"The Art of Collecting" podcast - Episode #4 : The art of buying art
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Laurent Issaurat: Hello, it's great to have you back in our "The Art of Collecting" podcast series. Each episode looks into a key topic in the ownership and management of artworks and collectibles. For this 4th episode, which will focus on the art of buying art, I’m thrilled to be hosting Viola Raikhel-Bolot, Managing Director and Co-Founder of 1858Ltd. Hello Viola, welcome back!
Viola Raikhel-Bolot: Hello Laurent, and thank you for having me back, it’s wonderful to be here!
Laurent Issaurat: When we talk about the art market, it is easy to dream of huge capital gains, of discovering masterpieces forgotten at the bottom of an attic... When reading about record prices at auction or stellar trajectories of some young artist, one can be under the impression that in the art world, everyone can try their luck and win. Is this really true, Viola, in your opinion?
Viola Raikhel-Bolot: Well, I certainly have seen some extraordinary stories over the years, and if you’re to believe all the headlines, you know, artworks sell for hundred or ninety million dollars all the time! Like the recent Marylin Monroe(1) that sold at Christie’s in New York. While sell records are broken and they do make headlines, this does not happen every day, and it is unfortunately not the case something bought at the flea market in Paris turns out to be a precious treasure meant for the Louvre. What we do find though is that these headlines bring a lot of excitement to the art world and so they should, because the art world is fueled by passion. And it means that any one can take a chance in the art market and win, potentially. But as a specialist art advisor, one in certainly more conservative and is aware of all the potential risks, also, that accompany those headlines. So my perspective is slightly different. And why, I find it critical to be able to share, with my collectors, the importance of recognizing what they are thinking of buying and what that means to them.
Laurent Issaurat: Interesting Viola, thank you very much. But when it comes to accompanying clients in buying works of art, what are the first steps you would like to follow, typically?
Viola Raikhel-Bolot: Well, all collections start with a very honest conversation with our collectors, really understanding their brief, their vision, where their passions lie… Once we’ve understood that, and their budget, and their appetite for putting this collection together - you might have a collector who wants to buy one work of art a year, conservatively, you may have another one who’s building a museum just to house his or her collection… - so depending on their appetite, we then put together a portfolio based on their specific brief and budget. That portfolio will provide a very comprehensive analysis of each of the artwork, whether it requires scientific reporting, conservation reporting, imagery of the artwork, assuming the client comes to visit the artwork in person – when possible, we want the client to meet the artist, and inspect the artwork and be involved, as closely in the process as possible… Other collectors are happy for us to do this remotely for them… We put together the most authoritative document portfolio about the work or works that they are considering, so that they have all the market intelligence needed to make the right decision for them. Fundamentally, we put the very best objects, artworks in front of them [in line with their initial wishes] and give them the market intelligence to make the right decision for their collection.
Laurent Issaurat: Interesting. And the art market is quiet broad, complex and not always very transparent. How do you find these works of art? Do you go at auctions, what’s the way you proceed?
Viola Raikhel-Bolot: Another very good question, Laurent, because the art market, as you know, being unregulated(2), another interesting fact is that only 45% of the art market is in the public domain. . [In other words, more precisely] 55% of art market transactions are actually private [and] 45% of art market transactions [are made through auctions]. And there are various art market indices,and this can be interrogated to investigate and learn more about those art works, and artists and values. But for us it is important to be able to provide our clients access to both the private and public aspects of the market. When looking to source artwork to present to our collectors, we’re privileged to work with private collectors, auction houses, dealers and the artists directly also. When possible, we always bring our collectors front and center to these conversations. We want to make sure that they meet the artist, when possible, meet the upper private collectors, attend the auctions with us if this is something they are willing to do. But we really have access to the full spectrum of sources in the art world and we extend this to our clients directly.
Laurent Issaurat: Good, thank you very much, Viola. But once a client has identified one or several objects they would like to purchase, what are the next steps, what are the due diligences you would help them with?
Viola Raikhel-Bolot:Most definitely, due diligence is one of the most important aspect of the collecting lifecycle, when buying or selling. You know, as they say, the devil is in the details! Due diligence, when making art acquisitions, applies the same discipline as when looking at other acquisitions. For some reason, some collectors, even some of the biggest collectors in the world, assume that the same principles and common sense don’t apply to art as they do their other acquisitions, but in fact they do, and we employ an incredibly due diligence process, because the market is not regulated. We run a very strict provenance check, we work with the art loss register… There are a number of different ways that we ensure that all acquisitions are done safely for our clients, both buying and selling.
Laurent Issaurat: Good, and once one has agreed on an object and a price, is the process finished or are there some other steps one need to go through until the transaction is entirely complete?
Viola Raikhel-Bolot: We work with a number of specialist lawyers who assist us in the contract side, to ensure the handover of title and provenance. There are also – depending on where the artwork is going – a number of logistics concerns that may or may not arise, export documentation, transport, security… So even after the handshake is done, there is still a lot of administrative work and formalities that take place with the transfer of ownership. And then obviously, once it arrives in some new home, we look to assist as best as possible, obviously, with all the hanging, the security… As we do at every stage in the collecting lifecycle.
Laurent Issaurat: Thank you very much Viola for this very valuable insight. As today’s episode is the last one with you, Viola, I would like to thank you very much for your wonderful contribution to this series. See you soon!
Our "The Art of Collecting" series is available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, via our "#PrivateTalk by Societe Generale Private Banking" program.
(1) In reference to Christie’s sale of a portrait of Marylin Monroe by Andy Warhol (Shot Sage Blue Marylin) at $195 million, in New York on May 10, 2022.
(2) There is no body regulating the art market, nor any authority in this area. The market is based on the practices of its players and the unofficial codes governing it (which can change overnight).
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