There are all sorts of reasons to build a private or corporate art collection — and just as many challenges you could encounter along the way. Enter the art consultant. These professionals are your friendly guide to the often intimidating, opaque art world, with the goal of helping you find the perfect pieces to match your goals and share your message.
Individuals now look for art for various reasons, from growing a collection to investing in art to telling a story through art in their private homes. Companies and organizations in a wide variety of industries, including retail, health care, hospitality, and more, also look to art collections to define their brand, communicate their mission, create a specific atmosphere or environment, draw in customers, and so much more.
With all of the options available on the market, sourcing a collection that sends the right message could easily be a full-time job and then some. Some people may seek art out themselves, but it can be overwhelming. How do you get the right feel for a new space, and what will the art look like once it’s there? How can you create cohesion while looking at multiple artists and styles or while combining heirloom and modern pieces? What if you have a vision and want to commission a specific work? What if you’re on a budget and on deadlines, such as for an exhibition, store launch, or hotel opening?
That’s why collectors and companies turn to art consultants. Art consultants are the key to making each project, whether for a public setting or a private home, bespoke with custom, individual solutions. Also known as art advisors, these professionals offer personalized advice and assistance to artists, collectors, art dealers, private investors, companies, and individuals interested in acquiring art based on their vision. Art consultants focus on sourcing, valuing, and selecting art that fits the scope of the project, its budget, and its timeframe.
Continue reading to learn more about art consultants and to determine if working with one is the right move for you.
What does an art consultant do?
An art consultant assists individuals or groups in finding the right artworks to purchase and in curating art collections for their clients. These professionals work to define their client’s tastes and needs, then match them with pieces on the market — or to commission works that perfectly capture their client’s style and desires. Art consultants also ensure that each piece in a collection works in tandem with the others for a consistent look and feel that projects the right message.
To source their selections, art consultants will look at emerging and popular artists and consider the value and investment of work when working with collectors and dealers. Sometimes, the work of a consultant will overlap with that of art brokers, taking into consideration their client’s taste and the current market.
When working with individuals, an art consultant will take a more personal approach, considering a client’s preferences and overall vision. Consultants will monitor trends in the art market, going to art fairs and auctions to view what is on the market and the audience’s responses to different artists. Through networking, art consultants can access exclusive markets and work with clients to find pieces they may not have had access to.
“Hiring an art consultant can expedite and simplify a process that can take some people years or even a lifetime,” said Victoria Gildersleeve, Artrepreneur’s director of commercial curation and art sales. “It can also help solidify ideas clients already have. We are constantly tapped in and informed of new work. Additionally, we have a wide reach to help you find artists you may not have on your own. For example, on Artrepreneur’s global marketplace, we have access to more than 100,000 vetted members working in all media, countries, and fields, ensuring we can find the perfect piece for you.”
In addition to working with art dealers and collectors on brokering sales, an art consultant will work in the procurement, framing, and installation of artworks to work within the space. In addition, consultants can create art collections of multiple pieces to be installed in one space, as well as work with facilities to frame and arrange art in large areas. Gildersleeve compares an art collection to a good conversation, and an art consultant’s role is to ensure that all the essential pieces are in place.
What if a client doesn’t see anything they like from the available selections? Consultants may also collaborate with artists and commission specific works that are directly requested by a client, ensuring a guaranteed aesthetic and consistency in a collection. Gildersleeve said she also walks clients through every step of a custom commission to perfectly execute their ideas, liaising between the collector and the artist in a hands-on process from concept to execution.
In this relationship, art consultants can help advance an artist’s career through commissions by increasing their visibility in the market.
Who hires art consultants?
Many corporations, such as hotels, hospitals, restaurants, retail stores, and a variety of other businesses, work with art consultants to acquire artwork that tells the story of their values and reflects the atmosphere they wish to create.
Artwork can reflect a brand’s identity through style and color, things art consultants need to be mindful of when sourcing. Consultants often help design an experience in a space, such as an office, waiting room, meeting room, and guest space. These spaces are used by customers, clients, and employees, mirroring a mission. Art consultants want the pieces in an area to be meaningful and to communicate the desired message. Through sculpture, prints, and photographs, to name a few, art can define the mood of a space.
In corporations like those listed above, the artwork is a tool to affect the viewer’s attitude and well-being in a space. In environments like hospitals, where many people have varying emotions in a single day, consultants must consider the perception of artwork in the area and if the artwork will positively receive it. This aesthetic sense becomes crucial when connecting with art viewers and is highly important to corporations and companies.
How do you find the right art consultant to work with?
Unlike interior designers or architecture firms, art consulting firms can be trickier to find, as they are rarely featured in print. Typically, a search online is the easiest way to see art consultants. Their websites will feature previous work and help narrow down the appropriate project for a client. The Association of Professional Art Appraisers has a member directory to start. Professional networking sites like LinkedIn are another avenue to search. If you have recently encountered a collection you enjoyed in a hotel, restaurant, or boutique, you can also ask where and how they sourced their artwork to find the right person for your project.
When considering an art consultant to work with, an individual should look at portfolios and previous projects to choose the best fit. Consultants don’t adopt a personal style or preference, as their role is to find the preferred pieces for their clients’ collections. If a consultant has worked in a similar space or location that you might be considering, but the work style is different, it is worth it to inquire about your project.
It is best to have open and honest conversations with consultants being considered, as this can help both parties figure out the best process for working together or establishing a good relationship. When reaching out, give a brief snapshot of the project you’re considering and the best way to connect. For example, a consultant or firm might arrange an informal meeting or call to discuss your project, timeline, and budget before making any solid commitments.
Often, art consultants will receive a discount on artwork from a gallery or artist. This discount can benefit individuals to purchase a few pieces at once, sourcing them from the same place and having a defined style or look. In some cases, the artwork plus the fee for a consultant is the same as purchasing that artwork at its total price. Sometimes, consultants advertise their services as accessible because of this deal in purchasing. It is typically 5-15% of an artwork’s value.
Another factor to keep in mind? Whether the art consultant you’re looking for handles every aspect of the art curation process, from procurement to framing to installation. Otherwise, you might find yourself dealing with multiple professionals — and multiple invoices for their services. Artrepeneur, for example, offers a one-stop shop or “soup to nuts” approach while keeping clients informed at every step of the process based on their desired level of involvement.
Once you have found the consultant or firm to work with, they will create a written agreement or contract. Review this carefully, as it will detail the timeline and rate for an art consultant.
What is the process of curation like?
Every project an art consultant will work on will be different. Part of the role of an art consultant is to bring new ideas and possibilities into a collection or space. A consultant will stay up-to-date on the latest showings and gallery openings, attending themselves to view the work in person. They will create proposals for their clients, which will be workshopped and continue to develop as the process of curating and purchasing moves forward.
“Every process is unique!” Gildersleeve says. “An art consultant will get to know you and how you like to work, whether that’s working collaboratively with you or your interior designer or curating a few options for your collection we can easily adapt.”
Art consultants will carefully listen to clients’ wants for the art they buy, helping them decide on their investment. There are also aesthetic decisions to make sure that pieces match a client’s vision and idea. Art creates an identity for an individual or a business, so consultants carefully help craft that identity. They can help tell a story in space, finding visual counterparts to their intent and creating a meaningful arrangement of art pieces.
Clients will give feedback to a consultant at every stage in the process. While involved entirely and the final word on all decisions, the knowledge-demanding tasks of research and curation are handed over to an expert. Once a final decision on direction is made, the art consultant will work directly with galleries on purchasing or with artists on commissions.
In the case of the artist commission, the consultant will manage the development, providing sketches and design ideas to the client. Consultants will also handle the coordination of packaging and shipping pieces, insurance on the artwork, and framing if needed.
Art consultants also help move a collection over time to grow or change. Over time, a client’s preferences or styles may change, but they don’t wish to start from scratch on a collection. Instead, a consultant will aid in the selling of their previously purchased pieces and replace them with work more aligned with their client’s vision.
Finally, consultants can also help with preserving a piece of art to ensure it will be enjoyed for years to come. For example, they can connect clients with local preservationists that can restore an older piece of art, allowing that piece to last for generations.
The art world is constantly growing, and navigating it when looking for the best and most personal pieces for your collection can be a tricky process. Some may find the ordeal intimidating to approach, with the huge amount of artists to choose from, the inscrutability of pricing, the difficulty of determining a good investment – not to mention acquiring the right artwork when there are so many to choose from. With their network at the ready and a finely honed eye for detail, art consultants can simplify the process of creating a beautiful art collection for individuals and brands.
What project would you hire an art consultant to help with?