The who’s who of art advisers
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
“I used to feel that [art advisers] were an unnecessary, and rather irritating, encumbrance,” says Jacob Twyford, senior director of Waddington Custot in Mayfair. But in the 38 years he’s been involved in the art world, the role – and his perception – of advisers has changed. “We used to refer to them as grubby little 10-per-cent-ers, which is certainly not the way I think about them now. The best art advisers have become extremely good,” he continues. “They do a good job both for the client and for the gallery. It’s almost like having an external sales force. They demand a good price. And they get it.”
As for the 10-per-cent side of things, an art adviser’s acquisition commission typically ranges from five to 10 per cent, depending on the price of the artwork, suggests one adviser. But “access to a world-class art adviser” can come with a retainer fee, “in the range of $40,000 to $500,000 annually”. So who are the most in demand?
The power player: Sandy Heller
“Possibly the biggest art adviser in the world,” according to one insider, Sandy Heller is known to have worked with Roman Abramovich and Steven Cohen – the controversial trader and New York Mets owner whose mega-collection reportedly spans Picasso’s Le Rêve (purchased for $155mn in 2013) and a Damien Hirst shark. A website for his advisory service? I don’t think so.
The behemoth: Philip Hoffman
“To be a client with us, you need to be spending about $1mn and up on art,” says Philip Hoffman, former deputy CEO of Christie’s Europe, and founder of The Fine Art Group. The team of about 100 (at least 30 are Sotheby’s or Christie’s alumni) advises more than 300 families in 28 countries, including many “high-profile ones in Hollywood”. They recently acted for the Alana Collection of Italian Old Masters – amassed by Álvaro Saieh and Ana Guzmán, and sold for $19.4mn at Christie’s. Of his advisory MO, he says: “Ninety per cent of the time we stop our clients buying art.” fineartgroup.com
See also: Patti Wong, who brings 30+ years of experience – and collector contacts – from Sotheby’s to a new, Asia-focused agency in Hong Kong, in partnership with The Fine Art Group, pwa-asia.com
The über-curator: Allan Schwartzman
Allan Schwartzman, former curator at New York’s New Museum, set up Art Agency Partners with Adam Chinn and ex-Christie’s Amy Cappellazzo in 2014; it was bought by Sotheby’s two years later for a reported $85mn. He’s been publicly linked with building the major collections of Texan philanthropist Howard Rachofsky and billionaire businesswoman Penny Pritzker. Now, he’s set up advisory team Schwartzman& – and struck up an alliance with Hoffman’s Fine Art Group. schwartzmanand.com
The new-gallery guard: Laura Paulson & Bernie Lagrange
It says a lot that Gagosian, the über-est of über-galleries, has established a side hustle in art advisory. Launched in 2019, Gagosian Art Advisory is headed up by Laura Paulson, a former global chairman of Christie’s, who was adviser for the collection of the late lawyer David Solinger; 23 of the works – including a Giacometti and a de Kooning (with fees) – fetched $137.9mn at Sotheby’s last year.
Bernie Lagrange, son of Belgian economist and hedge fund manager Pierre, cites Emmanuel Roman, CEO of global investment management firm PIMCO, as a client. The Agency’s direct dial-in to Gagosian’s starry roster of artists is no doubt a major plus. gagosianartadvisory.com
See also: LGDR, the consortium of four art dealers – Dominique Lévy, Brett Gorvy, Amalia Dayan and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn – includes advisory services in its remit (and the latter has previous with Jay-Z).
The cool customer: Sibylle Rochat
The Swiss-born, London-based Sibylle Rochat cut her teeth working for a prominent art dealer in Switzerland, and now attracts “young collectors, often involved in the arts, actors and musicians”. She has advised DJ David Guetta and currently has a high-profile British rapper on her books. Her expertise spans young galleries and emerging artists to blue-chip spaces and mega names. “A good art adviser has to support artists and institutions, not only take from them,” she says. rochatartconsultancy.com
The adviser’s adviser: Josh Baer
Golf-loving former gallerist Josh Baer – son of Pace-represented artist Jo – has published The Baer Faxt newsletter since 1994, and brokered record-breaking Basquiat sales in his role as a private adviser. Clients include John McEnroe. In 2021, he launched a new, more accessible (at $3,000 a year, plus commission) “on demand” service, working alongside a team of advisers around the world. “Somewhat unexpectedly, not only have collectors signed up, but also other advisers and galleries,” says Baer. thebaerfaxt.com
The trailblazer: Jane Suitor
Veteran adviser Jane Suitor established herself as an art consultant in London in the 1990s. One client is basketball player Kevin Love: “I absolutely adored working with him. I think he had just about heard of Picasso, now he’s got a great collection: Tracey Emin, George Condo, John Baldessari, Antony Gormley, Rashid Johnson.” Others might be surmised from Instagram. A Victoria Beckham post of Yayoi Kusama pumpkins at Victoria Miro gallery in 2016 thanked @janesuitor. She also likes to source works by young artists. “Everything moves at such a fast pace now; you do have to pick up artists while they are still at college. I recently bought a painting by Alexis Soul-Gray, who is still at the Royal College.”
See also: Emily Tsingou, emilytsingoufineart.com
Headshot credits: Amelia Allen, Bonnie H Morrison (2), Emilio Madrid, Getty Images, Joshua Geyer, Kate Martin, SFA Advisory