There are lots of people around the world using art advisors/consultants these days, ranging from highly sophisticated collectors to first-time art buyers and each retains their advisor for different reasons.
For the advanced collector an art consultant offers personal, discreet handling of a valuable collection. Though many of these collectors are quite knowledgeable about art and art history they tend to be busy people who enjoy outsourcing some of their art related projects to a professional, and this is especially the case with very large collections. Consultants help with buying, selling and maintaining the art collections. Art consultants source works of art for the collections just as curators do for museum collections — consultants find works of art available in the marketplace that would enhance the existing collection or fill a gap in the collection or simply appeal to the collector. Consultants then act on behalf of the collectors to complete the transactions be it bidding at auction or negotiating with private dealers or galleries in the purchasing process. Often collectors wish to refine their collections over time which may mean selling or donating certain pieces, and consultants can play an integral part in this editing process. Art consultants may also act in a collections management capacity (coordinating artwork loans, shipments, deliveries, installations, insurance and maintenance of large collections) which can be a daunting task. In addition, when condition problems arise with a piece of art collectors often retain a consultant to oversee the conservation process.
For the beginning collector or first-time buyer an art consultant does some of the same things; when I work with a new collector, for example, I generally focus on the acquisitions phase and then act in an advisory role on such things as framing, lighting and placement of the works as well as how to begin building a collection rather than haphazardly acquiring random pieces of art. Most of my beginning collectors tend to be smart, accomplished people who feel insecure purchasing artwork generally due to a lack of experience with art. These new collectors retain a consultant in order to be sure that they are purchasing quality material for appropriate prices. A consultant assesses the clients’ taste and shows them some edited options that they would not find on their own, and thus eliminates months or years of frustrating searching and perhaps impulse buys. Often a consultant’s role is to take an art buying budget and appropriately allocate the resources to ensure that the client’s goals are met.
I often describe the role of an art consultant as a combination of the roles of a real estate buyer’s broker and of an interior designer. An art consultant acts as a buyer’s broker in shopping for purchases appropriate to that buyer which meet the buyer’s purchasing criteria and budget and representing the buyer in the transaction. Art consultants act a bit like interior designers as well in that they often work in ones personal space (their homes and offices) to achieve a visual goal. Whatever the level of sophistication of the collection art consultants often make a daunting process more enjoyable for the collector by eliminating the stresses that come with owning works of art.