Collectors have always used advisors to build their collections. In the past these have been museum curators and even museum directors- think of Wilhelm von Bode, director of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin, who formed many important collections in his day. Dealers and auction houses have also acted as consultants but with the growing need for independent opinions, the professional art consultant has become a major figure in the art market, which may also reflect the importance of art fairs as places for collectors to meet and buy.
As Mathew Hockley Smith, art consultant and advisor, tells us in his interview, the art market is so inter-connected that understanding how it works is an essential tool for those hoping to work in it. In the market today collectors are playing an increasingly important role as they are the major buyers, often forming important collections open to the public or even private museums and foundations.
Philip Hofmann, who left Christies to set up the Art Advisory Group in 2001, was typical of the new type of art advisor with experience in finance and management. Like many they used their experience as experts or as business managers to gain the trust of collectors. The other area of consultancy is wealth management, where investment firms began to look at art as an asset class and develop strategies for high net worth individuals to invest in art as part of their portfolios. This is why it is so important for those in art consultancy to have an understanding of the collector, his character and his desires if they are to advise them as clients, or indeed to work with artists and galleries to approach potential collectors and buyers.
Our new MBA in Art Collecting Management is unique in concentrating on the collector and understanding the role of the collector in the art market. With its offer of concentrating either on Old Masters or Contemporary Art, it opens the way for positions in this increasingly lively field.
It is also unique in combining art market studies with curatorial approaches, so that those seeking to work in the field can gain different skills from those of the gallery assistant of auction expert. Even though many of the tools are the same, this course adds the knowledge of insurance practices, shipping and conservation issues to the essential management skills of finance, marketing or law. It thus gives students the tools to enter this highly important and growing area of the art market today.