The Clarion List continues our series of interviews with leading art companies. Whether you are learning about these companies for the first time or are already familiar with their services, we hope this series helps shed insight into each’s distinct niche and makes the art services market in general more transparent.
This month we discussed art advisory with Marc Hajjar, Associate Director at Winston Art Group, a leading independent art advisory and appraisal firm with eight offices in the US. Learn about how the firm's large size helps their clients, how today's treatment of art as an asset class is spurring new trends in art appraisals, and about what trends they are seeing in art collecting.
The Clarion List: Tell us about Winston Art Group. Why are you unique?
Marc Hajjar: Winston Art Group is the nation’s leading independent art appraisal and advisory firm. What sets us apart from other appraisal and advisory firms is our breadth and depth of expertise, as well as our independence. With over 75 specialists, we are able to provide our clients with the best insights into market trends and current valuations in all collecting categories from Contemporary art to Classic Cars, from Jewelry to Sports Memorabilia, from Old Masters to Wine, Watches and other works of art. Our advisory department also provides bespoke services for clients buying at art fairs or at auction, as well as advising and negotiating on when, where and how to sell in order to maximize returns. Our Collection Management department oversees the client’s collection from purchase until disposition, including doing yearly condition checks, inventories, assistance with loan agreements and art as collateral loans.
CL: Who are your clients? Do you work with new collectors? Corporations? Museums? How do you work with art professionals?
MH: We work with all of the above! Many of our clients for whom we buy are new or established collectors, but we also have several corporate collections as clients. While the budgets may be different for each collector, our specialized service and detailed attention to client needs are the same. It is always fun to work with clients who are new to the art world and are just discovering their preferences. We help them zero-in on the perfect piece, or pieces, then conduct the necessary due diligence to ensure a sound purchase.
We often find ourselves in tandem with other art professionals, like shippers, conservators, art insurance experts, attorneys, trust officers, and even other advisors depending on the project. When it involves our bespoke art fair services, we partner with best in class packers and shippers to ensure safe transit and always handle insurance prior to the work(s) being picked up. With other art advisors, we most frequently work with them on private transactions.
CL: You list many areas of expertise on your website in terms of periods of art. Do you have specialists in each area, or do your employees each tend to have a wide range of expertise? Do all specialists provide both appraisal and consulting work?
MH: At last count, Winston Art Group had over 75 specialists in different collecting categories. We pride ourselves on having the top in class expert in each area of the art market appraise and advise on purchases, sales or donations of our client’s property. It would not be in our client’s best interest to have a fine art specialist assist with jewelry! Depending on the type of property a client wants to purchase or appraise, we always contact our designated specialist in that category for their opinion.
CL: You have multiple offices worldwide. How big is your team? Does each office provide appraisal, advisory and collection management services? Does this broad network benefit your clients directly or just enable you to provide your services to more areas of the world?
MH: Our New York headquarters is where a majority of our staff and specialists sit. Each of our regional offices has a director and certain specialists for particular collection areas. Every project is handled in tandem with the New York office, but our regional and international clients benefit from not having to pay the out of pocket expenses for a representative to fly in from the New York office.
CL: Are you seeing any interesting trends in terms of appraisal or advisory projects you're receiving from clients?
MH: For appraisals, we have noticed a large trend towards collateralizing art collections for loans. We have been asked to provide many appraisals for entire collections being leant against. Additionally, rental value appraisals have seen an uptick. For any appraisal, it is important stress the need to engage a qualified, independent, USPAP certified appraiser.
In the advisory area, the attention paid to contemporary and emerging artists from non-western countries or marginalized groups. Collectors we currently advise have made conscious efforts to add diversity to their collection. The market in general has also become increasingly mobile with collectors and galleries traveling internationally to transact. This is true in Winston Art Group’s daily operations where we have seen a rise in the number of sales we have been managing where various players have been on different sides of the globe.
CL: What is the future of art appraising and/or art advising?
MH: There have been many innovations in the appraisal and advisory fields over the last few years, mostly spurred by the treatment of art as an asset class. Collateral Loan appraisals, Rental Value appraisal, Loss in Value appraisals are all relatively new developments for types of appraisals. Technology has also helped streamline the appraisal process on the backend. Online databases have also become an invaluable resource for our advisory departments, allowing us to pull up resale prices while we are touring galleries or fairs and negotiating on the spot with dealers.
CL: What do you like about The Clarion List?
MH: We find The Clarion List incredibly useful when needing to refer our clients to other service providers in regions where we do not have a network. It is a fantastic resource.
CL: What is next for Winston Art Group?
MH: We have been increasing in scale to accommodate larger projects for collection management, appraisals, and advisory services. From appraisals of entire artist’s estates, to corporate collection building; we have dedicated teams of people to lend their expertise and also handle the large scope of these projects.