of my professional career.
Describe your average workday.
We keep to a monthly/weekly plan in terms of projects in house, schedules and progress on each work file; any changes needed are noted. Staff and I keep current with clients and the progress of all appraisal reports and other assignments. Technical issues, emails and phone calls are part of each day.
Any words of advice for emerging professionals trying to make it in the art world?
Academic and professional education are a must – knowledge is a powerful tool. Keep current, never stop learning. Be ethical and follow the standards of your profession. Always reach high.
Learn more from Frances by watching the free webinar, What it’s Worth: Prepare Today for Tomorrow. Along with Edith Yeomans, she will explain why, before thinking about how much your valuable property is worth, it is important to know what you have.
We sat down for a chat with Subkit, who were interested in hearing about our entrepreneurial journey in the art world. Here’s how it went…
What’s your business, and who are your customers?
One Art Nation (1AN) – www.oneartnation.com – is THE trusted source of online art market education across the globe. We initially targeted the platform towards emerging collectors and art lovers looking for the basics of collecting. It soon became clear that our membership included established collectors as well, who were seeking information on succession planning, donating collections to non-profits, etc.
Therefore, we recognize and work with the best-of-the-best in the industry to create relevant content that demystifies the art world and empowers collectors and professionals. Through working towards transparency, we increase the confidence in the art-related decisions of our members. And best of all, our growing library of 200+ on-demand videos is available free to art lovers and collectors in all corners of the world!
Further, our Professional Development courses offer all types of professionals with the right tool kit when it comes to art and art-related practices. For example, our Art Advisory 101 and Art Advisory 201 programs act as a much-needed benchmark for art advisors, offering them best practice techniques in their field. Meanwhile, our Art Wealth Management course offers wealth managers, private bankers, family offices, and other financial advisors a true understanding of how the art world operates. It is the only active and accredited continuing education program that focuses solely on art wealth management.
Tell us about yourself
We have been friends since high school, and although our studies and employment brought us to separate corners of the world, we always remained close. When we both returned to Canada after many years abroad, we sat down over a glass of wine, and voila! The idea was born. We came about it quite organically, as we recognized a dire need for accessible information for art collectors. The art market is known for its complexity and lack of transparency. For those just getting into the market, it can be quite intimidating. So, we wanted to help educate both aspiring and established collectors in an interactive yet non-threatening environment. And in 2013, at Art Miami, we officially launched One Art Nation.
Regularly, we hear from art lovers how, by nixing the jargon and cutting out the intimidation factor, One Art Nation has fueled their love for art via our accessible and relevant education. And just knowing how much we would’ve appreciated such a resource when we first aspired to collect keeps us going each day.
What’s your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
1AN has a reputation as THE go-to source of quality online education. We create content that is both diverse and engaging, equally for first-time buyers, established collectors, industry professionals, and generally, those with a passion for art. As such, we have built a strong community with a common interest: ART. We are very proud of this.
Further, we have partnered with some of the most influential companies in the industry, including Art Miami Productions, US Trust, Deloitte, Chubb Insurance, Bank of America, Bonham’s, OCAD, and more. We have been helping leading professional associations and businesses bring relevant art market education online for eight years now. And we have earned our reputation by providing leading-edge technology, unparalleled service, real-world experience, and unwavering commitment to the success of the 1AN Community, whether art expert or art collector.
What’s one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Our biggest challenge, which many business owners can relate to, has been the pandemic, as we were forced to adapt quickly to the unprecedented crisis. As business owners, our survival instincts kicked in to navigate the unknown waters of lockdown over the past two years, from canceled projects and art fairs to adjusting to the loss of partners (galleries, artists, etc.) being forced to shutter. But at the same time, it provided an opportunity to get creative. For example, we formed a new academic partnership, a direction we may not have ventured in pre-pandemic. We also took the time to relaunch the website, with a strengthened focus on our incredible network of art experts and professionals. So although we weren’t chasing art fairs from New York to Miami to the Hamptons and back, we managed to not only stay busy but even to strengthen our position as a trusted resource in the art market.
What are the top tips you’d give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
To start, know that there will never be a right time to start a business, so don’t wait for it. But you can either look at that as the thing that holds you back from starting or use that to push you to go for it – asap, immediately. Be realistic with yourself and your business. Initially, we approached One Art Nation with a sense of false optimism. We were so excited to start making our mark, but we soon realized that in thinking we were going to dominate the art world on day one, we would be failing in a matter of months due to drastic disappointment. Instead, it was clear that the new keyword was: perseverance. And then the key to perseverance is not to lose that excitement we had on day one.
And hand in hand with excitement, have fun with it. We’ve both had lulls over the years when we’ve forgotten to have fun with the business. We’ve gotten bogged down with details with a risk of burning out. But we’ve learned to recognize this in ourselves and each other. At that point, we’ll take immediate action to see an exhibition we’ve been meaning to attend at a local museum or run over to an opening at our favourite gallery where there’s sure to be wine, music, and industry contacts to catch up and laugh with. When you don’t have any fun with the business, you run the risk of losing your drive and failing at your goals.
When we imagine an auctioneer, we think of a rapid-fire talker throwing out numbers in a fast paced atmosphere.
And for many auctions, that’s fairly accurate. Many auctions do run at a fast pace, encouraging bidders to get in while the getting is good. The auctioneers will also follow a “chant” — a sonorous rhythm that their fast talking sticks to.
But those kinds of auctioneers don’t quite capture what an art auctioneer does, because art auctions are a world of their own.
We know them mostly for the shocking numbers that appear in headlines every six months or so as a big name auction house breaks a record. But if you have ever attended one, either online or in person, you know that these are much less high energy than an auction just about anywhere else.
Because an art auctioneer is so close to the action and involved so closely with wonderful works of art, many people might be curious about how to become one themselves.
If you are wondering about it yourself, you’ve come to the right place. Below is a short guide on how to become an art auctioneer.
What Skills Does an Art Auctioneer Need?
Before you try to snag a job as an auctioneer, you need the skills in place to succeed. The main skills include:
As an auctioneer, you are expected to have an intimate understanding of the value of work being sold on the block and the context that makes it worth the money you are trying to sell it for (auctioneers usually get a percentage of the sale price, so the higher they can get the bids, the more they are paid).
That usually means art auctioneers are experts, typically with an art history degree of some kind and a specialized area of expertise where their knowledge is much more comprehensive.
No matter how educated you are, you’ll still need to do prep work before you step up to the podium, refreshing yourself on all the details. That knowledge can be for flavor, like providing just the right information to get bidders ready to drive up the price, but it can also be highly practical. Imagine the embarrassment of an auctioneer who mispronounces an artist’s name!
As a salesperson fundamentally, the auctioneer also needs to understand a lot about the room they will be running. Are there any known bidders who will attend? What things do they particularly like? Are there any bids on items already? What is the estimated sale price? What is the minimum price for each item? This helps the auctioneer in the heat of the moment finagle the best price for the work.
And a lot of that salesmanship comes down to performance. When you are at a podium in front of a group of people, you have to perform. From colorful attire to your auctioneer chant to your gestures to the way you emphasize certain words, it all can make a difference.
Part of the performance? Endurance. Auctions can carry on for hours.
What Does an Art Auctioneer Do?
The skills outlined above are put to use in every duty that an art auctioneer has to carry out.
Long before anyone picks up a paddle, the art auctioneer is already hard at work with tasks like:
Appraising the work that will go for auction
Maintaining the auction catalogue
Gauging interest of potential attendees, marketing the auction, and connecting with people
These tasks put everything in place for the big day. Knowing what will be for sale, the value of the works, the minimum prices that the seller might have set, and the estimated sale price give an auctioneer a good idea of their goals and the kind of buyers who would be interested in attending.
The auction catalogue is where a lot of this information is presented to attendees. This coincides with displays of the artwork that attendees can visit before the day of the auction — a universal practice for the big houses where things sell for millions of dollars.
And with an auctioneer’s understanding of the art world and the big art buyers likely to attend, they can market the auction to potential buyers. Because an auctioneer gets a cut of the sale price (somewhere between 10% and 15%), it is in their best interest to get the biggest bidders they can into the room on the day.
On the day, art auctioneers will:
Be the host and emcee of the auction
Introduce and describe the lots (items up for auction)
Track and announce bids for the room
Decide when to call a winning bid with the strike of their gavel
These duties are the first thing you think of an auctioneer doing, and these are the meat and potatoes of their work. Ultimately, no matter how well you research or how much you network with potential buyers, it all comes down to how you handle the auction.
How do You Get a Job as an Art Auctioneer?
Starting out, many aspiring art auctioneers begin doing internships and entry-level jobs in the art industry. At the beginning, any experience is usually a good experience, but some jobs are better than others.
If you can gain an internship at an auction house, you will have high quality experience to prepare you for the world of art auctions. If that’s just not possible, make sure to attend them frequently. You don’t have to bid to watch. And with all that time spent at auctions, you can get a sense for how an auctioneer performs in the room, then you can go back to your apartment and practice in front of the mirror!
Jobs, internships, and apprenticeships in galleries, art conservation, and auctions are all good options.
And once you feel comfortable in the art world, it’s time to attend auction school. A good auction school will go beyond the nuts and bolts, including guidance on the more difficult aspects — like tax, law, and ethics.
If you plan to work in a state that requires auctioneers to be licenced, auction schools can help you with this process, too.
If you feel highly qualified, you can also shoot for one of the big houses. Christie’s, for instance, holds an auctioneer school every two years, accepting only 40 applicants. Of those 40, two or three will progress to private instruction and careers as art auctioneers at one of the most prestigious art institutions in the world.
An art auctioneer is a vital part of any art scene, with the responsibility of realizing the best price for artwork. Their work is difficult and valuable, and if you think you are up to the task — it’s a great career. Want to read more, check out how to buy art at an auction.
Art dealers buy and sell artwork. That was easy, but as you might expect, there is more to it than that.
The art market can get complicated. It deals in one-of-a-kind works, things that can’t be replicated. If there is a painting you want, you can’t necessarily go to a store and buy it. If someone else owns it and they aren’t selling, you are out of luck. And while there might be paintings that are similar, there isn’t going to be another painting just like that.
And it isn’t always easy to find where a painting is for sale or know what paintings are available to purchase at any given moment.
To make matters more difficult, art can also cost quite a bit of money, and its value goes up and down over time. And whenever people are putting down a lot of money for something that might change in value, they need to be sure that they are making a smart move.
So to get the art you want, you need to know what art is available. That means needing to have your finger on the pulse of all the many sellers of art at a given time. You need to know people, you need to have connections, and you need to have the expertise to know when a purchase makes sense on the money side and when it doesn’t.
That’s a lot for someone to do well as a hobby or side hustle. It’s the kind of thing that takes an expert. And that’s really what an art dealer is: they are an expert buyer and seller of artwork.
What Does an Art Dealer Do?
So what is the day-to-day of an art dealer like?
Network and connect with artists and other art sellers and buyers
Work with clients to buy and sell for them
Research the market
Buy and sell artwork
First and foremost, an art dealer networks with others in the art world. Their career is one of making connections with people who might be buying and selling artwork. Artists, gallerists, museums, private collectors, auction houses, and more. Anyone who is buying and selling a lot of art.
They also need to network with clients. An art dealer will often procure work for others, anticipating their needs and the market at the same time.
On top of networking, art dealers need to be on the lookout for art. But that is such an enormous field that they will typically have a specialty. For instance, an art dealer might focus exclusively on a single genre, style, region, or period. This allows them to narrow their search and become experts.
A lot of an art dealer’s time is spent going to art fairs, galleries, auctions and other venues where they can find work and connect with artists, art buyers and other specialists. This element of searching for art is one of the most attractive parts of the art dealer’s lifestyle.
These activities feed into the main one: buying and selling art.
When an art dealer purchases a work, they are looking to sell it later on. They might own a gallery or have clients that they sell directly to. Either way, they are sensitive to making a profit. Unlike other art collectors, an art dealer isn’t trying to put together a great collection. They are trying to make money on the turn around.
An art dealer will typically have a thorough understanding of the work in their field that is available, and they will make decisions on whether or not to buy these pieces based on market demands, likely changes in price, and similar factors.
But art dealers also serve another role in the art world. As major patrons of the arts, they often take a lot of responsibility for fostering the marketplace — promoting new voices, bringing artists together, and connecting people. This ensures that the art world thrives.
Art Dealer Qualifications
There is no official certification you need to become an art dealer, though many have an education in fine art or art history (more rarely, art business). Many are, or have been, artists themselves.
Good places to begin gaining experience are in entry-level jobs at galleries. Here, you can gain a sense of what to look for in paintings, and you can start building relationships with people in the art world.
An art dealer must always be apprised of the current mood in the market and the trends just around the corner.
That means art dealers go through an ongoing education throughout their careers, with their main qualification being their understanding of the market. But this understanding can’t be merely intellectual. They also need a keen eye for art and that intuition to trust a discovery that they make.
When someone can merge that intellectual understanding and intuitive feeling with a web of interpersonal connections in the art market, they have all the makings of a great art dealer.
How Do You Work with an Art Dealer
Artists and art buyers work with art dealers for obvious reasons. A dealer can be the connection an artist needs to get their work into an important exhibition or collection. For a buyer, a dealer means access to an expert’s curated collection that they can purchase from.
This will get you in contact with art dealers who may or may not have space for a new artist or client. They may, they may not — but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Art Dealers: The Facilitators of the Art World
Often, art dealers are working behind the scenes to get galleries new work and help artists reach new heights in their career. Their task is to act as the connective tissue that brings the art world together.
And the great art dealers can be massively influential on the scene. Powerful dealers are capable of setting trends almost single handedly — that’s how important their work is.
A lot of ink has been spilled over the last year over the changes going on in the art market. And there’s no question that things have changed dramatically.
The pandemic brought about enormous challenges for the art world. From galleries to museums, from auction houses to openings, everyone has struggled.
Obviously, COVID-19 brought online sales to the foreground. No longer able to rely on in-person events and auctions, the art world relied on the new digital tools that have developed over the last several years.
That theme will continue to be a major story for years to come, and it defines all the other trends going on in the market. But other factors are making their presence felt. Let’s look in depth at the ways that the art market has had to evolve over the last year and what is coming up next.
Millennials are maturing into an even larger portion of the art market. But what does that mean for artists and galleries?
As digital natives, Millennials feel completely at home with the new digital tools available for finding and buying art. So as their share of the market grows, the friction with online sales will continue to disappear.
But Millennials also bring a lot less money to the table than previous generations.
Remember, this is a cohort that entered a job market rocked by the 2008 financial crisis, and while the economy recovered in some ways, the opportunities for major advancement have lagged behind other economic markers like the stock market.
Student loan debt has also plagued Millennials to a much greater degree than previous generations, especially among those most likely to be purchasing art. This has forced Millennials to put off traditional milestones of adulthood, like home ownersh.
So how do these trends come together?
As Millennials continue to grow as a portion of art buyers, average art prices will likely lower. This is bad news for the few artists and galleries working at the top, but it could spell a lot of opportunity for others.
Especially as these buyers are likely to be engaged in social media, new artists will have the chance to reach out to art lovers and sell directly to them. Younger artists won’t need to take a paycut to sell to these buyers, and they can use free platforms to reach them.
On the other hand, those smaller galleries that typically represent emerging artists will likely suffer for this change.
The Rise of Virtual Art Experiences
Throughout the last five years, many museums have come out with virtual reality and augmented reality experiences to stay relevant to the public.
But during 2020, those technologies have gone from a rare gimmick to gain attention to a vital lifeline between art institutions and a public staying at home.
The pandemic, then, saw a proliferation of these virtual art experiences, with many art lovers trying them out for the first time.
Meanwhile, virtual reality gear continues to lower in price and expand in market penetration. And smartphones are capable of delivering something like a virtual reality experience.
These virtual experiences present new horizons for experimentation and play on the part of artists, as well as new ways for art institutions to engage the public even as they start coming back in large numbers.
A More Collaborative Art Market
In difficult times, people tend to pull together and help each other out. Through 2020, we saw many collaborations between small, mid-size, and large organizations and institutions. At the time, it was a matter of mutual survival. But going forward, will it stick?
The new models of presenting art, from hybrid shows to pop-up events, have shown that there are many avenues the art world has yet to explore.
Those new ideas that permeated 2020 might not reappear in the exact same way, most of them were looking to create a contactless way to engage with art, but they will no doubt inspire new experimentation going forward.
Diversity in the Art Market
The push into digital spaces democratized access to art in many ways. It not only made it easier to find and enjoy art, but it also brought artists from both ends of the spectrum onto the same plane.
What does that mean? The art market has had a year to reassess what it wants and who it is looking for. And in that year, diversity in the art market greatly increased.
While the process is slow, it continues to make an impact.
And while the artist side is diversifying, so is the buyer side. In 2020, Sotheby’s reported that their online auctions brought in a lot of never before seen faces, with 30% of their audience being new buyers. And of those, a third were under 40.
That’s a compelling change. These new buyers will likely continue to be engaged with the art market. This block will push the market in new ways, no doubt, changing up trends in the long term.
The End Result
The changes outlined above were not chosen necessarily. They were things the art market had to do to survive, but the mark they leave will persist.
In the crisis, the changes have likely made the art market stronger than before. It was a difficult year, but as things recover, there are now more people making a living through art and buying art. There are more ways to engage with art than ever before. There are more price tiers available to more people. These are all positive changes.
What we might find after the dust settles is an art market that has evolved to be something much stronger and capable of weathering challenges than ever before.
When you begin buying art, you encounter a lot of terminology. One of these is the secondary art market. What exactly is it? And if there is a secondary market, what makes up the primary market?
The simplest way to think of these two markets is this:
Primary market: when art is sold for the first time
Secondary market: when art is resold
That isn’t so difficult is it?
But when we ask about the secondary art market, we want to know more than this simplistic definition. As you might expect, these two markets work somewhat differently, and a good collector will have a working understanding of how to navigate both.
The secondary art market includes auction houses, some galleries, art dealers, and even resale websites like Ebay. For auctions, however, there are some exceptions. For instance, Damien Hirst has sold his work directly at auction, making it a primary art market for him.
Generally, people want to buy in the primary market if they can. Why? Because it almost always means you are buying directly from the artist or from a gallery that will hand a portion of the money to the artist. Because you are closer to the source, you usually get a better price, too.
Buying directly from the artist has many benefits. This means less overhead, no gallery retail markup, and you’re directly supporting the artist. But even buying from a gallery offers primary art market benefits, because while you might pay more, a good amount of the sale’s proceeds is still going to the artist.
That all sounds great. It makes sense that people would like to buy on the primary market. And yet, many collectors happily do most of their buying on the secondary market. So what’s going on?
The plot, as is usual for the art world, thickens.
The Benefits of the Secondary Art Market
Some people buy artwork for the sheer pleasure of having great work in their home and office. But for those spending a lot of money on art, they typically have concerns above and beyond if a painting looks good.
A main concern for many art buyers is resale value. Whether they are purchasing artwork as an investment or merely wanting to ensure that they can recuperate the value later on at resale, these buyers want to be more confident in the value of a work and the lasting name recognition of the artists they are buying.
If you think there is a chance you might resell a work of art later on, it’s important that the work will gain or at least retain value over time. And that’s where the secondary art market comes in. Because when you buy from it, you have a lot more information to make an informed decision.
See, when you buy on the secondary art market, you can find work that has a longer history of being bought and sold. That allows you to track the change in value over time. If a painting has consistently sold for more money over its lifetime, that’s good to know.
You also have access to bigger names — most collectors don’t have the connections or resources to buy directly from the superstars of the art world. And if the artist is deceased, then you’ll have a very hard time buying directly from them!
Plus, the secondary art market simply has a lot more work on offer, including almost everything you will ever see in a gallery or at auction.
In short, the secondary art market gives you more work to choose from, and the work you find comes with more data behind it.
But the most direct and practical benefit of the secondary art market remains the breadth of work available, including from artists who are no longer alive. If a collector is interested in work from the past, they will have to buy on the secondary art market.
How the Primary and Secondary Art Markets Interact
A really great collector won’t rely on one market or the other. Instead, they use both for different things, and they can make informed decisions on big art purchases only by taking both into account.
For instance, if an artist is selling their artwork directly, it is likely the best price you can find for it. However, it never hurts to check the secondary art market. You might find that the artist’s pieces are available for much less, it seems strange but it happens.
And as mentioned before, the secondary art market can give you guidance on how an artist’s work fares once it is “out in the wild” for years.
And if you are looking to buy from an artist who doesn’t have much if any work on the secondary market? You can still use it to study how artists with a similar style or recognition are doing.
Both markets are important for the art world, serving their own purposes and carrying their own benefits and drawbacks. But to be effective in one means knowing your way around both.
We’ve seen a dramatic change in how we appreciate and purchase art. Our experts discuss how we’re more connected and innovative than ever before, and how this shift has brought about new opportunities but also new challenges.
As a result of COVID-19, 2020 was a year of innovation for the art industry, with immense creativity and experimentation emerging out of necessity. The art market on all fronts had to re-evaluate the old models and embrace change in order to pivot in positive ways.
However, all the innovation and art market pivots did bring new challenges. With social media exploding, together with these newly created online art sharing platforms, there has become a dizzying amount of information to take in both visually and intellectually. The shift to online transactions has also been accompanied by a steep learning curve for both art buyers and sellers, leading to oversights and errors throughout the purchase process.
The impact of COVID-19 has had both positive and negative outcomes in the global art community. But one thing that will never change is that to fully experience the true beauty of art it has to be done in person.
Art Advisor | Pursuits Inc., Art Advisory
We’ll move back slowly towards more in-person interaction (art fairs, gallery visits, auctions) but I think that the technology that we were forced to adapt during COVID-19 (such as zoom calls, online art fairs, buying at auction online, etc) will continue to supplement the in-person interaction where necessary.
Art Advisor | Marketing Executive
The art market will shift more and more towards virtual viewing and virtual selling but there will be another way to organize exhibition openings and art fairs.
Art Advisor | Business Development Crozier
We are spending more time than ever at home, and with that comes a need to make the spaces we live in beautiful and special. Moreover, art can have a very soothing and healing effect. We have more time to read, research, analyze and explore all of which are perfect for starting or continuing to collect art.
Moreover, the art market has undergone a digital transformation whereby the focus has moved from showcasing to selling works of art online. There is greater transparency and a wider participation, all of which are positive changes that are likely to stay.
If there is one area however, we should pay attention to and that does concern me, it is that many of the younger, and lesser/unknown artists, often represented by the smaller galleries, are under immense pressure and heavily impacted by the crisis with a significant number of these artists having lost their representation all together or simply being overlooked in a crowded digital space with collectors gravitating to the more established “branded” artist names. As such, I do encourage everyone to veer off the beaten path and explore, possibly with the help of an art advisor, the unknown, not only will you be surprised by the quality and skill on offer, you will also be able to support those that need it the most.
Art Advisor | MUYS.ART
Interested in becoming an art advisor? Art Advisory 101 and Art Advisory 201 cover the key aspects of running a successful art advisory firm from how to navigate the art world to following best practice and managing client relationships. Enroll Today
Collecting art can be daunting and most don’t know where to begin. Having the knowledge and expertise to guide you along the way will help you make confident and informed purchases. And always go with your gut and buy what you love as you’ll hear from our experts.
I would find an area of the market you like, and gather as much knowledge about it as possible in terms of pricing, what are representative artists in that area, etc. Being informed yourself will allow you to ask better questions and get better answers before making a purchase in relation to the value, condition, provenance of the piece you are interested in.
Art Advisor | Marketing Executive
Listen to your art advisor but do not forget to listen to your sense of aesthetics and personal taste and sensitivity.
Art Advisor | Business Development Crozier
Always stay true to yourself. Buy the works you like or have a strong affinity with as more often than not, what you like someone else will too!
Art Advisor | MUYS.ART
Firstly, engaging in the art world is exciting and emotionally and intellectually stimulating. It is a powerful way to express one’s personality and own a piece of history at the same time. It all begins with passion and volition on the part of the collector to step into opportunities and engage in an educational journey. An advisor will help you navigate around art trends and hype, will consider what aesthetics and life stories are important to you, and will create those paths of inspirational discovery. By facilitating these experiences, the collector will have the opportunity to develop their interests and enjoy active participation in the local and international art world, as well as through online contexts.
Online opportunities cannot be underestimated either – Instagram and other social media platforms can be wonderful (and fun) tools for exploring art and expanding your awareness. An advisor can tailor content to your interests. Ultimately, collecting art is about more than décor, it’s about stepping into an artist’s world and exploring their history, passion, and journey.
Art Advisor | Pursuits Inc., Art Advisory
Interested in becoming an art advisor? Art Advisory 101 and Art Advisory 201 cover the key aspects of running a successful art advisory firm from how to navigate the art world to following best practice and managing client relationships. Enroll Today
Buying contemporary art can often make people tense up. Because it is new, it can be difficult to understand what price is truly fair, what artist is going to go on to be a big name, or if it is going to age well.
But there is another way to look at it. Contemporary art is the cutting edge. It’s what is happening now. For that reason, you can often buy artworks at a more reasonable price, and you can find new voices and styles that you’ve never seen before.
Buying contemporary art is an adventure. And if you go out on this adventure with the right motives and the right perspective, you’ll return with treasure.
So What Is Contemporary Art?
Before you open up your wallet and start doling out money, let’s begin with the basics.
Contemporary art is art being made in our lifetime.
Thought it was going to be more complicated than that, right? Well, don’t worry. Things get more complicated from here.
The art world uses the term contemporary art to set aside all work that is, well, contemporary with us. Modern art was an art movement that began in the late 19th century and ran to the 1970’s. Unfortunately, when most people say “modern” they mean the same thing as “contemporary,” and often non-specialists will say “modern art” when they really mean “contemporary art.”
Modernism broke with so much tradition, choosing abstraction and experimentation over narrative and standard materials. By the end of the modern era, the postmodernists pushed for views and approaches that preferred juxtaposition over one dominant cultural narrative.
All of the contemporary art scene lives in the aftermath of those two revolutions in the way artists create art and specialists think about it.
Add into the mix the fact that we live in a highly connected world, with a kaleidoscope of niches, subcultures, and emerging forms. Contemporary art starts to look like quite the exciting — if confusing — realm.
Rule #1: Buy What You Love
Luckily, when you are looking through the contemporary art scene and trying to find something to buy, you can keep the same guiding principle that serves you well no matter what kind of art you are buying.
Buy what you love.
Whenever you are buying art, this rule should always be first in your head. Always buy work that moves you, that grabs you and simply has to go home with you.
The truth is that art buying is at its most rewarding when you have a deep, personal love for the work. No amount of research or potential profit years down the road should talk you into buying art that you don’t really feel for.
Even if you are unsure of the artist’s future prospects in the market or if other people will agree with your tastes, you must still follow your heart. Why? No one has a crystal ball, and you will drive yourself to distraction if you try to predict the future of the art market. And as for the tastes of others, they don’t have to pay for the artwork and live with it in their home or office.
It is always better to buy a work of art that you love — even if it never makes you a dime or if it makes the in-laws scratch their heads (after all, that’s part of the fun of art, isn’t it?).
Finding What You Love
Of course, it is hard to fall in love with a work of art you never see. So the first phase of buying contemporary art is always research.
It’s never been easier to research art than it is today. Your smartphone alone is probably the most powerful research tool at your disposal. Using image-based social media platforms like Pinterest can give you endless content related to images you already like. Instagram goes further, allowing you to potentially get in touch with artists whose work you adore.
You can also use platforms like Artsy and artnet to discover the details of an artist’s career and the prices their work has sold for in the past. And of course, when it’s safe to do so, get out and see as much art as you can by attending art exhibitions and art fairs.
The more you explore contemporary art, the more of a feeling you’ll get for major trends and emerging voices. You’ll also begin to appreciate just how vast a field contemporary art can be. As art lovers, we live in the best time to buy art so far — with almost every imaginable combination of techniques, materials, and subjects available.
Fine Art Prints: When You Love Something You Can’t Afford
Let’s say you find a painting that rocks your world, but the price more than rocks your bank account. Consider purchasing fine art prints.
Fine art prints have improved greatly over the previous decades, with the cost of reproduction steadily dropping and the availability of archival paper and inks increasing.
While a print isn’t the exact same experience as a painting, they can still be stunning works to put on your wall. And if you are smart about buying them, they can retain and appreciate in value over time. The secret is:
Purchase from a limited edition
Make sure to have a detailed receipt that proves provenance
Limited edition prints are prints made all at once and numbered. It is limited because the artist will have a set amount, say 100. It is very hard for an open edition print to appreciate value, because more can always be printed. So, when you can, buy limited editions.
As for provenance, being able to prove that the print comes from the artist and from the exact edition you say it does is of utmost importance for the value of a print. Make sure to get proper documentation for this.
Taking Home the One You Love
Finally, you have to take care of the work that you love enough to buy. While this seems obvious, many new art buyers don’t consider this. They quickly learn this important lesson the hard way.
Many works of art are fragile, and no artwork is impervious to damage. Take care whenever you are handling, shipping, or storing your work.
Every form will have its own special needs, and the artists and gallerists you purchase from will be happy to give you pointers, and many galleries even have professional delivery services.
Once it is home in one piece, you still need to make sure you don’t expose most works to excessive UV light. Some work needs to be protected from high humidity areas like bathrooms.
The good news is this: if taken care of, most art will be a beautiful addition to your home for decades, if not generations, to come.
Yesterday my dad asked me about NFTs and what they mean to the art market. Although my dad’s an art lover, a collector, and even an artist, he’s in his seventies and is lost amongst all of this crypto art hoopla. And I have to admit, I’m not that far behind, as he posed some questions that I could not confidently answer. But thankfully, I know who could provide him, as well as all of us, with a crash course!
So, with this interview, we’re doing things a bit differently. My dad, Robert Wehkamp, is going to interview our expert, Claudia Worthington Hess, Principal Accredited Appraiser at Hess Art Advisory. Take it away, dad….
Robert: Great to meet you, Claudia! My daughter says you can help answer a few questions I have.
Claudia: Delighted to shed some light on this the seemingly overnight sensation of NFTs as they apply to the artworld. Initially, I was confused about NFTs and what it means for art, so I researched the heck out of them.
Perfect! So, what exactly is an NFT? What does it stand for?
As a very general description, NFT (non-fungible token) is another way of documenting art in a digital way. It is a kind of token that is unique to the work of art and can do things like document the artist, time of creation, place of creation and other information. It also could give the artist a royalty when it gets sold in the future. Think of something like Spotify for visual creations. Confusion about them mostly comes from people thinking an NFT is an actual artwork. While mostly used for digital art, a physical artwork could also have a token attached to it. Also, current artists could use them to get a royalty from future sales.
As mentioned, NFT stands for non-fungible token.
More precisely, non-fungibile: non-tradeable one for one; unique.
And token: a digital asset of publicly verifiable intellectual property that is authenticated on a blockchain. These assets can be tangible such as athletic shoes, and they can be intangible, such as a concept, a digitally designed piece of visual content.
And finally, blockchain: a digital ledger system that NFTs get registered on.
Ok, makes sense. Then can I buy NFTs with cryptocurrencies?
NFTs use the same technology behind cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to create a certificate of ownership over a specific digital file that can’t be copied or forged, although there have been issues with theft. So, you could use a cryptocurrency, such as ETH (Ethereum: a competing digital currency to Bitcoin) to buy an NFT.
Then, what’s the difference between digital art and crypto art?
Well, here’s my short answer: Crypto art is a kind of digital art that can be treated like physical art due to the ability to have verified ownership of the piece. Just like an original painting signed by Picasso can have its authenticity and ownership authenticated, crypto art can be verified in the same way using an NFT. Just how safe and uncorruptible this system is, is still playing out.
Ok, I get that NFTs are digitally tokenized artworks, so can’t I just save a gif, a digital image or video to my computer to enjoy or even own? To me, it seems with digital art, a copy is literally as good as the original. Am I wrong?
You are right. If millions of people can see, download and even replicate digital art, how can it be monetized or made precious? Borrowing from an already established set-up of other collectibles, artists started pushing the concept of NFTs. This is not that new of a concept. The most notable thing that happened, however, is the over $68 million sale of a Beeple design via Christie’s. This work can be still seen, downloaded, saved and viewed even though an NFT attached to it has been sold.
So why was this Christie’s auction different than other ways to already buy digital art?
The run-up and conclusion of that sale brought in cryptocurrency traders into the mix. So, in my opinion, the Beeple sale involved much more than art collectors: It combined currency traders, the auction house, curious people and new-to-the-auction-world buyers. It also racked up proceeds on both ends of the deal for the auction house, the currency traders and the artist.
Allow me to provide a little background: Traders promoted Beeple’s digital design Everydays: the First 5,000 Days, through fractionalized interests on a few of his other designs, before the now famous 5,000 Days work was auctioned.
The run-up in the marketing strategy allowed those traders to hype bidding in cryptocurrencies as it made their own currencies more valuable. Did it have a benefit to Beeple? YES, he received 2% (low by other standards) and a portion on future trading of that work. Further, Beeple also made a cut of the fractionalized artwork the currency traders created before the auction.
But if anyone can copy it so easily (well, easier than to forge an old master in oil on canvas), why is it valuable to “own”?
For lesser known digital artists attaching an NFT is a way to get paid and give a buyer something “unique” as well as potentially get paid for future sales (a lot of people flip their purchases to try and make some quick money). This is also a way to capitalize on an artist’s or an individual’s popularity on the web.
However, since millions can see and download work, digital artistic content creators had to go back to traditional value attributes for art: provenance (historical ownership) and rarity.
They used people’s understanding of scarcity and transformed that concept into a form that might entice a buyer to pay for a widely available image: the concept of a unique NFT. The artwork may or may not be unique, but the NFT is.
This way of “seeing art” is a clash of younger and older ways of seeing art. For many people art means you have something one of a kind in hand. Something to hold and admire and perhaps show off in your home.
For digital art, for the younger buyer, the more “likes” and “views” the better. They have grown up in a click- and-like world and may never have even entered a museum. Now, they can be art collectors and share their collection.
In your opinion: NFTs… good or bad?
Both. The companies, springing up around this technology are still so new. I recommend a lot of research into the companies offering digital currency, how you set up a “wallet” for digital currencies and the companies or individuals that you deal with.
There are good and bad players. The good is for visual artists to potentially get royalties off future art sales like musicians do.
However, a drawback is the energy consumption required to mine crypto currencies, run block chains, etc. is extremely high. For the moment, until big changes are made to the current system (very complicated and involves huge amount of computing power), transacting in this way is not an ecological activity.
So, do you need to jump on the NFT bandwagon yesterday? Will you make millions? Probably only if you are already very knowledgeable about cryptocurrencies, and all of the steps it takes to mine, hold and convert such currency. Also, it’s helpful to know what is currently relevant, as you’ll want to buy such popular tokens. NFTs are changing by the nanosecond. In the future, crypto-transactions will become more explored and safer and hopefully less energy-demanding. This goes for both buyers and makers of digital art.
Got it! I now have a much better understanding of how and why NFTs are shaking up the art market. You’ve truly made future discussions on this topic a little less intimidating! Thank you, Claudia!
Claudia W. Hess, MBA, AAA brings over 40 years of experience as an art historian, curator, entrepreneur, educator, gallery owner, and art collector to her role as CEO of Hess Art Advisory. She is also a Certified Member of the Appraisers Association of America and a veteran of countless blue-chip art fairs.
2020, it bears repeating, was a difficult year. The art market did not escape this difficulty. In fact, it was already poised for bad news at the end of 2019, but no one could have expected how bad it turned out.
But 2021 is a new year. And as we look out at the landscape, we might find some hopeful signs that we will be returning to galleries. We might see the return of art fairs and other arts and culture events that once were the highlights of our calendars.
While many of the changes to the art market in 2020 were temporary measures meant to weather the unique circumstances, it appears that many of these changes are not going away.
It should also be noted that not all of the changes in 2020 can be attributed to a single cause. 2019 saw a 5% drop in sales compared to 2018, double that for China — the third largest art and antiquities market.
Experts had low expectations for 2020, long before they ever heard of the novel coronavirus. Those expectations proved too buoyant, but in some ways, the extreme difficulty of the last year might have been the catalyst needed to change the art market in a positive direction.
As we browse through some of the possibilities for the art market in 2021, keep in mind that the future is not written in stone and that artists, art lovers, collectors, and gallerists will make the new art market together.
Look For More Virtual Auctions
Virtual auctions were not invented in 2020, but the radical increase in them over the year has had an effect that is here to stay.
Auction houses — especially the big names like Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips — had a horrendous first half of 2020. Overall, their sales plummeted 49% in the first half of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.
That is almost an entire half of their business gone. That’s with virtual auction sales increasing by 497%.
So what did they do? They pivoted.
The second half of the year was not so dire, almost entirely due to virtual auctions. When all was said and done, 2020 was a bad year for auction houses, but not as bad as it could have been.
As with many sectors of our life, virtual engagement helped alleviate the worst of things. But there are a few things about virtual art auctions that make them likely to stay around long after the pandemic.
The major benefit is access. Virtual art auctions allow people to attend events around the world, a major benefit as art auctions expand in new markets. 2020 also saw the art market continue to expand in Asian cities like Hong Kong. Virtual auctions allow these art collectors to join auctions in Europe and the Americas, and vice versa.
Also, the big auction houses showed that virtual auctions can be impressive events in their own right. In the summer, Sotheby’s hired a production company to create a stunning presentation. For their efforts, their summer virtual auction raked in $363 million — far surpassing expectations. That included a $84.6 million dollar winning bid for a Francis Bacon triptych, thanks to a bidding war between a bidder online and one on the phone. That’s the future.
More Collectibles and Hybrid Forms
Chalk it up to the Beanie Baby craze that ran through the childhoods of countless Millennials, but as a new generation of art collectors begins to buy, the prevalence of art that merges luxury goods and collectible formats will continue to explode.
Major names like KAWS and Murakami have shown that working with luxury fashion brands and other non-traditional art partnerships can be incredibly lucrative. Collaborations between hypebeast fashion brands have found a lot of success as of late, with younger artists having fewer perceived divisions between the so called “high” and “low” forms of fine art and streetwear, respectively.
That trend will continue and likely grow through 2021.
One way to tell is the uptake of the hypebeast form in traditional areas of the art market — a sign that this is not a passing fad but something many experts trust to have legs.
Expanding Online Art Experiences
We are seeing a convergence of widely available, powerful internet infrastructure with a group of artists ready to take advantage. Netart first found almost euphoric pronouncements of eminence in the 90’s, but those prophecies never quite came true.
But with the ongoing increase in internet speeds, virtual reality devices, 5G networks, and a new generation of netartists building reputations, all signs point to Go for netart.
Case in point, the term NFT (nonfungible tokens) become an overnight sensation! The digital art market is on fire and investors look to cash in! Shares in digital art market businesses have sky-rocketed and NFTs are bringing in the big bucks. Grimes sold her NFTs in a February auction for $5.8 million and Beeple’s digital artwork sold for a record $69 million at Christies.
But even traditional art is going more online. Many galleries and museums have experimented with augmented reality to enhance the experience of their collections, and 2020 saw many museums making virtual tours available — keeping a public hungry for experience sated on great art.
We will not go into the dire predictions for the environment over the next several decades. Needless to say, it’s a central concern for everybody. That includes artists and the art market in general.
While artists have already been working in environmental themes more and more over the 2010’s, it is now becoming a constant presence in the work of artists from every part of the globe.
That eco-focused streak is not stopping at the edge of the canvas, though. The art market itself is greening, based on buyer demands. Companies like ROKBOX are looking to address the enormous amount of waste in the art shipping process. And veganism is now en vogue at New York art openings.
Inclusivity Past, Present, and Future
As calls for increased inclusivity and more diverse artists continue, the art market is responding. 2021 will see the increased understanding of the role of oppressed identities in the history of art, leading to greater appreciation on the auction block and at the gallery.
But that’s the past. Expect greater prominence of diverse voices going forward, too. This long-needed recognition will have an even more pronounced effect in the long-term art market, as more children today see the art world as a place that might accept their perspective and reward their talents.
This is a transformation occurring in all parts of society, at different speeds and in different ways. When you see a trend across the board, with deep roots, you can expect it will continue and grow in 2021 and long after. And that is a hopeful note to end on.
Not only can art advisors provide you much needed transparency when it comes to collecting art, they will educate you about the process, help you establish tastes and open doors to the best quality works. Hear what our experts had to say about how art advisors can help you navigate the art market.
The art market has grown enormously over the last 10 years and, as a result, has become more complicated to navigate. One of the most important tools an advisor can bring to their client is transparency, so that the client understands everything that is happening around the purchase and the process of acquiring a work. In today’s market, when art is so highly coveted, a top art advisor with the established relationships in the global art network will have access to newly available artworks, be able to obtain gallery discounts, and mitigate any transactional risks.
Art Advisor | Pursuits Inc., Art Advisory
Art advisors are your guide to the market. The art market is still pretty opaque in some respects, even though you can access prices online. An art advisor will help you do the research and help you make informed decisions in regards to buying or selling art.
Art Advisor | Marketing Executive
The important thing is for the art advisor to be transparent and tell the art collector about their strengths and competences. An advisor specialized in contemporary and post war will probably not be the best advisor for an ancient art collection.
Art Advisor | Business Development Crozier
Our art advisors assist our clients in many ways. When it comes to buying art, we explore in detail our clients taste and aspirations and then help broaden or focus the interest on different artists, mediums and movements. Once things are more concrete, we help facilitate access to more exclusive works that are not always available to new buyers and we provide additional context and due diligence on the artworks (art history, price, quality, provenance, potential resale value, comparable). We also negotiate the best price and if desired we oversee the logistics and management of the collection.
When a client is looking to sell, oftentimes this is triggered by an impactful life event. At such times, you want to know you are in good hands and well looked after. Our advisory really supports our clients every step of the way from clarifying family goals to demystifying and evaluating the sales offers, to ensuring all the different aspects (marketing, financials, logistics, etc.) of the consignment process are well taken care off.
Art Advisor | MUYS.ART
Interested in becoming an art advisor? Art Advisory 101 and Art Advisory 201 cover the key aspects of running a successful art advisory firm from how to navigate the art world to following best practice and managing client relationships. Enroll Today
To start off our Art Advisory series, we asked the experts: how can a collector find an art advisor to work with and what should they be looking for? There are many reasons, as you’ll find out below. The art market is opaque and partnering with a knowledgeable professional will help you enjoy the art collecting experience and build a meaningful collection.
The best way for a collector to find an art advisor is through word of mouth. Besides their market knowledge, art expertise and a significant number of years of experience, your art advisor should have an excellent reputation, be independent and offer transparent and honest advice. Always make sure they are representing your best interests rather than their own and never forget that you are operating in a complex and opaque market. An excellent art advisor will be able to simplify things and set you up for greater success so that you can enjoy your art purchase or rest assured that you are maximizing your proceeds.
Art Advisor | MUYS.ART
An art collector entering a client/art advisor relationship should look forward to a very exciting and enriching experience. The advisor works as a facilitator and connector to create and develop their client’s dream collection in a confidential manner, sharing highly personalized, educationally focused, well-researched, and unbiased expertise.
A collector should also feel that their advisor understands their needs – financially, with an established art budget, and is perceptive and receptive to their personal interests. There is also the practical side of art collecting, which is crucial, and collectors should seek an advisory that provides in-depth art market research as part of their services.
Art Advisor | Pursuits Inc., Art Advisory
Find an art advisor at www.artadvisors.org or the appropriate art advisory organization in your country. Look for an art advisor who has expertise in the area that you want to buy in (i.e., works on paper, or 20th Century Design, or European, etc).
Art Advisor | Marketing Executive
The research is shifting from web sites to social media platforms like LinkedIn and Instagram.
Art Advisor | Business Development Crozier
Interested in becoming an art advisor? Art Advisory 101 and Art Advisory 201 cover the key aspects of running a successful art advisory firm from how to navigate the art world to following best practice and managing client relationships. Enroll Today
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Shelley Berube, Executive Vice President at Luxury Asset Capital. She is responsible for leading all day-to-day operations at the New York City office including sales, building client relations, maximizing the company’s operating performance and helping to achieve the company’s financial goals. Wow! Sounds busy! Thankfully she took time to answer some questions we had about art lending.
So, just how big of a business is art lending?
Fine art is well established as an alternative asset class that often holds or appreciates in value. This is why collectors frequently use it as loan collateral. While there are several options out there for obtaining loans using art as collateral, they generally have five and six-figure minimum loan sizes. We determined that high minimum loan sizes were a significant impediment for many to obtain a collateral loan, so we lowered the minimums for both our standard short-term loan and line of credit offerings to $25,000. This is one of the lowest minimums on the market today. In doing this, we are making it possible for many more owners of fine art to tap the equity of their holdings to help finance the acquisition of additional works of art, other luxury assets, a business, or large, unexpected personal expenses.
Why would a collector consider an art loan over a traditional bank loan and what are the risks involved?
Traditional financing sources, such as banks, usually do not consider alternative assets such as art when putting them into their “underwriting box.” They focus on debt to income ratio; they focus on liquidity statements; they want to see your W2s, if you own a business, what your credit score is, etc. They try to fit you into their tight underwriting box and make you a fit for their borrowing criteria- if you don’t fit, you get denied the loan.
All the while, collectors and individuals have extremely valuable assets in their possession which, in most cases, continue to grow in value. We have built our business on considering these valuable, alternative assets. Working with us is significantly simpler because we focus on just the value of the assets we’re talking about, and not all disclosure of paperwork, the red tape, the regulations that traditional financing options require.
We do not require and credit checking or personal guarantees which allows our process to be simple, fast and discreet. As we do not require any of the above, the only risk for the client would be if they were to default on the loan.
What are the main reasons collectors take out loans against their art?
This varies by clients but the three biggest reasons are:
They don’t want to sell – the work might be something passed down from a family member, part of a collection, or a piece that they know will continue to grow in value over time.
Speed – Time sensitive transactions are something that we are very familiar with and we focus on executing our loans in a very little time frame to ensure our clients meet their deadlines.
Discretion – Our process is very professional and private. Allowing clients to meet their financial needs securely.
Describe your typical art-collector client, what requests they come to you with and how you help them
This also really varies client by client. Clients come to us to address situations and meet opportunities, including starting up or running businesses, purchasing new works, expanding their existing collections or dealing with unexpected expenses. Borro also allows them to capitalize on the value of their fine art without the wait, and, more importantly, without the need to sell.
Most recently, we have had a lot of clients looking to leverage their existing collection to be able to have the liquidity to purchase new works.
What does the lending process look like?
Our loan process is easy and fast. The general process is the following:
We will collect preliminary information on the work or collection in order to conduct an initial evaluation.
Once the initial evaluation process is finalized, rates and terms will be agreed and collection will be arranged.
When the work has been inspected, in our possession and any final evaluation processes are completed, we will issue the contract and payment once accepted.
The client will be responsible for making their minimum monthly payments. Our contract has no prepayment penalties which allows our clients to be in control of the length they borrow for.
Upon repayment of the loan in full, the work will be returned back to the client!
Bonus Question! What international art destination do you want to visit most?
What a great question! I’d say Florence, Italy. Being able to explore works, architecture and history from the Renaissance would be a dream come true!
We all know that we love art. Maybe it’s because of the beautiful colors, the captivating imagery, the mastery of the brushwork, or some intangible connection it has to a memory. There’s no question: art has real, meaningful value in people’s lives.
But did you know art is scientifically proven to improve your mental health and well being?
That might seem bold to say, but researchers continue to find more data to support it. As we improve our understanding of how the human brain works, we are finding better ways to study more and more fascinating parts of our lived experience, like art.
And it turns out that art can improve our mental health in multiple ways — something we could all use a little more of these days.
This one can be clearly seen in our own day-to-day lives. The more we go out to galleries and museums, attend concerts, and spend an afternoon painting with our friends, the more satisfied we are with our lives.
But that hunch we all have is showing up in the data. A massive study — called the HUNT Study — of over 50,000 Norwegians above the age of 13 found that there was a correlation between cultural activities, life satisfaction and mental health.
Researchers found that cultural activities, including trips to the art museum and galleries, were also tied to better health outcomes, along with lower rates of depression and anxiety.
Now, it should be noted that correlation does not mean causation. For instance, many people who don’t go to art events are likely prohibited by where they live, work hours, lack of funds, and other struggles.
But here’s the thing: researchers found that the benefits became dramatic the more cultural events people attended. That strongly suggests that cultural events and the arts are having an effect on mental health, even if the correlation picks up a few other points of data as well.
And the data keeps coming. An Italian study of 1,500 people found that attending arts and culture events was the second best predictor of life satisfaction.
So if art imparts greater mental health and overall well being, how does it do this? Increased dopamine and reduced cortisol. Let’s examine both below.
The Love of Art is True Love
Semir Zeki studies neuroaesthetics — a discipline looking at the brain science behind perceptions of art. Zeki published a breakthrough paper in 2011 describing a place in the brain that registers beauty in art and releases dopamine, a motivating chemical that is connected to the good feelings created by love, chocolate, and even cocaine.
The University College London professor continues to chase down exactly how the brain reacts to art, but his work makes it clear that the brain finds profound reward when viewing beautiful works of art.
Dopamine is a chemical that helps us form memory, feel energy, focus on tasks, and coordinate our movement. When you have an increase, you experience improved mood, giddiness, and social openness.
By increasing dopamine, art that we find beautiful creates a reward that improves our mental well being. While this should come as no surprise to art lovers, it reminds us that having great art around us is a scientifically proven way to increase feelings of happiness and improve our mental health.
Art Reduces Stress
While art gives us pleasure, it can also help us cope with stress.
Our world is filled with stress. From the ongoing pandemic, news updates, work emails, not to mention the 101 things you still have to do today — we face a lot of stress.
Over time, stress has major negative health effects. That means we need to pursue things that keep our stress levels down. And art, it turns out, is great at combating stress.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that the body produces. The body releases it to wake us up in the morning and keep us alert, but you can get too much of a good thing. When we experience stress, our body ups the cortisol — creating the long term negative effects we mentioned earlier, including depression and ageing.
A 2006 study brought London city workers into an art museum for a brief, 35 minute tour. After a little more than half an hour, participants had marked decreases in cortisol.
This and other studies like it remind us of the soothing feeling we get while at an art museum or gallery, flipping through an art book at home, or looking at the painting in our living room. And that soothing feeling has serious health benefits.
Art Can Help You Heal
The concept of using the arts in healing has gained more attention, and more articles and reviews can be found in journals and academic periodicals. Many of which explore the effects of arts when patients and their families, as well as health professionals, are exposed to different art media.
Health practices and in particular dental, offices are often seen and portrayed as a cold and sterile place. Arts create a safer, more supportive and relaxed ambiance to practices that can affect the general setting for patients and staff, the same.
Health Practitioners Bring Art into the Practice
More and more health professionals are making art a serious part of patient care. This may be because art has demonstrated positive effects, not only on patient well-being, but also on health outcome such as pain tolerance. In fact, the direct connection between art and healthcare has long been established and explored through studies and actual implementation of its findings.
The primary beneficiaries of art in the practice are the patients themselves. Art benefits them by aiding in their physical, mental, and emotional recovery, as well as decreasing their perception of pain while positively impacting medication outcomes, treatment compliance and quality of life.
However, art is beneficial to every person’s mental health, patient or not. Health staff themselves demonstrate a strong link between the content of images that art offers and the brain’s reaction to stress and anxiety. Everyday they face realities of human suffering and illnesses, to one extent or another. Arts allow them to have a sanctuary of calmness and relief, as well as a platform for them to release their emotions and stress. In fact, studies have shown that art boosts the productivity of healthcare providers, increasing effectiveness and decreasing errors.
Bringing It All Together
Art’s ability to increase pleasure and decrease stress combine to make a powerful boost to your sense of well being. And that increased mental health and well being goes on to have a profound positive impact in the rest of our lives.
While we all suspected it, science has given us ways to measure and think about this effect. A life lived with art is happier and healthier.
From buying art to bequeathing it, here are 6 frequently asked questions about art collections, answered by experts.
Collecting art is a journey. It goes beyond just the purchase of the artwork.
Art collecting seems like a straightforward journey. But once you start, you’ll realize it’s filled with unexpected twists and turns. You’ll feel like Odysseus—facing a long, wandering odyssey of challenges.
To help you navigate the process, we asked art professionals what questions they get asked the most by art collectors. And, they generously gave their answers.
What can I do to clean my paintings safely at home?
There are few safe ways for art collectors to clean their own pieces without intervention from a conservator—if any at all. Many attempt to brush off dust with a feather duster (which they assume is light and cleans delicately) or with a soft rag. This doesn’t work. As a paintings conservator, I see feathers from dusters and pulled threads from rags stuck in impasto, or worse, having pulled off the tips of impasto, all the time.
If you think your painting looks dirty or affected by smoke/soot, or if you have noticed spider or insect activity, I recommend taking the painting off the wall and sending quality photos (both overall and close-ups) to a conservator, along with measurements and information about the painting’s location in your home.
Cleaning on one’s own is always dangerous since cracks, flaking or tented paint and friable or powdery pigments are not always readily visible to the naked or untrained eye. If you try cleaning by yourself, you might brush off flakes of paint or disturb loose pigment.
How do I find out more about an object in my collection?
There is a wealth of free information available via the internet and the library, including databases with articles, archives, and physical books. Start by looking to see if there is a catalogue raisonne about the artist. There you can find basic information about the object and its provenance. Start with IFAR (International Foundation for Art Research). For provenance information, go to the Getty Provenance Index Databases. There are many projects in place with institutions to digitize archives so that they are more accessible to researchers. And if you have not already done so, do a basic Google search on the object, artist, medium, or type of object which may appear in credible scholarly sources that are accessible online.
Should I buy art as an investment or just get something I really like?
The old adage is key: buy with your heart… BUT use your head. Buying what you love does not dismiss you from doing your homework.
Although the most important consideration is how the art makes you feel, you should consider each work as a potential asset that can at a minimum, at least retain its value. So, undeniably, the more you know going into a purchase, the better you can assess the value of that piece.
So back to the question: buy something you really like but combine your emotional connection with a well-informed decision that mitigates the risk of your investment. That way, you’ll have something you love to look at every day that maybe, just maybe, goes up in value down the road.
This question is actually two-part. Art collectors want to make sure that their collectibles are both physically and financially safe. How do you protect the value of their collection? And, how do you ensure that the collectibles are physically preserved?
The answer lies in proper planning.
Let’s break it down:
First things first, make sure that your collectibles are properly insured by keeping values up-to-date and adding or removing works that you have acquired or sold. Engage an independent and accredited appraiser to value your art and collectibles.
Have a good visual inventory. Photograph your artworks and store the images along with other provenance information in an online collection management system like Artwork Archive.
Save documents and records both physically and digitially. Maintain invoices, past appraisals, condition reports, etc..
Have a rolodex of qualified art professionals whether it be independent appraisals, art advisors, trained conservators, high-quality framers, shipping and storage, etc.. You want high-quality, vetted independent art professionals caring for your collection.
Have a disaster preparedness plan for your collection. Damage doesn’t just happen from natural disasters. One of the biggest sources of loss is from broken water pipes. Also, schedule periodic physical condition checks by an art professional. Learn more about hazards to your art collection.
Communicate with your trusted advisors–wealth managers, CPAs, attorneys. Make sure they are aware of your collections, so they can provide sound advice and planning for the financial preservation of your tangible assets
How should I think of selling my art as an estate at the end of my life?
Building a collection can provide a lifetime of joy, but where it goes in the end can be a rushed, fraught decision. Children and other inheritors often end up with artworks they know little about and may not appreciate. Because art requires storage space, there can be a deadline to move the works along which prevents them from holding their full value. In the best case, collectors while still active with a rolodex of contacts should identify where each painting will go—to a descendent, to a museum, or to be sold. A solid archive at least provides the inheritors with clues on where to start by knowing where each work was acquired, where it was exhibited (before or after purchase), and even just the name of the artist who made it.
As a dealer who has carefully selected all the works I have handled, I appreciate being given the first go at a collection my gallery has shaped. As a service to our collectors, we often help their children identify the works they have, introduce them to museums that might be interested in gifts, tell them which works we will take on consignment or purchase, and direct them to other dealers or auction houses where the works might now sell. An organized list of paintings with their details and images expedites this process for both us and the collector’s estate.
This question comes up often when handling an estate–whether you’re planning your own or handling one passed down to you.
Usually clients are torn between what they think they “should” keep versus what they want to keep. The answer is surprisingly simple. The person, or persons, who have been given the responsibility to hold the family history has the authority to determine what best represents the story being kept (Hint: it isn’t everything). Having a “committee” of family members weighing in on what is important, or keeping everything because that’s what you received, is what leads to clutter, stress and frustration.
Yes, there is a good and basic “system” of exactly that–making “piles” of items, either physically or in pictures. Then you can choose to give others some say if they want to claim the items you plan to not keep.
But there are those items that are particularly difficult to know what to do with. And for those times it’s good to ask yourself these three basic questions:
Is this YOUR memory to keep? (Does it belong to other family members, like your kids?)
If you were not here, does the item tell that memory? Can it speak for itself?
Is it a memory that has relevance beyond yourself? Some things are person specific and that’s okay.
Answered by Terri Blanchette, Heritage Preservation Specialist and Owner of TimeSorters
Can you appraise these items for me and then buy them from me?
No, I cannot appraise items and then buy them. The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) prohibit me from doing so. It would be a conflict of interest for me to appraise your items (tell you what their value is) and then offer you money to purchase them.
As a professional appraiser, my role is to be objective and without any interest in the items I’m appraising. When an appraiser is asked to appraise and then purchase the same items, this creates the incentive to purposely undervalue the appraisal to serve the appraiser’s own interests with a lower purchase offer. This is unethical and not allowed by USPAP.
I can only appraise your items, not buy them.
Many people outside of the professional appraisal community do claim they can tell you what your items are worth and then buy them from you, and these are scenarios to avoid. Ask yourself, “whose interests is the person representing? Theirs or mine?” This is one of the many reasons why it is so helpful to work with objective, impartial professional appraisers.
How do I discover works by emerging artists, especially when we’re all remote?
Gallery-hopping, fair-going and studio-visiting are probably never going to be the same, and that means adapting to new opportunities to discover artists and their works. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the virtual art fairs and virtual exhibitions that have been organized during the Covid pandemic, but the truly “emerging” artists who are not represented by a gallery are unlikely to be part of these shows.
When a collector expresses interest in collecting works by emerging artists, I like working with them to learn about the themes, ideas and aesthetics they’re most excited about, and then providing a shortlist of artists and works, much like how I worked with collectors in pre-Covid times. Thanks to more online content from artists and galleries (especially artist-run projects posting on social media), I’ve discovered artists who I probably would not have come across in normal times by proactively seeking out artist talks, performances, exhibitions and initiatives that pique my interest.
It also seems that everyone has become more accessible online and some amazing art discussions have happened through Instagram DMs and Clubhouse! I’ve been able to provide collectors more information about artists and their bodies of work because of this additional content and increased accessibility. Of course, seeing a work online is nothing like seeing it in person, so an in-person viewing or a “test drive” in a collector’s home is arranged before a sale is finalized.
Outside of working with an art advisor, I recommend that collectors ask artists they’ve collected before for recommendations and that they connect with galleries, non-profit art spaces and artists through signing up for newsletters and following them on social media. It’s also a great time to dig into museums’ digital content, Artwork Archive’s Discovery, auction results and art sales platforms to continue honing the “collector’s eye” and contextualizing emerging artists’ work.
Answered by Melinda Wang, independent curator and Founder of MW Projects, a cultural production and art advisory firm based in NYC
Can you come to my home and provide values for my collection on the spot?
There is sometimes a false impression that appraisers are ‘object whispers’ who can see an item and, in an instant, accurately know its value. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple (although I wish it were!). A valuation worth your while requires time for research and market analysis, which usually happens back at the office.
However, sometimes clients would like a general assessment and guidance on which pieces should be appraised. In these instances, I recommend either sending your appraiser images or arranging a walkthrough consultation. Through these initial steps, we can help you select which property to focus on and determine how to meet your valuation needs best.
Today, we chat with Ana Collazo, an art lover who studied fine arts before moving to Africa where she acted as a liaison for international investors in Senegal, Cameroon, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, and Nigeria. After living in various countries for six years, she settled in Nigeria where she launched Aworanka, which was born to revolutionize the world of art in Africa. She explains how…
So, you are the founder of Awonran’ka? First off, what does it mean?
Aworanka is the first African gallery aggregator. The name Aworanka is a mix of two different words, aworan and nka, which mean art in two different African languages, Yoruba and Igbo respectively.
The Yoruba people are an ethnic group that populates western Africa mainly Nigeria, Togo, Benin, and part of Ghana. This is one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa with around 40 million individuals in and around West Africa. The Yoruba are said to be among the most accomplished and fecund craftsmen and sculptors in Africa. Besides blacksmithing, glassmaking, weaving, carving, or working leather, the Yoruba became famous for their terra cotta works made in the 12th and 14th centuries and their bronze casting in the 13th and 14th centuries. In this era, their lost-wax method of bronze casting reached a level of sophistication and technical excellence never equalled in Western Africa afterward.
The Igbo people are an ethnic group that inhabits Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea but large Igbo populations are also found in Cameroon and Gabon as well as outside Africa. Ibgo art is well-known for its masks, masquerades, and outfits representing people, animals, or non-figurative ideas.
What does Awonran’ka do?
Aworanka is an aggregator of galleries and a platform to acquire African art. Aworanka’s buying process is intuitive and simple and it includes a number of security and transparency measures that make this marketplace the best platform to acquire African art. Our main objective with Aworanka is to promote African art, honor its heritage and create a transparent process for both the art collectors and galleries.
Our buyers feel confident in our platform because we only partner with officially registered galleries that meet strict requirements. Besides, Aworanka reviews the conditions and authenticity of every artwork, handles all the export documentation and has partnered with DHL for shipping by integrating their system into Aworanka’s platform. In terms of payment, Aworanka has integrated secure payment gateways into the website with SSL (Secure Socket Layer) and 3D Secure encryption methods. In addition, Aworanka, releases the funds to the gallery only when the buyer has received the items. This gives buyers an extra layer of security.
Ana, providing guidelines at a gallery photoshoot
Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa is enjoying increased global attention. Prices of African paintings have reached record levels in auctions over the past two years. Why is that?
International collectors have steadily shown an increased interest in African art. This international demand comes from different groups. One of those groups is made of collectors living outside of Africa that have seen the evolution of the prices of African art over the past years. A second group is composed of expatriates that have worked or visited the continent. The numbers in this group has increased over the past ten years and therefore, the demand of African art coming from this public has also increased.
Another important part of this growth is the African demand. We are observing an increasing number of young art collectors on the continent that, with the growth of the middleclass, have also increased their purchasing power and have learned to further appreciate having a piece of art in their homes. Additionally, there is a large African diaspora that wants a piece of home in the country where they currently live. We are social beings and collecting art is a way or connecting with your culture and your heritage. We are trying to make the process of buying African art easier for all these groups.
Tell us about the African Art Market and the position of African Art in the global art market?
Africa is very large continent with a great and diverse art culture. Contemporary African art has gained international traction over the few past years but documentation, research and cataloguing has been more limited and constrained than in other continents. This means that collectors don’t have as much information available about African Art as they might have about artworks from other continents. This frequently creates confidence issues. This is why Aworanka has been conceived not only as a platform to sell art but as a source of information and research. Currently, we have already published over one hundred biographies of African artists, we have started publishing interviews and we expect to launch our reports section in 2021. Collectors want to make informed decisions. We are here to facilitate their decision process.
Any advice for emerging collectors of African art?
African art is a great investment as it is largely affordable compared to international prices. Furthermore, African artworks have only increased their value over the past years. One of the most important tasks when collecting or investing in art is to conduct extensive research and ensure the authenticity of the pieces. In this respect, Aworanka has partnered with Tagsmart, the world-leading provider of certificates of authenticity. Tagsmart certificates contain a host of security features from encoded cut patterns to invisible proprietary markers, making it the most secure documentation in the art market today. The physical certificate is linked to a digital record that can be accessed by scanning the QR code or by going to the public search in Tagsmart. Every purchase over $500 includes a free account with Tagsmart.
BONUS: What piece of artwork do you wish you owned?
As an art lover it is always find it very difficult to choose one artwork or one artist only. My objective is to have a diverse collection of African works that includes pieces from the old masters but also pieces from the emerging contemporary African artists. The value of art is not in one piece alone, it is in the whole collection. African art is so rich and diverse that no one would want to have just one piece.
Thanks to Ana for the chat and please discover more about her initiatives to revolutionize the African art world here.
No matter how, where, or for what reason you buy art, you should research the artist. This single activity sets apart the art collector from the crowd, allowing them to buy confidently, knowing that they are paying fair prices and getting high quality work.
Research also brings new levels of understanding and appreciation to your collection. Knowing the story and context behind your pieces is one of the greatest joys in art collecting, and all it takes is researching before buying.
But “researching artists” is easier said than done. Where do you look? What are you looking for? Whom do you trust? We’ll cover this and more below.
Why You Have to Do Your Research
Knowing why you are researching is the biggest step toward doing good research. And the reason you are doing it is simple: to avoid buying the wrong artwork or paying the wrong price.
Just because an artist has a name and their work has commanded big price tags doesn’t mean all of their art is valuable. And while you might enjoy a piece, that doesn’t mean you should always pay the asking price, even if it is in your budget.
That’s because artists have periods in their career. In virtually every case, different periods in an artist’s career are valued differently. Further, artists that sell well in one medium don’t necessarily sell well in another. A renowned painter might not be able to sell their graphite on paper. In fact, an artist renown for their oil paintings might not be able to sell their watercolors.
Knowing these details can shift your perspective on a price, and it works in both directions. Doing your research is just as much about finding good deals as avoiding bad ones.
What Information You Are Looking For
Information is crucial if you are buying art as an investment. But even if you aren’t looking to resell, someday you might want to, and you won’t want to take a major loss if that day comes.
On top of that, paying more than you need to on a work of art means less money for buying art in the future.
Your research should focus on several factors to find the market value of a work of art:
Who made it?
At what point in their career did they make it?
What is the value of their work from the same period?
What medium is the work in?
What has the work sold for before?
These questions will all help you know if a work of art is worth the asking price.
Where to Research
To answer the questions outlined above, you will be searching for information regarding:
Results of auctions and previous sales
Reviews and media interest in the artist
When possible, see the artist and their works in person in galleries, private collections, artist studios and art fairs but to really dig deep, you’ll probably be relying heavily on internet sources. The website of the gallery that sells the artwork, the artist’s website, the artist’s social media and any other writing on the artist or the work you can find might be helpful.
There are some things you can glean from basic Googling or searching on social media for the artist, but below we’ve listed reliable sources to include when you research an artist.
These are publications that catalogue all the works of an artist. Not every artist has one, but there are many more than you’d imagine. There are large, free databases of these catalogues online, like the International Foundation for Art Research.
If you live in a large city or are enrolled at a university, you likely have access to many helpful databases like ARTstor. These are great places to search the name of the artist or artwork you are looking into.
Artnet Artnet has information on a large number of artists, historical and contemporary, and you can use their website for free. They include an artist’s work, auction results, and what work is currently available. Those last three resources will clear up a lot of questions, letting you see where a work lands in the artist’s biography and what that period usually goes for.
Zen and the Art of Artist Research
This might all seem like a lot, but once you get in the groove of things, it is quite manageable. The good news is, it gets easier every time. You’ll get to the point where you know what you need and where to find it by instinct. For now, just take your time and relax.
It is important to note that if an asking price turns out to be too high, you don’t have to give up on the work of art. You can determine what a fair price would be and make an offer. If the dealer or artist accepts, then you’ll know you got an honest deal. If they don’t, at least you know you tried.
“The art market is known for its complexity and lack of transparency, and for those just getting into the market, it can be quite intimidating.” Julia Wehkamp, co-founder of One Art Nation (1AN).
The art market is complicated, but access to educational resources does not have to be. One Art Nation (1AN) was founded to demystify the process of buying and selling artworks.
Recently 1AN partnered with Artwork Archive. The collaboration makes sense, as both are driven to provide more transparent access into the often opaque art market. And we believe it is important to arm collectors of all stages with information to help buy, manage, preserve and enjoy their artworks.
Here, Artwork Archive interviews 1AN co-founder Julia Wehkamp, who shares their mission and the ways that they are supporting collectors. Read more!
Stories of art auctions have become routine accounts of wealth. Every few months, an auction breaks some record with a painting going for tens of millions of dollars. These headlines give the impression that art auctions are only for the super rich. But that impression is wrong.
Art auctions can actually be a great way to buy art. Well ran auctions provide a plethora of resources for bidders to peruse before and during the proceedings, and you can sometimes get great art for low prices, depending on the room.
Another misconception is the idea that auctions have to take place in crowded rooms. Due to social distancing concerns, many people think art auctions are off the table, but auction houses have realized what eBay learned long ago: auctions work well in online environments.
Below are guidelines for how art auctions work and how to navigate them successfully.
At an auction, people looking to buy artwork (bidders) sit in a room or hang out in a virtual portal, kind of like a Zoom meeting — sometimes literally a Zoom meeting.
A work of art will be presented as well as the opening bid. Bidders will then raise their hand (in a virtual setting there will be some other way to “raise your hand”) to indicate a bid. Sometimes bidders raise fancy paddles to make a bid. Frequently, there will also be bids made over the phone to the auction house.
Once someone makes a bid that no one else is willing to top, the auctioneer will bang their gavel and award the purchase to the highest bidder as long as the reserve price is met.
Know the Terminology
Before you grab a paddle and start a bidding war, it’s important to get some of the lingo down first:
Auction House: This is an establishment that sets up auctions with experience and expertise at their disposal. They publish information about all the work for sale ahead of time.
Consignor: This is the person who currently owns a piece of art being sold at an auction by an auction house.
Private Seller: These are people who both own a work of art and run the auction. Users selling things on eBay or other similar platforms are the most common form of a private seller.
With that out of the way, there are some other key terms and ideas to wrap your head around before diving into strategy.
This is the amount that the auction house guesses the work will sell for. Some people use this as a guide to see if the room is bidding too much, others don’t pay much attention.
If the auction is being run by a house with resources, they are likely lowering the estimate to encourage people to come. Nothing gets collectors in the door like promises of a bargain.
If the auction is being run by a private seller, typical of many online art auctions, the estimated price is usually on the high side. For the most part, private sellers think their work is worth more than it is.
This is the lowest amount the current owner is willing to sell for. If the room doesn’t go above this threshold, the work will not be sold.
To make sure a work passes the reserve price, auction houses will sometimes bid against someone to get them above that amount, called a chandelier bid.
This is the price that begins the auction, usually below the range in the presale estimate. The first bid has to top this amount.
Opening bids are almost always below the reserve price. This is meant to entice as many bidders in the room or virtual space to get in on the action. Once the heat of a bidding war gets started, the price will usually end up well above the reserve price.
This is the amount that the art ends up selling for — in other words, the last bid before the hammer falls.
Art Auction Strategy
As with other forms of art buying, always go into an auction with as much information as you can handle. As mentioned before, auction houses will publish material on what they are putting on the block, and even private sellers will let you know what you’re buying.
Auctions will also host previews where bidders can view the works going up for sale. This close look will give you a sense of the items as they are in person.
Go into an auction armed with information, like how much a piece is likely worth, what its history is, and if it’s something you are seriously interested in or can pass on.
With that information, it’s time to create a budget. To do this, keep in mind:
What you want to bid on
What is your priority
What your maximum bid is for each artwork
When a piece you really want goes above our maximum bid, you sometimes discover you’re willing to pay more than planned and you bid above budget. If that happens and you win, you should adjust your bidding on any following artworks accordingly to keep inside your budget.
Similarly, when priority pieces sell to someone else, do not raise your maximum bid for later works. You could end up paying prices substantially higher than the value of the piece.
Almost every auction has costs above and beyond what you bid. These come in two main kinds:
Buyer’s premium: This is a percentage you pay to the auction house on top of your winning bid. These can be a few percentage points or as much as 25%.
Taxes (including VAT): Taxes are all over the board depending on where you live. While some auctions are less “official,” you will technically owe tax, especially on larger purchases.
On top of these, sometimes you will be charged a percentage in royalties to the artist or artist’s estate.
Added up, these costs can be significant. Educate yourself on what the hidden costs will be and factor them into any bid you make.
Should You Buy Art at Auctions?
For some art collectors, the thrill of the auction alone is worth it. For others, it’s too nerve wracking.
Generally, auctions can be a good place to buy art. They are not a magic place where you pay pennies on the dollar, but you can find yourself in a room that can’t see the value that you do — and you can get a great deal.
With social distancing concerns, auctions have become a way to buy art without any risk of exposure, as you can bid from your living room wearing your favorite pajamas.
The best way to find out if they are a good option for you is to take the plunge and participate in one!