Justin Glickman, Art Asset Manager for FirstRand Group and Owner of Luckyman Art Management, explores art collection management for Creative Feel.
Art and the elements are not always the best of friends. But the elements are not the only consideration when it comes to the importance of art management and administration.
A well-known art collector has an extensive collection with works by Stern, Kentridge, and other illustrious artists gracing his Johannesburg home. Equally valuable pieces hang in his Plettenberg Bay holiday house.
In 2017, the devastating Plettenberg fires almost saw the end of several of his prized works – painstakingly collected over many decades. Luckily, the fire was extinguished, just one house away. Describing the events to me, he quietly said, ‘If my house had burnt down, I would not have known what to have claimed from my insurer.’
It was a wake-up call to get his art management in order.
You may be surprised to learn that there is often an inverse relationship between the size of an art collection and the owner’s knowledge of it.
I call it the ‘art inverse knowledge gap’. The greater the collection, the less information there is about the collection. And it applies equally to collections in both corporate and private hands.
For example, can you readily answer these three questions: How many artworks are there in your collection? What is the value of each piece? And where exactly is each piece located?
If you could easily answer, then congratulations, you are in the minority of art collectors. For the rest of us, don’t feel bad. You’re in good company. Most collectors stumble over these questions, simply because the answers require a good deal of preceding administration. And as with any administration, the longer you leave it, the more overwhelming and out of control it becomes.
The reality, however, is that without this level of knowledge, you are exposed to increasing levels of risk as your collection grows and appreciates. Not only from an insurance perspective but, depending on the purpose of the collection, other risks too.
Some of these risks include an inability to strategically decide which art pieces to acquire or sell. Knowing what art is on loan and its whereabouts. As a corporate curator, being able to accurately report to the Exco Committee on the progress of a developing collection. For galleries, it may be about determining what stock is on hand and to whom it belongs. And the same holds for museums, government institutions, and university collections.
So, what is the solution to the art administration nightmare? Here are a few suggestions.
STEP ONE: if you don’t already have a modern electronic art management software solution, now is the time to invest in one.
There are several art management platforms. You will want one that allows you to input the artist details, medium, dimensions, and the functionality to upload quality images, and supporting documents to track provenance.
Keep in mind the adage ‘Garbage in. Garbage out’. Data quality is vital here. This part of the process is usually the most time consuming and frustrating. But hang in there.
STEP TWO: with the data electronically loaded, you can prepare accurate and useful reports.
Strategic analytics for art sales and purchases are now just a few clicks away. Filter the collection to understand the split between, for example, African and other artists; male versus female artists; pictures versus sculptures; and so on. These detailed insights allow you to define your collecting strategy and focus the collection.
After all, there is a big difference between collecting art versus accumulating art. The one creates value and the other, potentially not so much.
When it comes to updating insurances, share a link to your appraiser or send a printout to your broker. Claims should be a lot easier too.
STEP THREE: ensure that governance and oversight procedures are defined or refined, if outdated.
Depending on the type of collection (corporate, private, museum, gallery, etc.) you will want the appropriate documentation in place. An art strategy and art buying guide will help define the ‘rules of the game’.
For corporates, these documents ensure transparency, accountability, and a playbook for successive custodians to follow. As a side benefit, the policies double up as a business continuity plan.
And for private collectors and corporates alike, an art buying guide sets the strategy and roadmap for the collection. It minimises debate and doubt around acquisitions and sales, and records a defined and trackable investment strategy.
Take the time to get your art collection’s administration in order. It will serve you well, if only to give peace of mind around one of your most treasured assets!
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