“What do you do?” I am often asked.
“I am an art consultant.”
Although there are many kinds of art consultants, most people calling
themselves art consultants are sales representatives for art galleries
and represent a group of artists. My firm, by contrast, has no inventory,
and thus we can be objective about how we advise clients in art
purchases. The firm provides art and art services for corporations,
private collectors, and museums. We advise clients on the purchase,
framing, placement, installation and maintenance of works of art.
We also deaccession (sell); determine market value; inventory and
catalogue collections; advise clients on the conservation and restoration
of art; arrange art exhibitions; and give art tours to galleries
The artwork that we purchase is not necessarily expensive.
Our purchases for clients have ranged from $25 for an unframed piece
to $130,000 for a major work. In buying art we work with a network
of agents and galleries worldwide.
During twenty-five years of art advising, my company has faced
some challenges that reveal something of the nature of our work.
Here are a few examples: When a corporation filed bankruptcy, the
creditors hired me to value and sell all the art (including the
china, crystal, and silver from the executive dining room). The
bankrupt corporation inflated the value of its collection in an
effort to satisfy the dollar demands of its creditors.
the corporation valued a model ship in its collection at over $75,000.
I photographed the model ship and sent the photographs to some of
the most authoritative dealers and auction houses in the United
States. Unanimously, these experts valued the model at about $3,000.
In a subsequent lawsuit between the creditors and the bankrupt corporation,
the creditors asked me to be an expert witness in the matter of
the collection’s value. I agreed, and the result was that
the bankrupt corporation settled out of court, just moments before
the case was to go to trial.
One of our higher-profile projects was for Gerald Hines, at the
Galleria III. Here, we arranged the commissions for the hand-painted
sky mural on the ceiling above the stairs and for the hand-painted
ivy design frieze that extends from Macy’s to the parking
garage on levels one and two, and also decorates the center atrium.
Another aspect of our work is reflected in the following fun experience.
Partners in a law firm commissioned me to take their star employees
for a tour of the Houston art scene. With the law firm hiring a
bus and providing refreshments, we toured art galleries and museums
for an afternoon.
One large corporation asked us to arrange an art exhibit in the
lobby of its high-rise office building, while an insurance company
scheduled us to reframe and reinstall its existing art collection.
One of the paintings had inherent technical problems; the paint
was falling from the canvas. We took the painting to a conservator,
who viewed the painting under ultra-violet light and advised us
to suggest the client return the painting to the dealer. The client
had purchased the painting in California, which state has strong
laws protecting consumer rights in art purchases. Our client could
have claimed triple damages if the California gallery had refused
to return his money. Because we were the advisors for the company,
and because we know law and precedent, we saved the company from
a bad art purchase.
A few of our representative clients have been American General
Investment Corporation, Arthur Andersen & Co., First City National
Bank, Hines Interests, Interfin Corporation, JP Morgan Chase, KPMG,
Madison Benefits and The Staubach Company.
I believe a corporate art collection should be more than decoration
for a company’s office. Art can educate both employees and
visitors, while raising public appreciation of art. When brochures
and exhibitions introduce the company and its art to recruits and
visitors, art can even function as a marketing tool. Further, a
collection can enhance community relations, as management supports
the visual arts through buying art. An art collection can enhance
the work environment, affecting employees’ moods and productivity.
And finally, art can be an investment for the company, although
most corporations do not purchase art primarily for this reason.
Copyright, 2006, Jacqueline Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.
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