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FAB Market Insights

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Collecting + Investing
12.17.2020 by RAY WATERHOUSE

For those taking their first steps in collecting, as well as for those experienced in buying and selling art, there are many advantages to using an art advisor. In this article, we discuss how a good advisor can help a new collector gain confidence and see through the opaque facets of the art world, especially the various buying opportunities and what drives an artist’s value. We also outline how an advisor’s expertise and inside knowledge allows clients access to art not generally available, and guidance in choosing the right artworks to purchase. Buyers and sellers of art at all levels can benefit from an advisor’s market knowledge and due diligence. And we finally detail how good advice need not be expensive; in fact, we contend that advisors often save their clients’ money.

Jonathan Dodd discussing an artwork with another dealer

Jonathan Dodd discussing an artwork with another dealer.

Reason 1: An art advisor is an educated expert there to help you.

The best art advisors need to be educated in art history and also have experience in the art market. It’s crucial to choose an advisor who understands the history of art as it’s important to place whatever paintings or sculptures you like in their historical or stylistic context. The works by an artist that achieve the highest values are usually associated with significant works created at the beginning of the artist’s mature period.

Many advisors will also have a good eye for many different types of art and be able to help you develop your taste without being dogmatic. Of course, there are also top-rated advisors who specialize in a particular period and are of great service to collectors who know what specific artist or style on which they want to focus Advisors source art and can help with single purchases or have a vision of building a collection of complementary pieces based on each client’s individual aesthetics, taste, and budget.

It is also best to choose an advisor with whom you enjoy spending time as the client/advisor relationship works best when there is a mutual understanding.

The majority of advisors have expertise in the theory or in a certain field of art, having been at an auction house for example, but don’t necessarily know how the practical aspects of the market work or how to negotiate. Such an advisor might be good for you if you want to do all the negotiation and administration yourself, but there are teams who offer a complete range of both advisory and brokerage services, like Fine Art Brokers.

Reason 2: An Art advisor explains how to navigate the multiple buying opportunities available.

There are many different ways to buy art: at an art fair, an auction, a gallery, an artist’s studio or online, and each has its own protocol and terms. An advisor can help you understand the various procedures and explain about authentications, condition reports, sales and import tax, shipping costs, and also negotiate the best price. And, of course, an advisor helps with pricing. There are a number of price databases available through subscription which allow research on previous prices achieved. These are a fountain of information, but conclusions need to be made with care. There are many factors involved in the price: for example, subject matter, date, condition, provenance, and size. But quality is a factor that not everybody can deduce.

Ray Waterhouse examining a Roy Lichtenstein sculpture for a client

Ray Waterhouse checking the condition of a sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein with a leading conservator.

Reason 3: An Art advisor can provide you with an informed, professional opinion about the art you are looking to buy or sell.

There are many in the art advisory field who can research and discuss the background of an artwork. But as a buyer or seller what you need is someone who has an opinion, and one of the most underrated qualities of the best art advisors is their informed opinions. These will necessarily be subjective, but also tailored to the client’s needs and taste. A professional opinion based on years of experience and market knowledge will prevent you from making mistakes in choosing the wrong pieces or by selecting the best work from three or four examples by the same artist. An advisor can also help with budgeting and investment potential and deciding when is the right time to sell – if selling is in fact an option.

At Fine Art Brokers, we are involved in the art market each day and visit many auctions, fairs, and exhibitions – both online and IRL - and keep our clients up to date with the latest market trends. We have used our decades of experience to help clients buy the right artwork at the right price and sell at the right time.

Jamie Anderson an art advisor in the London office

Jamie Anderson, Fine Art Brokers, London office.

Ray Waterhouse discussing an acquisition with a client

Ray Waterhouse discussing an acquisition with a client.

Reason 4: An art advisor can offer connections to collectors, institutions, fiduciaries, and art galleries you may not have known about before.

Art advisors spend years building connections when working with artists, collectors, galleries, auction houses, and art institutions. These contacts, and the knowledge derived from them, can be invaluable to both new and experienced private collectors. The hours of contact an art advisor has every day with a myriad of people in the art world creates knowledge about where to source art and from whom, how prices are changing, and potential places to sell.

Sandra Safta Waterhouse and Ray Waterhouse at the Armory show

Sandra Safta Waterhouse and Ray Waterhouse at the Armory show.

Reason 5: An advisor can match you with the right buyer.

There are a number of thoughts you may have after you decide you want to sell one of your artworks, especially who will buy it and what is the right price? Do I sell through a dealer or auction? Do I consign it or sell it outright? And is this the right time to sell? Doing this yourself could be an overwhelming and tedious process and fraught with mistakes. Art advisors not only bring expertise to all these aspects, but they also offer credibility to the art for sale, and, in return for a commission, do all the due diligence and legwork.

Hélène de Saint Chamas sourcing a painting

Hélène de Saint Chamas sourcing a painting by Maurice Vlaminck in Paris for a New York client.

Reason 6: An art advisor allows you a range of options.

With a professional and expert advisor, it is possible to remain in your home or office and still collect great art. We always recommend that clients see art in person before buying, but that isn’t always possible. For example, the team at Fine Art Brokers has viewed paintings in Japan, Barcelona, and Geneva for clients in New York, and in Paris, Amsterdam, and London for clients in the Middle East. We have inspected and then negotiated the purchase of paintings at over $20million without the client seeing the work in person, as they trust our taste and due diligence. An art advisor always allows the client to make the decision but can do the traveling, research, and administration of purchase to take away the stress.

Using an art advisor when you are collecting or selling gives you confidence and greatly increases your range of opportunities. Just having a quick conversation with one or two professionals can help you understand how their expertise can be beneficial. Most advisors charge a commission on what is bought or sold, and some charge a retainer. Fine Art Brokers offers complimentary consultations and only charge on completed transactions. We believe that using a good advisor saves a client money in a number of ways. Our team has been in the art business since 1987 and has bought and sold over 5,000 artworks. We are ready to help you get started on your art collection journey today!

Contact Fine Art Brokers

A Guide to Buying Art at Auction
If it is your first time viewing or participating in an art auction, you’ll need a number of pointers about how to understand the many aspects involved, including the terminology used, how to bid, and the charges. Auctions can be both exciting and intimidating for the uninitiated, with many ‘experts’ and apparently well-heeled clients with their advisors making you feel the art world is a mysterious place. But don’t let this scare you, as with the right guidance and some preparation you can find the confidence to make informed decisions about your bidding. Auctions have an enormous variety of art to offer, online and in real life, and getting involved can be educational, rewarding, and sometimes even fun, once you have the experience and confidence. Doing your research, knowing what questions to ask, having a bidding strategy, understanding the players, and considering using a consultant are what you’ll need to prepare before bidding at auction.
What a Collector Needs to Know About Sales and Import Taxes
A good advisor will be able to help a collector navigate the (often rapidly) shifting sands with regard to art sales tax and import duty taxes on art and associated duties and levies on art acquisitions. While it may be unfair to expect an advisor or broker to understand the applicable tax rates in every scenario, advice can be given to help a collector avoid expensive errors or unforeseen costs. Here we give general information to help you know which issues are important to resolve about sales and import taxes before you purchase or move a work of art.