At Art Market Liaison, we're passionate about helping our clients sell a single piece or their well-curated collections in a manner that allows them to enjoy the journey. After all, building the collection was exciting, so why shouldn't the experience on the secondary market be just as rewarding?
Unfortunately, selling artwork at auctions or galleries is often an extremely opaque process. Auction houses have their own business goals to meet, and rarely give attention to works that don't meet certain thresholds for sale; while galleries have so much inventory that they usually don’t want to take on your work for sale. We'll be dedicating our blog to helping collectors demystify the art world - and particularly the auction market - by offering unique insights into how this business works, highlighting the artists that are setting records, and giving readers an edge when it comes to surveying their collections for potential sale.
From Auction House to Art Market Liaison
But first, a little about us and why we started Art Market Liaison. On the heels of leaving my job at Christie's, where I was the Regional Account Manager and professional regional representative for the Trusts, Estates, and Wealth Management Division in the Southeast, I spent time reflecting on my experience there and the aspects I enjoyed most. My role had centered around helping people sell their art and luxury property throughout Christie's global, which I enjoyed tremendously. However, I would often find that not every piece within every collection was desirable to a blue-chip firm and collectors were left with few options. Christie's, like any business, had a bottom line to consider, and their need to be efficient was paramount when examining works to consign for auction. While the big houses go above and beyond for artworks that are at the top end of the market, it was only natural that some pieces fell through the cracks. Art from lesser-known artists or more obscure styles were harder to place for sale.
This leaves many collectors in a precarious position, as most have little to no experience dealing with auction houses or galleries for the sale side, let alone all of the online platforms. Usually, a collector will call one or two professional contacts they have in the auction marketplace, and that would be that! If auction houses are usually chasing trophy pieces, this often means that collections that include works across other genres and price points are not quite given the same attention. If a collector's works aren't selected to be included in an upcoming sale, this usually meant that they had nowhere else to turn.
I realized that this lack of transparency was causing many collectors to feel underserved. I knew they could benefit from a personalized and comprehensive service that guided them through the entire sales process, perhaps assessing each individual work within their collection and determining the best venues to approach with each piece.
For a while, these were nothing more than ruminations as I considered my next move. After leaving the auction house, I traveled to inspiring cities on the other side of the world and then settled back at home in Miami. After trying for a while to become pregnant during my hectic role at Christie's, fate would have it that I’d finally become pregnant almost immediately after my departure, and my husband and I were thrilled to be welcoming a baby boy into the world. You can not imagine my surprise when I learned just two weeks after finding out that I was pregnant that the entire South Florida region was panicked over Zika. Yes, the frightening disease carried by mosquitoes had arrived to our venerable mosquito hotbed hometown, and pregnant women were advised strictly to stay indoors throughout the remainder of their pregnancy or literally flee town for their lives. After several weeks of watching reruns on the Food Network and HGTV, I knew I simply wasn't cut out for the stay-at-home mom life. I was a movemaker, and I needed to satisfy that thirst.
After working at a major auction house, a leading Miami gallery that frequently exhibited in art fairs and initially at an art investment fund, I realized I’ve always been drawn to the art market, the strategy that shapes it and the way art history defines it. I kept thinking about the art world and the many art collectors I’ve worked with, wondering whether there wasn't some way I could help them more broadly throughout the process of selling their work on the secondary market. I was dismayed to see those who had spent decades cultivating a noteworthy collection, spending time, effort, and money into elevating so many artists' careers; only to be confronted with a lack of options for re-selling that work down the line.
I realized that most art dealers and advisors were working with collectors to help them buy art and build collections, but hardly anyone was working independently when it came time to sell. Who was there to look out for the collector’s best interest? I decided right then and there that I wanted to be their ally. With my experience working at both auction and gallery, I could be their indispensable guide in navigating the sale process, in a manner that would not only help them get the most out of their prized collections but also get them excited about the prospect of selling art!
Landing Our First Major Sales
Not every art professional has worked at an auction house and learned its nuanced dynamics. And even those who have worked as specialists, are particularly knowledgeable on a specific aspect of the art market, but can't necessarily serve eclectic collections. Because my role as a regional manager was multifaceted and focused on the sale process where I was researching both familiar and diverse pieces and placing them throughout the Christie's global network, I developed unique insights and expertise within the auction industry. I soon realized I could apply that expertise to new collector and advisor clients. And unlike most business getters at auction houses – who align themselves with the best interests of the house – I could now align myself with the client, ensuring that they have access to the best opportunities available to them throughout the auction, gallery and online markets.
As time ticked by, in between baby classes and board meetings at Locust Projects, I got to work building my website and reaching out to my network. I locked in my first few clients, and boy, were they big. I was dealing with collectors looking to sell over 50 pieces across multiple genres and price points, and I realized that only a diversified sales strategy would serve these collections well. Some pieces went to Phillip's, some to Christie's and others to Sotheby's; and then there was the avalanche of online auctions. There was a Frank Stella geometric painting, a pair of Lynn Chadwick bronzes, some Jack Pierson and Carrie Mae Weems photographs as well as Christopher Wool and Richard Serra prints; we even rocked our sale of a Sol Lewitt cube, a Jean Dubuffet, and Jeff Koon's red balloon dog. All of these pieces were given individual attention (practice for developing my maternal instinct!) and individually placed for sale.
My very first auction with Art Market Liaison got our fabulous collectors prime placement of their work, an essay on the collectors in the auction catalog along with a dedicated section of the works for sale. As the weeks got closer, I realized that the sale would land just a week before my due date... When the sale finally closed, my clients were elated to find that nine of their pieces sold well above the high estimate… and that I didn’t go into labor during the sale! As we all revelled in the good news in the days that followed, and they cheered on the success of their 50-year collection, I slowly started feeling contractions. I headed into the hospital and welcomed our son Benji into the world (#neveradullmoment #workhardplayhard, am I right?!)
Some of my clients just started collecting and other are lifetime seasoned veterans, but all of them have one thing in common: They realized that having a liaison in the secondary marketplace was a valuable asset to ensuring their work sold for the optimal price. It was simply easier to work with someone who could oversee the transaction, negotiate the contracts, and lend a hand during the shipping process. They wanted someone who would make sure that no detail was overlooked, so they could sit back and enjoy the excitement of watching those bids climb high.
We're coming up on two years in business at Art Market Liaison, and we're excited to celebrate our success by offering our readers unparalleled insight into the art market and auction industry. Stay tuned for more, and thanks for reading!