Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Calling all Art Advisors

NADA had another of its workshops last night (see this discussion on Oliver Kamm's blog about the last one). This time the guests were art advisors Stefano Basilico (Senior Advisor, Thea Westreich Art Advisory Services) and Ellen Kern (President, Ellen Kern Fine Art). Again, the conversation was refreshingly frank and extremely helpful. And, again, because names were named, I won't go into specifics, but I did want to put out a general question about art advisors based on the conversation.

Basilico and Kern both noted that they are paid by their clients. That is, they do not take a commission from the gallery's sale of artwork. From my point of view, this is brilliant. Not only for the obvious reason that I'll make more money out of a sale, but because it means I could work with these advisors more openly and without hesitation. As was discussed at some length last night, however, there are plenty of advisors who do take a percentage from a gallery's sale and what that percentage is varies greatly.

So my question: are there any art advisors who feel strongly that if they can't charge their clients for a sale because their business is not set up that way, that there is/should be a standard percentage that all art advisors agree to? And if so, what should it be (and if your answer is "it should vary," well, it already does, so that's not helpful). The young dealers last night expressed that a standard would help clear the air and avoid the awkwardness of such negotiations (which, in a nutshell, means often we feel we're being taken advantage of and that's bad for both us and the art advisors). By being able to point to the fact that all your fellow art advisors (or at least the ones you respect) charge the same commission, you'll actually increase the trust the dealers have in you and accelerate your relationship with them that much faster.

I've looked online for an Art Advisors Association, hoping that there were standards, but I can't find anything. Again, a simple verifiable standard would go quite some distance toward increasing trust almost immediately, so I think it's in the art advisors' best interest.

So what about it...anyone want to choose a percentage and defend it?


Anonymous crionna said...

I'm not an advisor e, but it would seem to me that if you take the price of the work, subtract what the artist is paid and then some type of assigned number to you for the cost of running the gallery you get down to a number that is normally paid to you as a "finder's fee" for finding both the artist and the collector. Both would seem equally important, so perhaps 50/50 would properly comensate you for finding the artist and the advisor for finding the collector?

5/25/2005 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

That's incredibly generous toward the advisor, crionna. Galleries complain about advisors wanting 15%.

It's more than just finding the artist that the gallery does. It's buckets of money promoting them, making their work in demand. If the work's not selling, then the advisor has some rights to the claim that their bringing the collector to the work is worth more, but often they're only really interested in the artists who are already selling.

5/25/2005 05:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Macallan said...

Why would anyone trust an advisor who's getting a piece of the action from the gallery?

Seems to me, you either have an advisor solely compensated for their expertise, or a broker that gets a cut from the sale. In the latter instance the collector is in a caveat emptor situation, but at least they know it. I'd be pretty p.o.'d if I was paying someone only to find out they were double dipping on my dime.

5/25/2005 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

By the way, Crionna, there's a photograph of the artist you asked me about (and no, I still haven't updated the images) on Artforum's gossip column (although they spelled her last name wrong).

5/25/2005 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'd be pretty p.o.'d if I was paying someone only to find out they were double dipping on my dime.

Apparently that does happen. As one of the advisors at the meeting noted, anyone with a business card can call themselves an "art consultant."

Personally, I'm beginning to think only those advisors who get paid by their clients are worth pursuing a relationship with. I may not sell the odd piece here or there, but I'll be doing better by my artists in the long run.

5/25/2005 06:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Macallan said...

Don't go by me Edward... what do I know? Maybe it's common for advisors to double dip.

5/25/2005 07:04:00 PM  
Anonymous crionna said...

It's more than just finding the artist that the gallery does. It's buckets of money promoting them, making their work in demand.

I realize that Edward. I would include those costs in your margin before the split.

That said, were I you, I would indeed cultivate relationships with collector paid advisors only.

5/25/2005 07:21:00 PM  

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