"The Art of Collecting" podcast - Episode #3: The art of managing a collection
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Laurent Issaurat: Hello, I am Laurent Issaurat, Head of Art Banking Services at Societe Generale Private Banking. I am pleased to present you our new podcast series, “The Art of Collecting”. Each episode looks into an issue related to the ownership and management of works of art or collectibles. Today, we will dive into the very heart of collection management, thanks to our special guest speaker, Viola Raikhel-Bolot, whose the managing Director and Founder of 1858Ltd, whom you already met, in our first episode. Dear Viola, welcome back!
Viola Raikhel-Bolot: Thank you Laurent, thank you for having me back, and hello to everyone.
Laurent Issaurat: To begin with, could you explain, what collection management really means?
Viola Raikhel-Bolot: Yes, I certainly can. Collection management is one of the services we provide to your clients and to our clients, those with sizeable collections. This is when we come in and look to take over the management of collection; our primary objective is to preserve, enhance and help improve the collection in a number of ways. Our management of collection may take the form of inventory updates, valuations, insurance coverage, logistical coordination, conservation reporting the actual conservation, disaster and emergency planning, securing the artwork collections working with security firms, framing photography, documentation… and the list goes on… All of these aspects of collection management are targeted at preserving and optimising the value of a collection. I often, actually compare owning art, and especially making a new acquisition, to… I liken it to bringing a new born baby home from the hospital. There’s a lot of excitement and everybody wants to share this wonderful news, but when a new artwork comes into a home or a collection, this wonderful moment also comes with a huge responsibility. And ensuring the safety of that artwork and the broader collection is exceptionally important and often is overlooked. For example, you know, direct sunlight where is the artwork hanging; is it too close to fireplaces, moisture…? And the management of the collection starts from the very beginning of the acquisition, even when undertaking the due diligence prior to making an acquisition, all the way through the complete collecting lifestyle to when a collector is looking to sell one piece of the entire collection - but that's something we can talk about later on - but there are a number of aspects that collectors often overlook in the excitement an in the passion of collecting, and that's what we're brought in to do.
Laurent Issaurat: Thank you. At a time of increasing digitalization of the art world, do you have an opinion on the online sharing of a collection?
Viola Raikhel-Bolot: We always tend to take a very conservative perspective. We always want to make sure that our clients do the same too and try to mitigate any risk by exposing their collection online too much… There are an extraordinary number of platforms these days that allow you to share and show your collection online, some are safer than others. However there is always a risk especially with social media as soon as you do expose an artwork online, that is out there for the world to see. And so one must take the same consideration about sharing their collection as they would any sensitive information. At 1858Ltd Art Advisory we help our clients at very critical moments in their collection such as in the buying, selling, and we put specific strategies in place to minimise that specific circulation of artwork on the Internet, trying to minimise any unwanted attention for the collection, and protecting our clients (anonimity and the anonymity and the location of their collection. Now if this is something that they wish to share with the world of course there more than welcome to but we just provide all of the necessary advice and to make them aware of ways to avoid any unnecessary attention.
Laurent Issaurat: Regarding the way one wants to show their works, is lending a collection or lending works to museum a good idea or is it risky to lend works of art to a museum, for instance?
Viola Raikhel-Bolot: We’re very big supporters of lending to museums. Museums actually survive and thrive on loans, and travelling exhibitions, and exchanges. So we’re very big supporters of that. But aside from it benefiting to museums and benefitting to the public attending the museum, it is also exceptionally beneficial to any collection to have an artwork exhibited in a museum, documented and shared with the public. We work with a number of collectors in exhibiting their collections and learning their collections. It can be an incredibly beneficial strategic move for a collector. And some of the greatest collections will make sure that they have their items from their collection shared and viewed in exhibitions around the world.
Laurent Issaurat: Viola, are there any other pieces of advice you would give to collectors who would like to maintain or even improve the value of their collection?
Viola Raikhel-Bolot: Most definitely, Laurent, very good question. When was the last time your collection was valued is really the first place we start, especially if it’s been a while since the collection was put together. At the time of an updated valuation, it is also very good to look at the conservation and the condition that the collection’s in, because if any of the artworks are deteriorating, for example, you don't want to let that go too long, should conservation be needed. Looking at the provenance that supports a collection: do you have a complete and full story around your collection or all of the provenance documentation in place? All of these aspects contribute to the value of a collection and it's very important to monitor these elements, on at least an annual basis. Some other questions to ask, for example, a conversation with museums: is anything in the collection worthy of being included in a museum collection, and/or in an artist's catalogue résumé? Again, some other conversations and questions that can only help to enhance the value of a collection.
Laurent Issaurat: One last question Viola, maybe a tricky one. I’d like to focus on the transmission of a collection. Are children always the best option to take over a collection?
Viola Raikhel-Bolot: Another very good question, Laurent. Look, as a mother, I would love to think that one’s children are the best option to takeover a collection and all of the passion that goes into building one. However the reality is that any major collector is faced, essentially, with two choices: to make a decision to keep the collection intact, or to sell, or to donate during their lifetime; or to look at it be coming as part of the inheritance to the next generation, becoming a legacy, but then the letter of wishes to accompany that needs to be very clear, because unfortunately, problems can arise when a collection is shared and passed down through the generations. It's very important to have this conversation during the lifetime of a collector because there are a number of options, but essentially, it requires making a decision during the lifetime or handing it over to the next generation - which comes with its own complexities. We feel very strongly that these decisions need to be made as a family and with the correct advice, as specialist advisers, we work with a number of major collections and funnily enough, when looking at inheritance, every collector’s position is quite varied. One collector for example donated everything in his lifetime to a specific city, and obviously built the museum and filled the collection and handed it over during his lifetime; another one may choose to distribute the collection amongst the heirs… It really does depend but there definitely are right ways and wrong ways to do it and that why we think specialist advisory services are very much needed when contemplating that very precise decision.
Laurent Issaurat: These are really fascinated insights you shared with us today! Thank you very much Viola. We will pursue our conversation with you Viola, to address another key-topic in the art of buying art, which deserves, a podcast of its own. Dear listeners, See you soon. As a reminder, our “The Art of Collecting” series is available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, via our program "#PrivateTalk by Société Générale Private Banking".
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