Collecting advice from an expert: Sotheby’s contemporary auction specialist Courtney Kremers
AUCTIONS ARE BIG BUSINESS WITH EVER INCREASING INTEREST AND PARTICIPATION FROM ALL CORNERS OF THE WORLD. THANKS TO THE GLOBALIZATION OF THE ART MARKET AND THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF ART BOOSTED BY INSTAGRAM IN PARTICULAR AND SOCIAL MEDIA IN GENERAL, AND BY THE HEADLINE MAKING SUMS THAT ARE BEING REALIZED, EVERYONE FINDS THIS AN INTRIGUING SUBJECT TO FOLLOW WHETHER THEY ARE COLLECTORS OR NOT. THE COMPETITION BETWEEN HOUSES IS FIERCE AND THIS WEEK, IN NEW YORK, PRESENTS MANY OPPORTUNITIES TO PROVE THESE POINTS.
ON TUESDAY OF THIS WEEK, SOTHEBY’S TRIUMPHED, OPENING THE NEW YORK AUCTION WEEK, WITH THEIR IMPRESSIONIST AND MODERN SALE. ARTnews DESCRIBES IT AS SUCH:
Powered by a stunning Claude Monet landscape that doubled its estimate and elicited hearty applause in the grand salesroom, Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern evening sale in New York on Tuesday galloped to a market-affirming $349.9 million tally.
Only five of the 55 lots offered failed to sell, yielding a svelte buy-in rate by lot of 9.1 percent.
The buoyant result surged past pre-sale expectations of $252.6 million to $333.2 million. Those estimates do not include the buyer’s premium. (The hammer tally for the evening, before fees, was $300.5 million.)
The total also shot past last May’s $318.3 million result for the 32 lots that sold. The top lot at that sale was Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu couché (sur le côté gauche), 1917, which fetched $157.2 million, making it the most expensive work ever to sell at Sotheby’s.
Tuesday’s auction ranks as the highest-earning Impression-modern evening sale at Sotheby’s since one in May 2015 that took in $368 million.
BEFORE WORKS CAN REACH THE DAZZLING HEIGHTS OF THE AUCTION WORLD, THEY MUST FIRST BE ACQUIRED BY PRIVATE COLLECTORS AND THAT TAKES CAREFUL DELIBERATION, INFORMATION AND KNOWLEDGE AS WELL AS THE GOOD FORTUNE OF A GREAT EYE AND/OR A GREAT ADVISOR.
TODAY, THE LRFA BLOG IS DELIGHTED TO HAVE SOTHEBY’S SPECIALIST, SENIOR VP, COURTNEY KREMERS, TO SHARE HER ASTUTE INSIGHTS ON THE ART OF COLLECTING.
COURTNEY, WELCOME BACK! THE LRFA BLOG IS VERY HAPPY TO HAVE YOU HERE.
SOME COLLECTORS, SUCH AS THE MUGRABIS, FOCUS ON A HANDFUL OF ARTISTS, BUYING NUMEROUS EXAMPLES OF WORK FROM ALL PERIODS OF THE ARTIST’S CAREER, THUS CONTROLLING TO SOME EXTENT THE MARKET FOR THE WORK?
WHAT IN YOUR OPINION ARE THE ADVANTAGES AND THE DISADVANTAGES?
There is a big difference between trying to control an artist’s market, by acquiring a significant number of works, and collecting an artist in depth. The pros/cons of this strategy are no different than having undiversified risk in any other asset class. It is high risk, high reward.
WHEN YOU ARE WORKING WITH A RELATIVELY NEW AND UNSEASONED COLLECTOR, WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE THAT YOU CAN GIVE THEM?
Collecting involves a careful balance of restraint and gut. At the beginning, the formula should be weighted toward restraint and research, but as you develop a real eye, gut becomes a crucial part of the equation.
HOW DO YOU EDUCATE THE POTENTIAL COLLECTOR IN THE ART OF COLLECTING? WHAT ARE THE PRIMARY CRITERIA AND GUIDELINES DO YOU GIVE THEM?
It isn’t only about buying what you love. For an unseasoned collector, that advice can be a recipe for disaster, or at the very least, for overpaying. The word, “love”, is also confusing to collectors, because what does that mean when it comes to art? Your relationship with an object can grow from something that first would be described as discomfort, because it gets under your skin, stays with you, challenges something you thought you knew. In other words, the reaction to a great object doesn’t always start out as positive experience in a traditional sense, but it can evolve into that. Aside from the gut reaction you feel, which is what makes collecting so emotionally rewarding, you should always ask questions and understand what you are buying, how the work fits into the artist’s overall body of work, what the condition is, which galleries support the artist, which museums have shown the artist, etc. The list of questions is long and you should consider the answers to each one.
YOU WORKED FOR KIM HIERSTON, WHOM I LIKE AND ADMIRE, IN HER ART ADVISORY FIRM. WHAT WERE YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES?
Tons of research, among other things. Kim is extremely thorough and disciplined about every artwork she puts forward for a collector’s consideration. It was an information gathering operation first, art advisory second; you can’t advise unless you have all the facts. We spent a lot of time reviewing the artworks on offer through galleries, at art fairs, and in the auctions, and then thinking about how those works might fit into a particular client’s collection, and if so, what the right price was. Once an acquisition was made, we handled all the back end logistics that come with building an art collection – insurance, shipping, framing, conservation. It was a soup to nuts job.
WHAT WERE THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS YOU LEARNED WHEN WORKING AS AN ADVISOR? YOU MUST INTERACT WITH A GREAT MANY ADVISORS NOW, AS A SPECIALIST AT SOTHEBY’S. WHAT CHARACTERIZES THE BEST AND THE WORST OF THEM?
There are advisors who do their own research and who spend a considerable amount of time looking at art and understanding the objects, and then there are advisors who just repeat what they hear elsewhere. The parrots are just that, parrots.
NB- THE WORKS ILLUSTRATED IN THIS BLOG (EXCEPT THE MONET) ARE FORTHCOMING LOTS IN THE SOTHEBY’S CONTEMPORARY DAY SALE, ON FRIDAY, MAY 17th.
IN OUR NEXT LRFA BLOG, COURTNEY WILL SPEAK ABOUT LIFE AT SOTHEBY’S IN THIS AGE OF COLLECTING. WE CAN’T WAIT!