Ask Your Art Advisor: Why Work With a Private Art Dealer?

Robin Rile Fine Art
Oct 4, 2016 10:48PM

High-end auctions like Christie’s and Sotheby’s are some of the most exciting, dynamic and visible ways of purchasing art. The auction-house atmosphere has, in many respects, replaced the old paradigm of wandering into your local gallery and purchasing a fine work which you see on your wall.  The excitement of the sales room will often pique the interests of the high-end buyer who never wishes to be told “No”. This competitive environment often breeds pricing which is out of the realm of what could have been previously imagined (For example: the total sales of $293M for Sotheby’s and the blockbuster $495M for Christie’s). The recent New York auctions in New York highlighted many fine works from artists which we specialize in placing here at RRFA, Warhol, Modigliani, Picasso, Pissarro, Rodin, Leger, Rauschenberg, Kline, Soutine and others. However, auctions also present only one facet of art collecting…The public highs and the lows. Many fine works are purchased, but a large number are also passed (not sold) due to many factors notwithstanding the piece itself, which can hurt the work in certain buyer’s eyes. Perhaps there are a disproportionate number of individual works from the artist in the auction and competing auctions at any given time. Perhaps there are other marquis lots that take focus away from a particular work. Perhaps it is raining and people decided not to show up! While perhaps extreme, this is just an illustration of how subtle changes can affect the overall temperature of a market.

“Although auction houses like to say that an auction price represents what a willing buyer pays a willing seller, an auction result actually represents a unique set of circumstances at a specific point in time – not always a reliable market price. A missed flight, a child’s cold, or a business reversal can make the difference between a new record for an artist’s work and the failure of a much-advertised “masterpiece” to sell.”

-Michael Findlay “The Value of Art”

MARKET KNOWLEDGE: Private dealers present an different paradigm, that of a pragmatic buyer developing a rapport with an individual who seeks out marquis works on their behalf and perhaps can save time and money in the process. There are no impulse buyers here. Only buyers who wish to make their purchases privately and perhaps save money in the process. It has been said that “Successful people Spend money to save time, and aspirational people will spend time to save money”. We hire an interior designer to take the time to research items, fabrics, finishes and fixtures for our home because their familiarity with changing market conditions, vendors, pricing and inventory shifts are too numerous for us to spend the time to keep up with. Similarly, we hire a private art dealer to locate individual works knowing that their market knowledge and resources will divine the best work for the lowest relative costs.

“When Will You Marry? Nafea faa ipoo” by Paul Gauguin was sold for close to $300 million in 2015 in a private sale

Did you know that five of the highest purchase prices for Art were completed through private sale?

These include Cezanne’s “Card Players” (Sold for $259M in April 2011), Gauguin’s “Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?)”(Sold for 300M in February 2015), Rembrandt’s “Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit” (Sold for $180M in September 2015) Picasso’s “La Reve” (Sold for $155M in March 2013) and Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” (Sold for 135M in June 2006).

“In the unregulated and often opaque art world, auction prices are the only publicly shared prices that indicate an artworks market value….The publicity generated but high auction prices may have a a homogenizing effect on collecting trends but those prices only give us one angle in which to measure an artist’s market”

-Artsy Editorial. “The Art Market, Explained: What You Need to Know about Auctions

PRICE: We know of the above private sale numbers because both buyer and seller have allowed their names and prices to be published publicly. This is not always the case as most buyers which to keep their private purchases just that… Private. Private buyers often can achieve the highest (and lowest) numbers simply because of the exclusivity of the offering not necessarily being public knowledge, as auctions are. Of course, not everyone wants to be setting record prices when buying (although every seller does!) and prefer to keep their acquisition costs as low as possible. This is possible with private dealers as many of the sellers have different criteria for selling, as in not being able to wait the months it takes for many auctions to come to pass. This allows buyers to sometimes benefit from seller’s need. This allows some buyers to purchase at prices lower than auction figures (even if the auction figures are unusually low). One of my collectors once told me, “If you can show me that I can save money with you, I will buy from you”. I did just that, and he has been working with me ever since.

PRIVACY: Exclusivity, secrecy and speed are key in placing well-priced private works with private buyers. Unlike real estate, when a dealer will tout their listing to other realtors in their area or genre, art dealers will typically keep a marquis offering EXTREMELY quiet as the amount of people qualified for many purchases are extremely limited. Oftentimes a work will appear on the market for a matter of hours only to be snatched by the one savvy investor it was shown to.  Many works which we feature are shown only to one or two qualified candidates before they are purchased. However, this does also require that a rapport is developed between the client and the art consultant.

PERSONAL TOUCH: Most of our clients are international, not based in Miami as we are. This is the beauty of working in this field in a day-and-age where communication is so accessible to all. When I first began in the art field in 1996, I recall attempting to sell a sculpture to a client in Brunei using only a well-timed fax, sent at the precise moment when the client would be entering his office after lunch… on the other side of the world. Using new platforms such as Linkedin, Facebook, Pinterest and other media, we are able to interact in real-time with our clients and discover their likes and dislikes in due course. We spend time determining what the correct works are for each individual client, whether it is for long or short-term investment, aesthetics, museum or philanthropic bequest or passion-based collecting. Whatever the motivation, we work hard to match the perfect piece with the correct client. Once we know the proclivities of a given client, we can better dialogue solutions to problems, present new opportunities and develop friendships. Given our active travel schedule, we have then been able to personally meet up with clients who have been purchasing from us for years. Nothing will supplant looking at a client eye-to-eye and shaking someone’s hand when making a deal happen, but our hands-on approach to our collectors have allowed us to develop the relations virtually and then carry them over to a nice glass of wine during a personal visit. Our travels have allowed us to meet with clients and friends in Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Islas Canarias, London, Mexico, Czech Republic, Austria and of course, throughout the United States.  Future travels will take us to South America, Ireland and the far East.

If you would like to hear more about investment-level artworks from 19th and 20th Century masters such as Picasso, Monet, Giacometti, Pissarro, Dali, Warhol, Kline, Rauschenberg, Indiana, Modigliani, Leger, Rothko and others, please let us know. We can begin this dialogue slowly and learn more about each other along the way. Perhaps your location will be the next one on our list to visit.

Please email: [email protected]

Why Work With a Private Art Dealer? by Reed V. Horth for Robin Rile Fine Art © 2016

Robin Rile Fine Art