Who is an art consultant? He or she is yet another professional of the art world whose highly-specialized services allow newcomers and habitués of the sector to have the best experience when buying or selling art. For an art consultant, artworks are chapters of a story that are awaiting to be assembled into an inspiring narrative.
All art consultancy services are finalized to adequately respond to the client’s desire for art acquisitions, either to expand an existing art collection or building a new one that meaningfully complements their house. Art consultants can also select artworks for the creation of a clearly legible visual identity that clearly and strikingly communicate a business’ or individual’s values and agenda. They are regularly employed by art advisory companies and auction houses as experts in art investments with knowledge of the dynamics of the art market and art historical expertise in a very specific category of objects. Others work independently and rely on building solid relationships with the art world’s main players, both with private and corporate clienteles.
While the job involves heterogenous tasks and skills that are both highly-specific and intangible, there exist recommended education paths that provide the theoretical and practical knowledge necessary to enter and succeed in the art consultancy sector. The ability to select eye-catching pieces for workspaces, track down the best deals on the market and scout the art world for new artistic talents does not come naturally, but is built on highly-specialized knowledge, thorough expertise, and continuous research in the field of fine arts, art history, business, and art curating. In this article, we break down the different steps that all aspiring art consultants should consider taking to land their dream job – from relevant education and work experiences to soft skill development.
Reliable professionals in art consultancy have learned to develop unparalleled insights into the art market and the objects that circulate within it. While it is true that a good eye for art is the defining feature of any art professional, this always stems from an academic type of knowledge of the history of art, familiarity with the dynamics of the art market, and sophisticated insight into the possibilities of using artworks for marketing and communication purposes. For these reasons, art consultants almost always hold degrees in art history, the fine arts, philosophy of art and aesthetics, curating museums and galleries, arts management, and art business.
On one hand, having a university-level background in one or more of these disciplines will give you a broad and all-encompassing knowledge of artworks as objects with historic and cultural values and the mindset to interpret them critically and engage with them in different contexts. On the other, it will introduce you to business-related skills that will enable you to identify and position artworks strategically in multiple marketplaces– a type of expertise which is usually not expected from art historians or art critics and encompasses art law, business ethics, art valuation, financial analysis, logistic and diplomatic skills.
Art consultants also need to develop a special understanding of how to arrange artworks in space according to meaningful principles – be they aesthetic, historical, or marketing-informed. In this respect, an education suitable for art consultants might also cover elements of interior design, architecture, and brand management. A highly varied set of skills is required to source artworks that can make tangible the client’s vision, strike the viewer visually, and fit the client’s budget. Art consultants also tend to specialize themselves in a particular set of services and category of art objects, for instance contemporary art consultancy for corporations or individual advising on Renaissance sculptures for private collectors, thereby succeeding in offering tailormade advice targeted to a specific class of clients. An art-related education which is both highly-focused and extremely diverse is therefore recommended to those who want to start an art consultancy business.
While no single education or work experience can give you straightforward access to the networks of the art world, choosing one of the above-mentioned degrees is the most secure stepping stone to a blooming career in art consultancy. One of the most relevant aspects of an art consultant’s services is the privileged access to the venues of the art world, which they are able to strategically navigate for the benefit of their clients. A good art consultant must be able to enter powerful networks of contacts and platforms of art exchanges where they can advertise and sell their exclusive expertise.
A constant study of the trends of the art market and its most active participants is necessary to lay hands on the work of the most desired artists, grab up the best deals on the market, and start relationships with undiscovered, promising talents. It is therefore fundamental that art consultants cultivate a large client base that reaches out to the power players of the art sector, such as art dealers, wealthy collectors, private gallerists, and top-rated artists. Art fairs, auctions, gallery openings, studio receptions, exhibitions are the main forums where those who pull the strings of the art world can meet, exchange ideas, and build work relationships.
Whether working on large-scale projects for corporations or advising private collectors or dealers, all art consultants know that the success of their activity relies on forging relationships of trust with their clients. Advisers start a conversation with their clients to understand their preferences and narrow down their interests, leading them to focus their attention on artworks that are both adequate for their purpose and reasonable in terms of price. They also must be able to guarantee confidentiality and transparency in handling transactions on their clients’ behalf and communicate clearly the type of expertise and breadth of services that they can offer. In today’s unpredictable and unregulated art market, relying on the services of an art consultant can make a difference between making meaningful investments in art or squandering money on overpaid or low-quality pieces.