By Prerna Jain
Gone are the days when one could simply go down to a gallery and admire a work of art and just buy it for pleasure. Today, the art world has turned into a giant industry. To “ buy into it”, so to speak, primarily , one needs a savvy art advisor, and not to mention, a million bucks handy to invest in art. Then, it has to be followed by a good auction house or an art gallery that houses the right work, and if you end up purchasing that Sabavala or Picasso you love, you need to get it insured( unless you are at peace handing it over to that local town boy with his carry sack, on a crowded city train, in which rests your million dollars art work). After this exhaustive process, you must pay taxes and invest in a conservator and an appraiser who can re-evaluate your asset every six months. Sounds and tiresome? Well, good news, there are some amazing art companies that have evolved their services just for your convenience! I interviewed the leading art advisory of America, Winston Art Advisory and the most up-to-date art insurance company, Berkeley One, for the same, and this is what they had to say.
Elizabeth Von Habsburg, Winston Art Advisory
Do you get a lot of requests for Indian or South East Asian Art work? If you did, who are the more prominent artists that are in demand?
We get very few requests for Indian art and we don’t see Indian artists, south east Asian that much, but we get a lot of requests for Chinese contemporary artists,
How does Winston art group advise and assist people and what makes it unique?
The Winston art group is unique because we are the largest, independent art advisory and appraisal firm worldwide, and by independent, I mean that we are not an auction house or a dealer, that means that we solely work solely on of behalf of the client to make sure whether, selling, appraising or doing collection management, they are getting the best possible advice they can.
If a person had just 1000 dollars and they wanted to invest in art, what would your advice be?
I would advise going to some of the art fairs, small or large. There are a lot of them in New York and around the world, comparing what is there and looking to see what interests the buyer and with that amount of money you can take a risk ;you can say that if they see something for 800 dollars and they don’t know anything about the artist, they can take a risk, if they love it and have compared it to other things, they can buy it.
As an art advisory, which are some of the major obstacles that you face?
I suppose we face obstacles of clients wanting to know how something will grow in value over the time, which is impossible to predict so we can give our best guess but we can’t say for sure what’s going to go up and what going to go down in value. Emotion plays a large part as it should in buying a work of art; sometimes, the client will buy a work of art that they think is absolutely fantastic but we know otherwise. However, they love it so much that they have to have it; that’s fine too.
Which was your most memorable project at Winston art group?
Goodness, everything is confidential so we can’t talk about a name, but really, it’s when we find something that the client doesn’t know they have, like the three shoe boxes full of three beautiful Patek Phillips pocket watches which brought them 3 million dollars. But, they didn’t know that they had in bottom of their cupboard or a Renaissance painting that was hidden in the client’s house that made almost 2 million dollars that went for auction. These were the most memorable projects for us.
Katija Zigerlig, Berkley One, Art Insurance
Why is it so important to insure art?
Why? From a dealer’s perspective, it’s a standard business practice. At the end of the day, the dealer has a business, and they have a brick and mortar physical location, there could be rain, could be flood, there could be fire. So, if you lose the structure, you lose the ability to sell from a location and most collectors are going to a location to see the art. Unless, you have an online model which is a whole different story, but even if you have an online sales model like paddle 8 or even Christies has an online sales model, you would still have your inventory of art stored in a fine art storage facility and say you have 5 million dollars there, you would need that protected because without that you have no business. If you are a collector and something happens to your art at year ten, let’s say a fire or a flood that really ruins a substantial part, you have lost equity or a part of the value. So, to replace it , you will take more time and money. Art insurance is then a way to protect you, like health insurance, or anything else. I always say, I hope I don’t have to use it, but in the event that something happens, you know you have it.
What is the percentage for insurance?
The pricing? The pricing for a private collector is usually a price per 100 dollars; so, for every 100 dollars that you have let’s say the price is 20 cents per hundred, so if you have a million dollar collection, at 20 cents that would be 2000 dollars. It’s all about the risk exposure of the collector, and that takes the form of one, the geographic location. Say, if you are in Miami, Florida, you have more risk geographically than if you are in Chicago, so Miami as we know, it’s close to the water, we have hurricanes, and there can be a lot of flooding. What are the geographic perils and those usually have to do with natural catastrophes, whether that be tsunamis, earthquakes, frequent thunderstorms that cause power outages. Anything that could damage the art or have environmental conditions t is not good for the art work.
And, how does it differ in a catastrophe prone area versus a stable region?
The second factor is: what is the quality of the home or the building that the art is housed in? If you have a glass condo in Miami versus, if you have strong cement building, the cement is going to be much more, stronger against a hurricane, so although the hurricane will hit both, the glass condo will be more expensive than the concrete house because the concrete house has better protection against the hurricane. So, if we look globally, what is the quality of the house, how has it been built, are significant factors. And, then we may look at other factors: is it a safe neighborhood ; so we look at what is the situation of the neighborhood as well. When we have figured out the house then we also look specifically at the collector and the collection: Is the collector a serious collector or are they just starting out? Are they a well-known politician or a cricket player? These are not bad or good things; it is just thinking about the risk and allied factors.
What are some of the obstacles that come in doing the same?
Sometimes collectors will come, and we see this a lot, but they aren’t very well organized, so we often recommend collection management software. Say, if you have a hundred items, would we need a very specific list of those hundred items. Sometimes younger dealers will just try and cut corners and that will usually lead to a loss, like sending artwork by FedEx, or wheel it down the street or carry it on the subway train. All those things that we see and recommend that if you are going to carry it on a subway maybe you buy a piece a work that is 30cm x 30 cm .I think when there are obstacles that usually means that it is an area where we can give advice to an obstacle. So, I call it a challenge!
The author is an Art connoisseur and critic. She can be reached at: [email protected]