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Enlisting the experts: gallerists, artists and installers
Apr 5, 2018
Katharine Earnhardt

In my last column, I diverted from discussing common mistakes designers make when sourcing art with a timely interlude on art fairs. Now, back to the mistakes and tips—this time, it’s all about tapping experts. One common mistake I’ve seen designers make when trying to get art for their clients is not enlisting the right people to help with the art sale. Here’s an overview of the best resources to help with the art part of any project.

Enlisting the experts: gallerists, artists and installers
A peek at the inventory at Kathryn Markel Fine Art

1. The gallerists. First, learn whether the gallery owner selling an artwork represents the artist of interest. If so, she should know that artist inside out. Take advantage, and ask the right questions: How does the artist make this? What is his/her training? How long have you represented the artist? How has his/her work evolved? Where has his/her work been shown, and how has it been received?

Hearing about an artist whose work has been increasingly in demand, receiving press, shown at international art fairs, evolving in interesting ways, etcetera (or learning that this is not the case), is helpful when educating your client and advising on a sale.

2. The artists themselves. Taking clients into a studio to see work and meet the artist can be a fulfilling experience for everyone involved. Importantly, however, sometimes it’s not an awesome idea, as some artists are uncomfortable talking about their work and accomplishments. They may prefer to create work rather than entertain visitors, and artist studios are not your average luxury building tour. This is the reason why artists are represented by gallerists (and musicians and actors are represented by agents), so they can properly market the work. Before bringing a client into a new relationship, do your diligence to determine whether a studio visit would be enlightening or awkward.

3. The logistics pros. There’s a whole industry of art logistics experts that include shippers, framers and installers. All they do is ship, frame and hang art, so they know a lot about it, from the best prices to the biggest risks and hardware tricks. They’re not there just to execute your plan: Get their educated opinions to make sure you—and your client—know all the options and can make an informed decision.

In general, I find that framers and art handlers don’t voice their opinions unless you come out and request it. And every time I ask, I’m pleased; they give me welcome reassurance or an alternative perspective that’s always useful.

On a related note: Contractors don’t count as art handlers! I know they’re capable of hanging a painting, but I promise, the $150 on a proper art handler will be well spent to make sure the hanging height and hardware are right and the piece stays straight.

What’s your experience with these professionals? Who else have you found to be useful with art projects? Let me know.

Until the next column, in T-minus 2 weeks!

Katharine Earnhardt is the president and founder of MASON LANE ART ADVISORY, a Brooklyn firm that styles walls nationwide.

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