What’s the smartest way to spend $20,000 on art? Is it a bad idea to help a big client avoid paying sales tax? How do I get an invite to a gallery dinner? Every month in Ask an Art Advisor, our go-to expert Wendy Goldsmith invites you to share your most pressing questions about navigating the art market—and she’ll draw from her decades of experience for the answer.

Do you have a query of your own? Email [email protected] and it may get answered in an upcoming article.

Should a painting match the curtains? 

No, but the curtains can match the painting! 

Of course, if you’re literally decorating, it doesn’t matter if you’re buying a lower value work based on the right hues. When it comes to collecting, we are naturally drawn to our favourite palette anyway so no doubt you will pick a painting that will jibe with your broader aesthetic sensibilities. 

Once you have that work as the centerpiece, what’s wrong with picking out some of those colors throughout the rest of the room? The painting that has the most prominence in my home has a teal blue background that I adore (which is also unusual for the artist, Ling Jian). I have added touches of different shades of that colour (French blue, eau de Nil, duck egg blue) throughout the rest of the room around it (in cushions, curtains, trim) and I love the harmony these beautiful tones create. The painting itself shines brighter than ever, as color is so often the best foil for a beautiful work of art.

Far from living in a white cube, this is really the definition of living with art, and making a collection personal and unique. The Germans have a wonderful word for something similar: Gesamtkunstwerk, which means “a total work of art,” and you can best see the phenomenon in play in homes by 19th-century arts and crafts artists such as William Morris, or utilized by Gustave Klimt and Fernand Khnopff amongst others throughout the glorious Palais Stoclet in Brussels. It’s another reason why 20th-century design, such as Danish Modern and Ron Arad, has recently become so valuable. When you have a gleaming collection on the walls, the best aesthetic furniture will no doubt follow. Anything less just won’t compare.

The main dining room of the Stoclet Palace, circa 1914. Private Collection. Artist Anonymous. Photo by by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images via Getty Images.

The main dining room of the Stoclet Palace, circa 1914. Private Collection. Artist Anonymous. Photo by by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images via Getty Images.

I feel I’ve hit a wall with my buying. When is the best time to work with an art advisor?

There comes a point, after you’ve done all the looking and buying you can on your own, when you will hit a wall. Over the last decade, the art world has become an absolute minefield. With decision-driving information being thrown at you from all angles—the internet, Instagram, galleries, auction houses, friends and family, it’s hard to know who is really looking after your interests. And the cost of placing your trust in the wrong person can be high!

It’s almost a full time job—well, it is my full time job—to stay on top of all the email previews of works sent to a select few in advance of gallery shows and art fairs, to meet with gallerists and others in order to try to gain early access to works, and then to travel to attend these gallery openings, auction viewings, and art fairs to view the good, bad and the ugly. Even then, that is just keeping pace before the next onslaught of information. It’s almost impossible for a collector to do their day job, as well as ours.

It’s at this point—when collectors have already begun to hone their taste but suddenly realize they need help navigating this information storm—that I like to step in. Through meticulous research, an advisor can help fine tune your eye by suggesting artists you might never have discovered on your own, and to then acquire the best example possible. Through their relationships with gallerists, they can often gain access to sought-after artists who can be difficult to acquire when on your own. And then there are the negotiations—we can tell you with confidence how much is too much, and when to just bite the bullet on price because another example this good, is not going to come along again anytime soon.

How long do I need to hold a work before I sell it to avoid being called a flipper?

Ah, the multimillion dollar question in the art world. One answer can be found in the standard commitment demanded by numerous gallery invoices: three years. That’s three years before you are “allowed” (although this is not legally enforceable) to sell, and when you do, the gallery has a right to first refusal.

But art world prices have become monopoly money lately, and even the wealthiest of buyers can be tempted to cash out, when a recent purchase has gone up 20 fold in the last six months. If you want to avoid getting blacklisted from the gallery that sold you the work, no doubt an influential one with other coveted artists in their stable, there is an art market etiquette you need to follow. I would not at all look to auction—if a work underperforms or gets “burned” at auction, it can tank an artist’s career—but indeed to the gallery you bought the work from initially. They will re “place” the work for you with another collector on their endless wait lists, and get you a strong price for it—though perhaps not always at the level that could be commanded in a public sale, it is with less hassle, risk, and often quicker than any other means.

Nevertheless, this is such a movable feast. A flipper is never what you want to be called in this most intertwined of art worlds, where people talk and nothing is kept quiet for long. The most respected collectors will buy what they love, not just for investment purposes, and if the work goes up in value, well, that just another reason to make them feel good, every time they enjoy it on the wall. So if you’re indeed in this game for the long term, play by the rules.

What Wendy Wants

  • Only the best dressed dachshunds in the art world wear Wondercoats ; bespoke designs for the perfect fit for our little sausages.
  • Needing to own one of Angeles Agrela’s follicle follies.
  • I’m reading my old friend Bill Browder’s Freezing Order, the follow up to his acclaimed book Red Notice about the beginnings of the Magnitsky Act, which formed the basis of our current Russian sanctions. Incredible, page turning reads that are being made into a Hollywood film. Because, as always, truth is stranger than fiction.

 

Wendy Goldsmith is a former International Director at Christie’s in both New York and London, who now runs London’s Goldsmith Art Advisory. You can also find her on Instagram @wendy_goldsmith.

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