About Hiring a Fine Art Service Provider

Assembling a collection of fine art can be an enlightening and rewarding pastime, not to mention a sound investment. Caring for that same collection can be a royal headache. What seems simple—buying paintings and hanging them on the wall—actually involves a number of steps: transportation, handling, framing, hanging, insurance, cataloguing, restoration…the list goes on. And if any phase of the process is handled improperly, either a single piece or the whole collection can be jeopardized. Luckily, there is no shortage of talented professionals available to care for your pieces at every stage of ownership. And if your collection grows from hobby to serious interest, there are art advisors who expertly oversee the whole process.

Art Advisors

Think of an advisor (sometimes called a “consultant”) as the producer of Your Collection, the movie. He or she should make things run smoothly, but never take creative control away from you, the director. A good advisor will know what you have (by keeping a detailed catalog and researching provenance), what you want (by listening well and taking the time to explore your aesthetic), and how to get it (by keeping an eye on the galleries and auction houses). He or she will also handle the details, like framing, handling, and insurance. All of this should be done in an atmosphere of complete confidentiality.

Art advisors sometimes charge by the hour and sometimes on a flat fee, depending on the type of work being done. Because the position demands a high level of expertise, don’t expect low rates (around $150 per hour, or its flat fee equivalent, is minimal). However, do expect your advisor to be financially disinterested. All advisors have relationships with galleries and dealers—it’s part of the job—but none of these relationships should involve money. In other words, if an advisor is pushing you towards a particular dealer or gallery even if you’re not interested, then it’s time to find a new advisor.

Going It Alone
A good advisor is a boon to a small collection and almost a necessity for a large, ambitious one, but you don’t need one for every little task. To that end, we’ve included a list of companies in this section that will provide individual services like installation, storage, and restoration. An advisor would normally help you choose these firms, but, with a little research, you can certainly make the choice yourself. Because these professionals are experts, their services are rarely cheap (most charge a high hourly rate). However, hiring a subpar provider can result in damage that fair outweighs the money you might save.
Here are a few tips on caring for your own collection:
  • Document your pieces carefully, with photographs and notes on provenance. Even if you’re not going to insure an item, this information will help you get organized.

  • Insist on an appropriate professional. If you need a Japanese ceramic repaired, make sure to find an expertthat can do just that. Even a related expert, such as a master of South American pottery, might make a costly mistake.

  • When transporting a piece from place to place, keep in mind that a standard moving company will not be prepared to properly handle or hang valuable art works. Some companies even refuse to handle fine art, because their insurance doesn’t cover loss or damage. Hire a professional.

  • A frame can make or break a piece, literally. Some frames trap moisture, leading to mold. Others contain damaging chemicals that are released over time. Museum-quality archival frames, while expensive, extend the longevity of your pieces.

  • Take a holistic approach to displaying your collection. Keep in mind what looks good, what fits together, and what will last. That watercolor may be perfect in the living room, but prolonged exposure to sunlight can quickly fade it to obscurity. Remember: Hanging anything over a source of heat or moisture is dangerous.

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