Monday, October 16, 2006

art consulting

If anyone has interest in the business end of art - this article is for you. It is on a growing field of art consulting. I am starting to find this end pretty becomes a challenge to find not only the right artist but the right piece by that artist. A good consultant makes 10% of the art sale and can be an important asset into creating a perfect collection.
"...When investing in a market as volatile and unpredictable as that of contemporary art, working with an adviser makes financial sense, Mr. Lindemann said. “The 10 percent that one pays for that advice can pay off in multiples,” he said. “The art world is a world of winners and losers. It’s not a world of small, incremental changes. The hits are astounding, but the misses are also astounding. "nytimes.


Blogger Todd said...

Hi Ann (and everybody else in Motown):

I was born and raised in Detroit (5 Mile and Outer Drive, then 9 mile and Coolidge, then Farmington), and now live in NYC - and have been a private curator for one collector for the past nine years (you can see a portion of the collection online at This NY Times article is a bit generalized, and I find some of the people cited a bit questionable. Especially those like Westreich who have been nailed for tax evasion by the IRS to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars (although she does have a solid eye). Still, it is an interesting job, and I really love what I do. Building a collection from a zero point over a prolonged period of time is a rare opportunity.

I came across your blog by chance, and it's great to keep up with what's happening in my hometown (along with the Tigers this year!). I hope to be able to see more pics of local exhibitions here soon.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's situations/comments like this that remind me of the potential that this medium has.

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Calling yourself an art adviser today is like calling yourself a decorator in the 80’s,” said Allan Schwartzman, a Manhattan art adviser who has served as a curator at the New Museum, directed a gallery and written about art for several magazines. “Anyone who prints up a business card can call themselves an art adviser.”

“Americans more than other people tend to want to do the correct thing,” said Barbara Gladstone, a dealer in Chelsea. “Europeans are more individual. They have confidence in themselves, in their own taste, in their own take on things.”

These are some of the most amusing/interesting quotes I've read today. Of course, I've spent the majority of the morning reading up about the North Korea Nuclear thing...

Still, I wonder about the preoccupation with this area of art. So methodical and corporate. More about dollar signs than art. Toward the end of the article there is a case study where the "Art Advisor" got his advisee to invest (assuming) millions in art that he didn't even like or want. The advisee ultimately donated the entire collection. That's an irrational lifestyle, an irrational amount of money. Artwork means no more or less in this context than $1500 beach towels (I read an article recently about Hollywood pricetags including $1500 beach towels which look pretty much like my $50 beach towel...)

I can't help but recoil from this article. Yuck.

You really feel "drawn" to this occupation?

6:26 PM  
Blogger Todd said...


"...You really feel 'drawn' to this occupation?..."

Absolutely. I absolutely LOVE getting out of bed every day and doing my job. As in every profession (including being a visual artist) there are plenty of flakes, sleaze, creeps, and poseurs, but why would that alone stop anyone from doing a job they love? I interact all day, every day, with visual art from an intellectual, emotional, and yes, a market driven perspective.

You use the terms 'methodical' and 'corporate' as if these two things are absolutes that are consistently intertwined. Putting together a modest scaled personal collection should probably be neither of these things. But when one desires to assemble a coherent, meaningful, large scale collection that has a distinct point of view, one must be a touch methodical, particularly for two reasons - first, there are alot of people that are catagorically of the types mentioned in the paragraph above - and second, if you are going to make a massive investment of your time, intellect, emotion, effort, and money, I don't think you should do it in a haphazard-shoot-from-the-hip type of way. It's hardly "...more about dollar signs than art..." as you say (though Warhol would say that they're one and the same!). Art is partially about money. It's about lots of other things too. When it becomes ONLY about money, however, than I would agree there is a problem. But to use that old hamfisted argument as some sort of indictment is really antique. If you read the autobiography about Duveen that was published a couple of years ago, it will enlighten youto the fact that the collections of the Met, MoMA, Guggenheim, Frick, and almost every other great institutional collection that exists today (you think the DIA would exist without automotive money?) wouldn't have been created without a methodical approach to collecting in which money, and lots of it, played an important role.

I wonder what it is you are exactly recoiling from? What is irrational about altruistically purchasing art you may not immediately understand with the long term goal of giving it to a museum? Why should you place some weird undefined moral or ethical argument to bear on the purchase of art? THAT is irrational.

8:05 PM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

Hi todd,
Do you think you could email me? I have a few questions for you.

8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been aided by several art consultants throughout my career to date, and my experiences have been universally good.

I have found that the consultants I worked with were, first and foremost, lovers of art and dedicated to helping artists get works placed in situations that would be difficult or impossible to approach on their own.

8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"altruistically purchasing art you may not immediately understand with the long term goal of giving it to a museum"

Oh, nothing. Nothing at all.

Just seems/feels like stockbrokers or insurance salesmen. A little soulless. Then again, there are very soulful stockbrokers out there, of which you may be one. I don't know you personally, so I can't and wouldn't speak to that.

But in the appraoches described in the article, and in my real life experiences, its all about the money and the status. Not the art. Art is commodified. Of course, you could argue that art is at its basic a commodity.

But it's wonderful to have a career that you love, to wake up every day excited. Definitly to each his own. My own is that I find an exchange of triple-digit-millions morally objectionable in the grand scheme of things. It is the "market-driven perspective" that I recoil from. But that's just me. It is the American dream to amass wealth, afterall. I just wouldn't label that as "altrustic" by a long shot.

What I meant by "irrational amount of money" and "irrational lifestyle" is that in a world where there is so much poverty, there also exists this eschelon that is completely numb to reality by the sheer volumn of their money. They create their own reality, which I find to be an irrational one (think Bill Gates, Paris Hilton, George Bush, etc). Then again, I have been watching the spectacle of high-end yacht sales lately. "Why should you place some weird undefined moral or ethical argument to bear on the purchase of art?" I think that a moral / ethical discussion should be applied to everything: the purchase of art, politics, the purchase of large yachts, high end sports cars, the African diamond trade, bushmeat... everything.

I'm not sure I would even call it "moral / ethical". In my original post I didn't make any sweeping value judgements (you may have assumed them). But I do think it's healthy to question and bring fragments such of these into a larger socio-economic perspective.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you want or need advice, it is okay to look to an expert.
The problem is - determining who the real "expert" is.
An art collector should be wary . . . but what is wrong with seeking advice from someone who is educated and has longstanding experience in their field?
Life is short . . . we don't have time to be proficient at everything!
Todd is lucky to be doing what he loves! Good luck in NY!

5:13 PM  
Blogger Todd said...


I still don't understand your line of reasoning. What aspect exactly of wealthy people collecting art do you find '...a little souless...'?

Of course art has a great deal to do with money and status - it has since the first days that it went from being a useful object (like an amphora or a cup) and became something sheerly decorative. At that point, all those centuries ago, it ceased to be a 'necessary' thing and became a luxury item, and all luxury items are considered and consumed by those who have the time, money, and are so disposed to do so.

Your argument is still quite vague - you say you find "... an exchange of triple-digit-millions morally objectionable in the grand scheme of things..." Really! So what if all that art only cost $100 instead of 'triple-digit-millions' - would that be okay with you? What if it was $10,000? $1,000,000? Who are you to set some arbitrary value limit on these items that may carry great historical significance? Who are you to judge people that "...exist (in) this eschelon that is completely numb to reality by the sheer volumn (sic) of their money. They create their own reality..." And then you have the nerve to say that "...I didn't make any sweeping value judgements (you may have assumed them)..." That's a laugh-riot! At least be honest!

The people I know personally who collect seriously have worked very, very hard to get where they are. They do a great deal of ALTRUISTIC (yes, there's that word you wrote so disdainfully about) work and support with the money they've been fortunate enough to earn a wide variety of very worthy causes. And yes, they also spend some of their income on art, supporting artists, galleries, curators, museums, critics, and all the people employed in those fields directly or indirectly. And you claim that just because they're wealthy that they're numb - incapable of feeling anything. That's pretty strong stuff from someone who doesn't appear to any personal direct contact at all with these people but just lumps them together into one big stereotyped group and puts a pretty bow on it.

If you really feel that "... I think that a moral / ethical discussion should be applied to everything..." than you need look no further than your own sad judgemental and ignorant attitude. It's the only truly irrational POV I've come across in this exchange thus far.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Todd said...


What aspect of "...assuring that the artist is compensated for the high ticket price that these collectors pay for a piece..." do you follow up on? I assume that if one purchases through a gallery, the artists is compensated, and if a collector purchases directly from the artist (a practice we rarely, if ever, are invloved in), well, no problem as the artist gets all the money. I don't understand when you comment that "...the way the art world seems to work guarentees the opposite..." All the respectable gallerists I know are very responsible about paying the artist in a timely manner for sold work as well as negotiating the payments for production costs (if any are involved).

I 'broke' into this field as a matter of natural consequence. Whole working at Sotheby's friends continually asked my advice regarding the condition and wisdom of purchasing specific artworks. After I left Sotheby's I was always dispensing the advice ad hoc as a courtesy, until someone actually offered to pay me! One thing lead to another.

As opposed to the art advisors (and I know all of them personally) that were in the recent article that began this thread who deal with multiple collectors at any given moment, I only work with one collector at a time building a focused and substantial collection. I am interested in a larger curatorial viewpoint, and not 'trophy hunting.' Creating something with a lively aesthetic viewpoint can only be achieved with education and time, and a dedicated one-on-one relationship with a collector is the only way I know to achieve that.

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Altruism is gross.

11:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dear Todd; (a pretty bow for you)

Please pay closer attention to my posts. For one, in my 2nd post, I said that I had made no sweeping value judgments in my 1st post, and that you had assumed them from some simple statements I made which originated your 1st lengthy rebuttal. My comment of 'You feel drawn to this occupation?' not even directed at you, not a comment on your career path or having anything to do with your choices. I see, though, how you might think that it did if you weren't reading closely and/or thought the world and discussion revolved around you.

As to your sweeping statements and assumptions about my character: let me tell you a little about me first. I come from New England "money". I don't like "money". I don't like the lifestyle surrounding "money" that I saw growing up. I dropped out of UofM’s Hopwood program b/c I couldn’t stand the elitist mentality I was surrounded by. I volunteer my time working in the nonprofit realm, specifically with children who have very little and access to even less. This is the perspective that I work from. I pursued an Arts Marketing / Management degree so that I could better help people/artists: specifically those who struggle forming their careers. I have turned down opportunities to work with more established individuals because I am just not interested in that end of the spectrum. That's just me. I also work in the publishing end of things, not solely/primarily the visual arts.

If you had read my originating post carefully, you would have also seen that I read the Art Consulting article directly after a morning spent reading newsclippings about the state of North Korea where there is a population on the brink of starvation and women literally indentured for the equivalent of $2.50 American dollars. Jumping from that worldview to one where millions are exchanged for art (tho it could be anything: yachts, art, stocks, etc.) is disconcerting and leads one to wonder about the greater parallels in the world, the widening gap between the classes, etc. You’d have to be pretty far gone not to at least wonder, and recoil a little bit from that. Which is all that I was doing, wondering aloud. “Who are you to set some arbitrary value limit on these items that may carry great historical significance?” I dunno. I didn't realize that my post had so much power! I must be someone pretty important, tho. I’m sure as fuck surprised at how upset you, big time art consultant, got over my simple wonderings about the state of the world.

If you would have read my post carefully you would also have seen that it was peppered by important phrases (which you left out in your paraphrasing) like ‘in my opinion’ and ‘in my experience’ and ‘but that’s just me’, because I have only ever spoken from my own realm of perception. My argument vague? A blog is not the forum in which I would take the time or energy to outline my entire granulated worldview, complete with citations and bibliography. Please! As for “…someone who doesn't appear to any personal direct contact at all with these people” Did I mention high-end yacht sales? Who do you think drops 15m on a boat? I put myself through school by selling 2m.+ custom new-construction homes in Bloomfield Hills and Novi, MI. Now I live in Seattle, surrounded by a sick amount of money. We take a modest 60ft yacht to Friday Harbour. I ride to work every morning w/ a Microsoft exec in a $60,000 car! I’m not sure what about my 2 posts made you think you knew anything about me or the people I am surrounded by, or the fact that at 24 yrs I am making a salary of a measly $85,000.

I’m still young. My opinions are (thank god!) not carved in stone. The posts I make on a blog are not carved in stone. I like to play the devil's advocate. I love the opportunity to discuss the high price tag of art (and oil, and atomic weapons) and what that means in terms of human experience, for the sake of discussion and a broadening of my own perspective through that discussion. Bypass discussion and head straight for personal crucifixion? I should ask, “Who are you to…?” I spend the majority of my time applying moral/ethical discussions to myself, first and foremost, which you would know if you knew me.

Oh, by the way, you didn’t epitomize the mentality that I cringe from with your off-the-mark, heavy-handed tirade. Oh, no, not at all.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Todd said...


I have paid attention to your posts. Quite carefully. As you just stated “…I said that I had made no sweeping value judgments in my 1st post, and that you had assumed them…” but your words betray your razor sharp no margin for error world of Zen like detachment that you obviously think your mentation patterns inhabit -

“…Still, I wonder about the preoccupation with this area of art. So methodical and corporate. More about dollar signs than art…”

“…That's an irrational lifestyle, an irrational amount of money…”

“…Just seems/feels like stockbrokers or insurance salesmen. A little soulless…”

“…My own is that I find an exchange of triple-digit-millions morally objectionable in the grand scheme of things. It is the "market-driven perspective" that I recoil from…”

“…there also exists this eschelon (sic) that is completely numb to reality by the sheer volumn (sic) of their money…”

“…I think that a moral/ethical discussion should be applied to everything…”

Now, as I said before, if these are NOT moral /ethical viewpoints, if these sorts of statements are NOT sweeping value judgments, than one of us is delusional (and I know it ain’t me). Your initial comment “…You feel drawn to this occupation?…” doesn’t even enter into the larger discussion. All I asked in my first message is for you to clarify what you are ‘recoiling’ (your term) from, and why you were placing so much emphasis on the moral and/or ethical arguments you clearly espouse. In my second response all I said was that I STILL didn’t understand your line of reasoning, and why you find collecting art (by only wealthy folks, I guess) to be ‘soulless’ (again, your term, not mine). I made NO sweeping statements about your character at all. I only asked that you clarify.

Again you’re the one laying out the comments such as these –

"… I don't like ‘money’…”

“…I don't like the lifestyle surrounding "money" that I saw growing up…”

“…I couldn’t stand the elitist mentality I was surrounded by…”

If you can’t admit that all these statement don’t carry an implicit moral and ethical judgmental aspect to them, than indeed, the problem is yours. Your POV about world hunger, or North Korea, or women’s rights, or underprivileged children or (fill in blank with cause for your concern here) isn’t necessarily what I’m addressing – your weird and awkward ‘apples and bowling balls’ comparison of the art market and North Korea is exactly like saying to a child eating dinner who’s picking at their food “clean your plate – there are children starving in Africa!” One thing has NOTHING to do with the other. World poverty can be solved AND great art can be purchased at appropriately high values – at the SAME TIME, even! Money spent on art (triple digit million, or no) is not the reason the world has problems! And BTW, when you use a phrase like ‘in my opinion’ and ‘in my experience’ and ‘but that’s just me,’ that’s EXACTLY the same as saying “it’s my value judgment.” I mean, how finely are you splitting hairs here?

As I said in my last post, at least be honest with yourself and us. It doesn’t matter whether one’s opinions are carved in stone or not. It DOES matter if you can put forth those opinions cogently (your entire granulated worldview aside). And swearing doesn’t help, either, sport – why so angry? If you want off-the-mark and heavy handed, just read you last paragraph (personal crucifixion, indeed!) – what a drama queen....

6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Todd; I'm not going to get into a blog flaming war with you. YAWN to your semantics. I haven't called you 'sport', 'drama queen', (moving backwards), 'sad', 'judgmental', 'ignorant', ,’irrational’. You seem to have become immediately belligerent over a few carelessly mentioned opinions. I have extended you respect from the get-go (even tho you must be one of the most amusingly opinionated people I’ve discoursed with: to the point that you have opinions about other people's rights to have opinions, and a Nazi-esq need for them to justify to the Nth degree. I don’t know what kind of manifesto you’re looking for from me: You ask why I recoil from the article, I say it’s because I don’t like money, extreme wealth and the social/political implications of the widening gap between the classes, of which this article is endemic: how much clearer can I be? I feel these things are all connected: that’s far from irrational, but that’s also MY opinion, and you can choose to see them differently. For instance, I think that there is a lesson in the “eat your dinner because children are starving” adage, which is that we are the most wasteful country in the world and if we could more accurately/realistically anticipate our needs we could reduce that waste percentage: the surplus that our grocery stores throw away could feed counties. In this respect, change can start at individual dinner tables.)

An opinion is much different than a value judgment. I didn’t say the industry WAS evil, I said it seemed soulless. SEEMED indicates a perception, I.E. “purchasing art for reasons of financial stockpiling FEELS as if it lacks the passion of artistic appreciation TO ME”. That’s not splitting hairs. But, then again, I work with words for a living and their nuances are entirely important to me.

I would not say my perspective is Zen-like, if anything it's obviously Communist. So polish off your vocabulary, I can play pedantics with you if you like, but blog-ettiquette says that this is not the forum. If you’ll notice no one is interested in the conversation at hand. (Not even me.)

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(ps. you haven't made me angry yet. :-) If you had, I would have pulled out my really fancy vocabulary. It's naive to equate 'swearing' with anger. I love the sound of the word 'fuck' peppered in polite conversation: it's delicious. This is just verbal intercourse, after all. And not even very satisfying, since it's not on a topic that I'm impassioned about).

8:19 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Hi M,

Your views are communist and not too relavant to this post. Some people earn thier money, some peope send it wisely and or give it to causes they believe in. I just don't see how, by definition all art collecting can be called waste.

By the way, I hope you noticed that the starvation is happening in the communist pardise of North Korea.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John: Read.

9:08 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Hi M,

Before we get in a fight about this, I want to make a few things clear. I didn't come from any money. I am an artist with very few other skills who plunked my meager savings into an art gallery in Pittsburgh, where I wish very much more people would spend a little of thier money buying the works of mostly poor and unknown local artists, some of whom I think are really great.

9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John: why would we argue? It sounds as if we work with exactly the same segment of the art community (the artists strugglling to establish themselves in order to eat). I suggested that you read back because this whole "discussion" started by my statement about the starvation in North Korea. I never said all art collecting was a waste. (Oh! the selective hearing (reading)!) I said I WONDERED about the preoccupation with high-high end art sales, which seem to be more about the status/financial stockpiling than the art. That's all. A simple statement which has been exacerbated into a communist manifesto! The gallery I consult for in Seattle? I've shown them how to meet their operating costs in ways which do not include skimming the art sales so that artists (a ballance of local and national, early-career only) retain 100% of their sales because I think they need/deserve it. Clearly I am evil and we should argue. Lets! Out behind the schoolhouse. (Please bring your shiniest red boxing gloves, I'll wear my batman T-shirt.)

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most people don't have the time to invest in keeping track of the art market in terms of pricing, styles, upcoming artists etc. I think a good consultant can be invaluable in this respect. In my opinion they get paid a well earned premium for the time they spend not only finding the best price but also exposing you to works that you never would have been exposed to otherwise. I have used quite a few people over the years from Martin Lawrence to people at Sotheby's and Christies. For Pop Art I highly recommend my personal favorite, Nancy Behm of Behm Galleries LA. She is honest, has a great eye and is well connected.

5:06 PM  

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