What it’s like working in fine art
Money makes the art world go around to two insiders about life in the world of fine art
Helen Macintyre, 34, managing director, Macintyre Art Advisory
“Art advisory is almost like a concierge service for big collectors: sourcing works of art and suggesting what to buy and then, when to sell; bidding at auction on their behalf; advice on framing and restoration; helping clients who have agreed to loan items to a museum or gallery and completing all the paperwork that goes with that. Another part of my work is advising hedge funds, banks and corporations that are keen to invest in the art market, whether they have £1 million or £50 million to spend.
“My work is very much about personal relationships. If you are a client and you are going to spend millions, you have to be able to rely on and trust the person advising you. Sometimes a client will come to me with a shopping list of exactly what he or she wants to buy and at others it is more vague and I will send through suggestions. My expertise lies in sourcing appropriate works with condition, authenticity and provenance in mind.
“I know my client’s collections and homes – most international collectors have houses around the world. Art collecting at this level is a very small world and I will know roughly where works are – or I can find out from my contacts. I graduated in history of art and worked for 12 years at art dealerships specialising in old masters and at Christie’s before I set up my business.
“I spend most of my time tracking down works that are for sale, which involves some time in the office on the phone and answering e-mails, but I also spend a lot of time travelling, meeting clients and looking at works held in private collections. The art market itself is very seasonal; it moves from New York to London, Paris, Miami, Basle, Venice and to the Middle East. I also travel to Qatar once a month to advise the royal family there; to Dubai for the art fair and also to Abu Dhabi a couple of times a year.
“Networking with clients and potential clients is very important. I do a lot of corporate entertaining – I took five key clients to the Wimbledon tennis finals, for example. You have to be incredibly organised: I always have to look three months ahead to fit in travel and entertaining.
“I look at works of art and my stomach curls up if it’s something really good. I think most art advisers and dealers hope that they will stumble across a real find some day – something that has been lost for centuries or misattributed. And I think I will always get a thrill buying on behalf of clients at auction: I get nervous still – it’s a great feeling.”
by Clare Dight
Published at 12:00AM, July 24 2008