fine art expertise

Exploring Corporate Collections

Artwork by Sam Francis and Louise Nevelson that we highlighted on a recent collection tour for a local law firm.

Artwork by Sam Francis and Louise Nevelson that we highlighted on a recent collection tour for a local law firm.

For many of our projects, we help clients acquire artwork for specific physical spaces. Size constraints and design aesthetics inform what we present and ultimately which artwork the client selects. While clients often add art to a collection one piece at a time, as art consultants we assist clients in acquiring pieces that will also fit within the context of the client’s full art collection. Whether the client has three works of art or a thousand, the dialogue and history connecting the collection is as important as the individual pieces. With every acquisition, we aim to highlight the shared DNA between art historical movements, place, and content. These threads that connect works of art in a collection can be subtle, and we delight in illuminating them.

Collection Tours

One way to learn about the connections within a collection is by attending a tour. We offer a range of tour and lecture options for client collections. These tours can be presented internally, for a client’s employees or tenants as a way to boost company pride and help team members feel connected to the artwork that they encounter every day. People love learning the stories behind the artists and can make connections between art and the company’s culture and goals.

Collection tours can also be hosted for clients and guests, giving them exclusive access to collections that are rarely publicly visible. This is a great opportunity for marketing and educating the public about a client’s investment in the art community, as well as providing a glimpse into the personality of a company. Many of our clients prioritize buying works from local artists, and hosting a lecture that connects artwork from their collection to local art history can be a deeply enriching experience.

Recently, a law firm we work with reached out about pairing a collection tour with another event. They were hosting a continuing education lecture about updates to laws affecting image licensing, which has broad applications in the art world, so hosting a collection walk-through was a natural fit. Because many of these laws are related to the year they go into effect, it was interesting to discuss how that timeline has affected contemporary works in the collection differently than works that predate the new laws. Viewing the client’s broad array of paintings, prints, and photographs set the tone for the event, and many questions after the lecture circled back to works seen during the tour. 

On tours, we love to pick out a few highlights from a collection and walk people from piece to piece, connecting the artwork with stories about the artist’s approach, influences, and style. Learning about the story behind the work makes art more accessible, and ultimately more enjoyable. In a corporate setting, this dialogue can be tailored to enhance company values and to help employees and guests foster a personal connection to a large organization. 

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Five Takeaways From a Decade in Art Consulting

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Over the past 10 years, I have managed art collections for a diverse group of clients, ranging from large, international banks and law firms, to manufacturing and industrial companies, to small family businesses and private residences. Naturally, every one of these clients has a different method of operating and a different process for building an art collection. Some collections are committee-managed, some are executive-managed, and all are influenced by unique culture and goals. Despite the differences I've encountered, there are five central points to keep in mind while navigating the world of art collecting.  

Quality Comes in Many Styles

In working with a variety of clients, you will encounter not only a wide range of art collection goals, but also many styles of aesthetic preferences. Some clients are interested in historic maps and prints, some want a collection that reflects their company's core values, some want to use their proprietary archival material, and some want cutting-edge contemporary artwork. The good news is that the art world is large enough to account for all of these avenues. While exposing clients to the breadth of styles available is an important part of educating, our job as advisers isn't to dictate a specific taste or style, but to find the highest level of quality within the goals developed by our clients. 

Looking is Better than Talking

Communicating about art can be a challenge. Even within the academic art world, words can be interpreted to mean different things to different people. "Contemporary," "Abstract," or "Traditional" are descriptions we often encounter when speaking with clients about their preferences, and they usually mean something very specific yet different to each person. The best way to avoid confusion and effectively understand what your client is communicating? Use visual examples. Talk about specific parts of actual pieces of art, use descriptive words in conjunction with examples to create a vocabulary you both feel comfortable with. You can read more about our "tastemaker" approach to developing projects here.

Get Creative with Sources

Being an independent art advisory allows us to get creative in our search for the perfect piece of art to add to our client's collection. We are able to pursue whatever source will most successfully address the art collection needs of our clients. While I love working with galleries, auctions and art fairs, and print houses, I also love finding hidden gems from other sources off the beaten path.  

Know When to Become an Expert...and When to Find the Experts

Part of providing the highest level of advice to a client is deeply understanding their collection interests. The only way to do this is to continually educate yourself. The art world is an incredibly diverse and deep pool, and one of the joys of being a consultant is the ability to delve into that diversity to connect our clients with art, artifacts, and specific services that meet their needs. For a client specializing in aerospace technology, we dove into the history of aviation and learned to identify specific aircraft. For a client who loved the style of a particular architect, we researched many motifs in various buildings by that architect to understand and identify significant artifacts and source them. Learn as much as you can.

However, we can't be experts in every aspect of art collecting services. It is imperative to find people who have spent their life's work mastering their craft and connect them to your client's needs. Building a wide network of vendors and colleagues extends the reach of your advisory.  If we have a client that needs conservation of a historic painting, professional rigging of a large sculpture, or custom archival framing of a delicate work on paper, we rely on our community of experts to guide us through the process.

Get Out There!

The art world is constantly in motion, and by staying abreast of the trends, sales, styles, and artists, you can provide your clients with the widest range of options and the most knowledgeable recommendations. The best way to accomplish this is to go out and see the artwork in person (the best way to really experience a work of art), engage the community, meet artists and visit their studios to learn about their process, and continually explore what is being presented in galleries and sales. There is always something new to experience. 

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