The Collector’s Edition | Caring for Your Private Art Collection
Filling your home with art is both a way of expressing yourself and curating the mood and atmosphere of your space. Think of your home as your own gallery, a blank slate with endless possibilities to surround yourself with artwork that inspires. Perhaps you consider your art collection in a methodical way, procuring only a few pieces to fill white walls in need of a focal point; or maybe you’re an art lover, eager to diversify your collection with oil paintings and sculptures alike. No matter your goals or methods, collecting and displaying art in your home is a personal endeavor, but there are a few things to keep in mind once you have an established collection.
Hire an Art Consultant
Part of the challenge of sourcing art is determining which pieces will work in your home, and how to obtain them. Hiring an art advisor or consultant—like Sotheby’s firm Art Agency, Partners—is an important step in ensuring that your collection is a thoughtful representation of your tastes. Curators that are linked to art institutions are not ethically permitted to be paid to advise private collectors on specific purchases, though they will sometimes be willing to direct you to catalogues, exhibitions, or galleries to help you make an informed decision; art advisors or consultants, on the other hand, are able to give you advice about which specific pieces to buy—and they have access to more off-market opportunities.
In addition to helping you determine and develop your taste, an art advisor generally has a strong network of galleries and collectors, which means they’ll be able to give you better access to opportunities ahead of the general public. Avoid overpaying for a work with an advisor’s guidance, who will be willing to bid for you at auctions and to arrange the logistics of transportation and installation. With their insider information and expertise, an adviser will be able to help you build a collection through both gallery purchases and public auctions.
With a large art collection, it’s likely that not every piece will be displayed in your home at all times. Whether you choose to store additional pieces in your own home, in a specialized art storage facility, or in a private museum will depend on how vast and prestigious your collection is. Creating your own art storage will require determining where in your home is a suitable environment—avoid spaces with air vents or windows, which can damage art by exposing it to sunlight or air, causing fading or mold. Insurance is essential for any collector.
If you choose instead to store your collection with a specialized fine art storage facility, you will have the option of having a private space or a shared one. These facilities are outfitted with archival-quality conditions, like climate control, to ensure your artwork’s preservation. Sotheby’s Greenford Park, for example, is the fine art storage facility for Sotheby’s London, and features a viewing gallery and photographic studios. Some collectors are compelled to establish private foundations or museums to house their overflow of artwork, choosing to share their collection with the public. Aiming for the best of both worlds, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen of Rotterdam has plans to open a public art depot as a special extension of the gallery, which will house collectors’ work that can be viewed by the public on an appointment-only basis.
Maintain Your Collection’s Integrity with a Conservator
The moment you make an art purchase, whether you’re a first-time buyer or a veteran collector, you need to consider how you’re going to care for and preserve it. If a piece has been poorly stored in the past, leading to damage, or if you’ve acquired a piece through auction that has been unearthed from a forgotten basement, chances are the artwork is going to need some TLC. A conservator is trained to record the damage that has occurred and to reverse the damage, a valuable resource for any art collector. Often, the fees for a conservator’s work will be covered by your insurance policy, and the fee is dependent on the type of work that needs to be performed, not on the value of the artwork itself.
Experienced collectors know that hiring a conservator prior to a major purchase is a wise move, both to protect their investment and to ensure that the installation of the piece goes smoothly. Artwork can be extraordinarily fragile and easily damaged in transport.
Make Use of Freeports for Collection Rotation
Whether you’re planning to rotate out the pieces currently on display in your home, or if your private museum or foundation is under construction and you need a temporary home for the pieces being displaced, utilizing a freeport is a smart option. Freeports—warehouses located near seaports and airports that facilitate international trade—allow the import and storage of valuable goods, providing secure long- or short-term housing for artwork. Pricing of freeport storage depends on geographic location as well as size—a freeport in Manhattan will cost more than one in Portland. With extremely secure storage options and a temporary exemption from tax payments, the freeport is useful to the collector looking for a reliable way to discreetly rotate valuable fine art.
Art can transform a home, turning it into a sanctuary of creative energy. However you choose to curate your collection, be sure to protect your investment with smart storage and considered professional care.