Interview: The Sales Process in Detail with Alanna Fabbri Butera

Aug 22, 2019

Alanna Fabbri Butera, Vice President and Manager of Butera Art Advisory and Management, LLC and course instructor in our Art Advisory 201 Program, discusses options for advising a client on how to sell a work of art or a collection.

What are the key points to consider for an art advisor’s clients before helping them to sell a work of art?
What are the client’s goals/objectives with the sale? Are the clients looking for the highest financial return, to promote and honor the legacy of a family member, to raise money for a charity or another objective? Understanding these objectives will play a major role in what sales venue is selected and how the sale is promoted and conducted. The current location of the property as it relates to the location of the sales venue, timeline to the next available auction, and all related fees must also be considered.

What is the difference between international and regional auction houses, and how does this affect an art advisor’s advice?
It is very important to choose an auction house/sales venue that regularly offers and markets the specific kind of property in an estate. Some works have an international appeal and collector base; while some may have a regional market. The expertise of the specialists at international and regional auction houses also may vary greatly. As an advisor, you want to make sure that you are selecting an auction house that has the appropriate expertise in identifying and valuing each piece and that has the expertise in selling similar objects.

To evaluate the best fit (both sales venue and location) for a client’s work, look at past auction results to see where comparable works have sold and sold well. If a certain auction house has a proven track record selling work by a certain artist, maker or designer, it is a strong indication that this house has the right expertise and a pool of clients/advisors that they will market, promote and sell the piece to.

Online sales platforms are becoming more popular. How do they compare to brick and mortar auction houses when advising a client on how to sell a work of art or a collection?
The decision of selecting an online sales platform versus a traditional auction house depends on the type of objects being sold and where the best financial return can be achieved. Certain types of fine art may be better suited to a brick and mortar auction house, while luxury goods (clothing, handbags, etc.) and other decorative and design objects may realize higher prices through an online sales platform. Online sales platforms and traditional auction houses will differ in terms of areas of specialty, collector base, services and types of sales offered, marketing and promotion of objects for sale, fees charged, assistance provided to the client in preparing objects for sale, and timeline of sale. Each situation and collection is different and various factors must be weighed before selecting an appropriate venue (and several may even be selected).

At the end of your presentation you mention the importance of paperwork in art transactions. Could you expand on why that is important?
As an advisor, it is important to encourage your clients to keep records on all of their artwork and collectibles and to even help them organize and store it in a single location. Documentation, which may include invoices, purchase agreements, bills of sale, documents regarding where pieces have been exhibited, conservation and restoration reports, and old appraisals, are crucial to understanding the history of the collection. If your clients do not have paperwork, they may have this information stored in their head, so it would be extremely helpful to transcribe this oral history and prepare a written record to keep with each work. All of these records and documents will be enormously valuable after a collector passes away, particularly during the appraisal or sale process to help expedite the research process and further substantiate any findings. Showing that a work came from a certain collection or that it was exhibited in a pivotal exhibition will likely affect the work’s value and can even translate to a higher price in the event of a sale.

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Alanna Butera

Alanna Butera is the Vice President and Manager of Butera Art Advisory and Management, LLC. Previously, she was the Director in the Valuation, Trusts and Estates Department at Bonhams New York. She assisted executors, fiduciaries and families in the valuation and sales of their personal property, including everything from fine art and jewelry to motorcars and rare books.

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