Art market - How to buy well?
The view of Céline Fressart, Director of Special Projects for 1858 Ltd, active in the international art market for over 20 years. 1858 Ltd. is the long standing art advisory partner of Societe Generale Private Banking advising the banks clients on all matters related to art and collectibles, from transactions to appraisals and collection management. Céline Fressart tells us about the support she provides to clients wishing to acquire an art object or collection.
In the art market, there is no such thing as chance!
Secret transactions, huge capital gains, expensive works of art lying dormant in an attic... The art (and collectibles) market is one that has always aroused unlimited fascination and created its own mythology. If you read the news, not a week goes by without a record being broken*, an emerging artist becoming an almost sure thing overnight, or an object bought at the flea market proving to be valuable. The common denominator in these facts? An underlying sense of chance, suggesting that anyone can try their luck with the art market and win. As we know, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
But does anyone who tries something necessarily win? As an art consultant, my answer is without appeal. There is little room for chance in this market, and there are many pitfalls; knowing how to recognize them is essential for those who want to acquire (or sell) an object in a serene manner.
It is with this objective of serenity that we approach any new exchange with our clients, whether they are beginning their collecting journey or not. Basically, the art and collectibles market works in a similar way to other markets that we deal with on a daily basis, whether it is real estate or cars. In practice, however, it is an unregulated market** requiring numerous precautions at all stages of a collection's life, starting with the acquisition of works.
The collector at the heart of the acquisition process
The objectives of the future buyer are always the priority for us to define and understand. This will subsequently determine the type of works proposed later. The questions of budget, time horizon, taste, knowledge of the market are all criteria that will allow us to better understand the client, and thus respond in a way adapted to their objectives. That there are as many types of collections as there are collectors is obvious, even if the overwhelming majority of collectors focus on the classic mediums of painting and sculpture - the "fine arts". But photography, design and vintage cars are also areas that historically clients have required advice.
Whatever the direction indicated by the collector is, a portfolio of works will then be put together with the primary aim of confirming the collector's desire and confirming his objective. If the will to start the process is there without the criteria being really defined (which is often the case for first-time buyers), the portfolio will also serve as a means to guide the collector in their thought process.
Whether actively or passively, the collector remains at the heart of the process. The works of art are secondary, but chosen with care in order to limit the risks linked to the acquisition of works of art. The usual verifications in terms of price, authenticity, provenance, conservation are standard practice by us, allowing the collector to make an informed decision, even leaving room for an impulse buy... but a reasoned and reasonable one.
From the sale to the post-acquisition: what support is provided by 1858 Ltd?
Once this stage has been completed, the terms of sale are also negotiated by us. It is not uncommon for this stage to be a crucial part of the process, especially for collectors wishing to have an independent opinion in the context of a private sale***. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for collectors to overpay for their works on the basis of exaggerated or even erroneous arguments put forward by unscrupulous sellers. Our latest case: a collector who paid a posthumous sculpture of Rodin at the price of a sculpture made during the artist's lifetime, i.e. 1000% of its real value. And to think that this collector was mainly worried about the possible capital gains tax on resale... The fact that 1858 Ltd. only intervenes as an advisor, unlike the owners or custodians of works available for purchase, is a strong guarantee of our impartiality.
Beyond these fields of action, we can also organize the post-acquisition process, from delivery to hanging, including, in certain cases, the inclusion of the work in a database specific to the collector and the establishment and renewal of estimates for insurance purposes. In some cases, we are mandated to effectively and strategically manage a collection. In other cases, the aim is to make an objective assessment of a group of works and objects received as an inheritance, in order to be able to take the necessary decisions: sale, maintenance, restoration, enhancement, exhibition, protection. Each stage in the life of a collection requires a factual and independent opinion. For although art has a strong emotional charge (its aesthetic aspect, its historical importance, the circumstances of its acquisition), it is also today more than ever a good with a commercial value.
* Examples include Pierre Soulages, Frida Kahlo, Peter Doig, Gustave Caillebotte, Rashid Johnson, Nicolas Party and Barbara Kruger, all of whom saw their auction records broken in November.
** There is no regulatory body for the art market, nor is there any authority on the subject. The market relies on the practices of its players and the unofficial codes governing it (which can change overnight).
*** Private sale, from individual to individual, with or without intermediary
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