By Doug Woodham
Author of Art Collecting Today: Market Insights for Everyone Passionate About Art

How Art Advisors Are a Solution to Art-World Complexity
(An excerpt from Art Collecting Today)

With so many wonderful things to buy at so many different art galleries, art fairs, and auctions, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Even when you know exactly what you want — for example, an abstract work by Gerhard Richter — it is challenging to sort through available work and make quality and price comparisons. With choice comes complexity.

At different points in their collecting journey, many collectors elect to use advisors. To demystify the marketplace for art-related advice, let’s start with different ways advisors can help collectors:

1. Collection Strategy Services
If you’re new to art collecting, art advisors can help you decide what to focus on given your interests, resources, and the time you can devote to collecting. If you’re an established collector, an art advisor can help you figure out where to prune or restructure your art collection in light of changes in your interests, the art market, or personal circumstances.

2. Buyer Support Services
From strategy comes tactics. Art advisors can help you source works of art from the marketplace and negotiate price and terms.

3. Seller Support Services
Most art advisors can help you buy, but note that fewer of them are skilled in helping collectors sell.

4. Collection Management Services
These are services that can help you manage and care for your physical art objects. Framing, conservation, installation, and lighting are services art advisors can arrange for clients.

5. Credit Services
Major private banks, plus a growing number of specialty lenders, will lend money based on some combination of the value of your art collection and other assets. Properly trained art advisors can solicit proposals from credit-market providers so you get the best possible deal.

When selecting an art advisor, as an art collector you need to have a clear picture of the type of assistance you need. If you are primarily interested in someone escorting you through a few art fairs and galleries and helping you buy art for a new home, then you need someone who can deliver a terrific buying experience. But if you have been collecting for a number of years and now need to create an art legacy plan, you need an advisor who can help you think through your options and work closely with your tax, legal, and financial advisors.

As an art collector, you need to make sure the advisors you retain will put your interests first, a so-called fiduciary relationship. Clean and simple. You should always have a written agreement that formalizes this obligation and how the advisor will be paid. By doing so, it will help you avoid certain pitfalls.

One final note about art advisors: auction house specialists and gallery employees are important resources to draw on for information and advice. But it is important to remember that they are sellers’ agents, not buyers’ agents.

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