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"Why do I need a professional art collection manager?"

by Phillip Schubert

This is typically one of the first questions I'm asked when initially approaching a potential client, and it's a fair one. After all, professional services represent increased expense, especially when we consider the cost of producing or acquiring works of art in the first place. But the benefits--for your collection, for your peace of mind and for your bottom line--of retaining an experienced, knowledgeable collection manager are often well worth the additional investment.

Details, details

   The many levels of vital details pertinent to a dynamic collection can be daunting to uncover, track and navigate. Yet it is these very details that comprise the crucial connections between an artwork, its history and its future. A smart collection manager will take on early the task of gathering and compiling as much of this important information as possible. Like a museum registrar, she or he will document not only basic particulars of a work like artist, title, date and media, but also aspects such as condition, provenance, exhibition history and valuations. If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. Often, it requires a fair amount of research and investigation, which can sometimes be rather time-consuming. As material surfaces and activity occurs, the relevant information will be entered into a database for storage and future reference. Having a collection manager to do the work means that you don't have to do it yourself! Wouldn't you rather devote your efforts toward realising your vision?

Here to there and back

   Art collection maintenance often calls for individual works to move through different processes. Works sometimes need installation, conservation, reframing or storage. A work may be requested to go on loan to an institution for exhibition; or a potential buyer might ask for it on consignment. Each of these scenarios presents its own set of issues to be addressed, and a good collection manager will understand the intricacies involved, and advise on the best ways to proceed in guiding your works safely across these transitions. Organising collection activity is one of the most involved, and therefore one of the most important tasks required of a collection manager. It requires the convergence of a number of skills--among them risk management, logistics, timing and communication. The more active a collection, the more all of these forces come into play, and the more an experienced collection manager becomes essential. Trusting the coordination of activity to a professional will virtually eliminate costly errors and allow you to breathe more easily, while also freeing up even more of your time.

The future is now

   A collection manager will advocate for that which is in the best interests of your art collection. Foremost of these concerns is the preservation of each artwork. From this prime consideration flow all of the other decisions that are made at every phase from pre-acquisition through deaccession. Regular, thorough condition reports identify changes and wear that can be difficult to see at first, and which indicate the extent of conservation required. Proper packaging, appropriate for the circumstance, is essential during transit and storage. Environmental factors such as light, temperature and humidity need to be considered at every stage. A collection manager realises the importance of these matters, and combines a knowledge of applied materials and techniques with a highly tuned attention to detail, to recommend the course of action that will keep your art safe for the long term. Sometimes these measures seem costly in and of themselves, but must be weighed against the value of the work, for extraordinary care must be taken to ensure the lowest possible impact over the greatest period of time.

Keeping the faith

   A professional collection manager will value your trust above all other considerations. He or she will safeguard your private collection information, treating it with absolute discretion, and will consult with you regularly as to your wishes regarding collection activity. It is important that any advice offered is presented thoroughly and clearly understood. Armed with this expertise, you can then make informed decisions that, once established, are implemented with integrity and meticulousness. In this way, the working relationship between you is cooperative, productive and rewarding; you have a seasoned professional as a partner in maintaining some of your most valuable possessions, who provides you with lucid insight and sound guidance, ensuring that your collection is maintained to a high standard and according to your objectives.

Art appreciation

   Ultimately, all of these advantages combine to align with one simple precept: a well-managed art collection greatly increases in value. An artwork that has been properly protected and maintained, and has comprehensive documentation of its history, is clearly worth more than a similar work that hasn't, both in terms of resale and of aesthetic value. Multiply this by the number of works in your collection, and it becomes readily apparent that the benefits of securing the services of a skilled art collection manager cannot be overstated. Your experience of the art you love will be enhanced by having more time to enjoy it, more peace of mind that it is well-looked after and more confidence in its long-term stability and compounding worth.


Phillip Schubert is the principal at Art Squared.
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