At their core, art consultants are trusted advisors. Versed in art, its markets and history, we offer collectors practical support, connections and services. Beyond this however, the profession is surprisingly varied - united as much by a passion for art, as by diversity. To unpack this, we spoke to four fellow art consultants - Elizabeth Hastings, Julian Edwards, Jane Raffan and Jasmine Kean. Discussing why they love their work, its challenges and future, discover the diverse world of art consultancy.
What does it take to be an art consultant?
Consultants arrive at the profession in a multitude of ways. Elizabeth Hastings for example, began her consultancy career when asked by a time-poor collector to organise his collection. She recalls “The collector could tell me every piece he owned, where he purchased it and what he paid, but his records were a shambles!”.
After cataloguing the works, Hastings went on to publish two books on his collection, source work for his properties around the world and ten years later, remains involved in the collection’s management.
For Julian Edwards the move came didgeridoo in hand. Having entered the arts as a musician, he then worked in galleries before eventually embarking as a consultant.
Jane Raffan’s rich experience in the world of art is complemented by an environmental law qualification, while Jasmine Kean launched a dynamic arts space (and her career) at the tender age of twenty-two.
What does an art consultant do?
An art consultant’s duties are varied. Backed by experience and expertise, we offer advice, connections and support for collectors of all kinds. As Hastings states, she works “to support the private passions of art collectors with professional expertise, industry knowledge and practical advice”.
Being an art consultant however, is about more than practicalities. Rather, underlying the profession are real cultural and ethical tenets. Edwards for example, sees himself as a promoter for art at large, while Kean is committed to translating cutting-edge aesthetic experiences to new audiences.
Alongside this cultural dimension, are ethics. As Raffan states, consultancy depends upon “a commitment to the highest professional standards”. This meeting of diligence and standards is integral. It’s what makes collectors, public institutions and art lovers seek out, trust and return to consultants.
The future of art consultants
As the arts navigate lively and sometimes uncertain times, there is more need than ever for consultants. Poised between artist, collector and public, we are vital soundpieces for the industry. As Edwards puts it, consultants can make “the artworld more approachable… because art is for everyone”.
With this in mind, Hastings urges the importance of valuing the profession. Just as lawyers, doctors and financial advisors are (rightfully) paid to advise, so should consultants. Raffan reiterates this, countering though, the misconception that “no one can afford us”.
By cutting through visual noise, consultants help people connect with art. They act as guides for those keen to learn about art quickly, accurately and in a way tailored to their needs. For Kean, this humanistic aspect is the most rewarding. She reflects that her work is done;
“When someone falls in love with a work and you know that you really hit the nail on the head - when things just fit.”
The beauty of art consultancy is its variety. Whether your passion is Indigenous art, Contemporary art, International or Australian art, there is a consultant with the background, integrity and connections to help. An ongoing and evolving relationship, the bond forged between consultant, collector and collection can be an art itself.
Angela Tandori is the President of the Art Consulting Association of Australia.