Nan Goldin, 1st days in quarantine, Brooklyn, NY, 2020. © Nan Goldin. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery New York, Paris, and London.
For the second edition of this advice column, art adviser Nicholas Campbell (founder of Narcissus Arts and Campbell Art Advisory) gives us insights on how to collect art responsibly during the current crisis.
We know all too well that we are living in extraordinary times. COVID-19 is devastating families, corroding financial markets, and keeping many of us confined to our homes. Our beloved art world is one of many sectors being hit in untold ways, and it’s anyone’s guess what the art market will look like once this is all over.
Museums are shuttered, galleries are going under, creative hotspots are no more, and for the first time in modern history, we have no other place to view physical art objects up close but in our homes. As an adviser for 10 years who set up his business in the midst of the last financial crisis, I know that the lower end of the market is now where the action is, but we need to take many factors into account. This is an excellent time to help support a wounded industry while adding to the world of art surrounding you.
How can I best support artists and galleries right now?
For some, this unplanned, extended period at home might have made you aware of some blank walls, or given you the inspiration you needed to start buying art. But where to go, even on a tight budget? Firstly, this crisis has given birth to some excellent initiatives that support independent artists. On Instagram, Paper Patrons allows you to buy original works on paper for £50 ($62). Alternatively, the Artist Support Pledge, set up by British artist Matthew Burrows, allows patrons to purchase artworks for no more than £200 ($249). Every time an artist makes £1,000 ($1,246) in sales, they pledge to buy an artwork for £200 from another artist, forming a self-sustaining lifeline between independent artists. And we have witnessed a huge number of artists creating works purely to raise funds for charities, such as Harland Miller’s print release from White Cube—which sold out in under 24 hours, raising £1.25 million ($1.5 million) for organizations in the U.K., New York, and Hong Kong; and An-My Lê’s and Nan Goldin’s limited-edition photos from Marian Goodman Gallery (benefitting NYC Health + Hospitals and Urban Survivors Union, respectively).
Many of you might well be seasoned collectors who know which artists and works you like, so what can you do to help? Pick up the phone, call the galleries and artists you know well, and ask how you might support them. Perhaps there are some older works in their inventories you could make an offer on? Or maybe you could put a down payment on a piece or two scheduled for a future show? The art world relies on good relationships, so take this opportunity to build on yours by helping others.
How should I feel about asking for a discount?
Each one of my clients thinks they should be getting a considerable discount at this time, and in some cases, this is undoubtedly true. But generally I’ve advised them to be sensitive and sensible. Consider the artist and gallery, and what their situations might be. Sure, if a mega-gallery is selling an established, big-name artist, then be bullish and go for the most significant discount possible. However, if the artist is emerging, and the gallery small, then be courteous and maybe don’t even ask for a discount; a difference of 20 or 30 percent might not break the bank for you, but it could be hugely significant to them.
I was thinking of selling a piece from my collection, but now I’m unsure. Is this a bad time to consign?
This crisis has brought about an influx of buyers who are using this opportunity to grab works by artists that got away, or fill gaps in their collections. But what about the other side: What if you were thinking of selling, but are now worried that you won’t get the right price? First and foremost, be realistic. The art market at large has been wildly over-inflated for some time, and this crisis is bringing around a badly needed price correction. As a result, the fact that the piece you are selling might not get what it would have a few months ago should not put you off, as it’s probably now just in line with the times. Similar to when buying a work, establish a price you would be happy to receive and try to stick to that.
I’m overwhelmed by what’s on offer and how to access it. What is the best way to navigate this new online art world?
I would argue that using the services of an art adviser is more important now than it has ever been. For the foreseeable future, the luxury of being able to pop into a gallery, view a piece at an auction house, or fly off to an art fair is off the table. Instead, would-be buyers are confronted by an infinite number of dealers, galleries, and other outlets to choose from online. All we have is our screens, allowing us to peruse the online auctions, log into the viewing rooms, or search the immense digital marketplace. Everything is now two-dimensional. Details, depth, material, and scale are hard to ascertain online, so how do you know what’s best?
It’s our job as advisers to have already seen as much as possible, enabling us to give you our advice. Second to perhaps auctioneers, we are the ones who see the most material, by traveling the world and experiencing art in every setting it’s sold or shown in, and as such we are well positioned to give sensible, reliable advice. Provide us with a budget and criteria of what you are looking for, and we can sift through all the noise that is now the art world online and bring you what you want. Gone are the days of home visits to discuss options and view bare walls; instead, we can have Zoom calls to conduct meetings and have virtual tours of your home(s).
The art world is very different from what it was even a month ago, but the opportunities are still as exciting as ever, so embrace this new reality, support the industry, and call upon an adviser like me if you are seeking some guidance.
Do you have a question about collecting art you’ve been dying to ask?
Send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Collector Advice,” and we’ll put your submission up for our collecting expert’s consideration. And if you would like to get Nick’s advice, or maybe just find out his favorite works he saw this year before the shutdown, you can reach him at email@example.com.