Wendy Goldsmith of Goldsmith Art Advisory on Navigating the Art World
A consultant with extensive experience with top collectors and institutions around the world, Wendy Goldsmith talks to us about navigating the art world, its changing clientele, the Western market and Asian collectors.
Wendy Goldsmith has first joined the famous UK auction house Christie’s Department of 19th century European art in London over 20 years ago. There she traveled through Europe and Western Asia, researching key auction material and contributing heavily to the name and fame of the house. After becoming his youngest director and auctioneer, she moved to New York and became the International leader of 19th century European art. In 2003 she returned to London and established herself as private art consultant – Goldsmith Art Advisory.
Goldsmith’s experience includes achieving record prices in the art auction world while working with top collectors and institutions around the world. These days she works in her Mayfair office, focusing on Impressionist, modern and contemporary paintings and sculptures. We tell him about the importance of art advisers, navigating the art world and the Western market, and the changing face of Asian collectors.
Wendy Goldsmith of Goldsmith Art Advisory on Navigating the Art World
Where have you spent time in the past two years?
The last two years have been spent mainly in the UK. When I was not working in London I explored many regional British museums and stayed in some of our beautiful country hotels whenever openings allowed. The only trip overseas was a trip to America last spring where I was able to sneak up on my American passport. It had been too long not to see the customers.
Were you able to travel as much as possible during the pandemic and noticed that people’s travel habits are changing because of it?
It was extremely difficult for people to travel, so almost impossible for them to see paintings and attend art fairs – because they just didn’t exist. The vaccine was a game-changer, once again making it possible to travel with confidence to the cultural capitals of the world.
Has your customer demographics changed in any way over the past few years?
There is no doubt that clients have gotten younger and younger and are starting at a much higher level; in my day people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s would buy large works and younger people would start collecting prints. Now you have 25 year olds starting out with seven figure pictures that after doing this for so long I still find extraordinary. 40% of new auction customers are under 30 because they are also very comfortable buying online, which is where all sales have moved seamlessly into foreclosure. Plus, the depth of the market is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Almost all countries are involved – there were many years where certain nationalities dominated; the Japanese at the end of the 80s, then the Russians, then the Italians even now, literally everyone enjoys the ride, with Asia in mind.
Are there particular types of works that are particularly popular at the moment?
Art popular with Western buyers has infiltrated Asian audiences in recent seasons. Now you have western artists appearing more and more in Hong Kong sales which we have never seen before when they were dominated almost entirely by Asian artists. The experiment was a great success, especially as Asian collectors are educated and sophisticated, eager to collect in depth. They started with obvious artists like Andy Warhol, but moved on to Nicholas Party – not necessarily a household name for those not in the art world.
Are there any barriers to accessing specific works from the Western market for Asian collectors? How to overcome these obstacles?
The problem with today’s market is that everyone seems to revolve around the same artists, which makes it more difficult to access. Working with a counselor overcomes these barriers. They have typically worked for years to nurture relationships with galleries, as well as various other key colleagues, to ensure their clients get priority for their coveted artist’s next great work. The other way to access it is through auctioning, which is why we have seen such exceptional prices in recent years. The person who raises their hand the longest is the one who wins. Money is king. It’s the great equalizer, with no waiting list.
How has the pandemic affected your own ways of working?
Technology has changed everything, and thank goodness we have had it. Visits were not possible during the lockdown although at one point I opened a warehouse exclusively to show a painting to a customer. The whole warehouse was completely empty except for the general manager who showed us around. I had to pull a lot of strings to make this happen, but that was the only way this deal could have come to fruition. This was at the start of Covid, but over time collectors got more and more accustomed to buying online, especially new ones, once they got to know an artist and were able to see a jpeg high resolution, or trusted seller such as Christie’s or Sotheby’s brands.
How would you say the pandemic has affected the buying and selling behaviors of your customers? How to do it for a larger base of collectors?
This remains a problem for Asian, especially Chinese, collectors as they literally cannot leave the country. However, when there is an exhibition in Hong Kong, for example, there are lines at the gate. Local collectors cannot go anywhere else to see and experience the art, so this is a very big event for them, even more so than usual. Art Basel Hong Kong was a huge success in March. Then the series of auctions held at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips saw extraordinary figures from this captive audience.
When looking at recent sales in Hong Kong, is there anything noticeable about the types of collectors? Or the prices achieved for particular works?
There is a trend in every sale. Right now, collectors are looking at black artists, they are looking at female artists, and even in this area, they are looking at female surrealist artists. Every collector is always on the lookout for the next big thing that is accelerating exponentially. It still comes from technology. Access to information is so unprecedented that people’s tastes are constantly changing.
More generally, art fairs in Hong Kong (from Art Basel in May to Unscheduled more recently) recorded strong sales in 2021 – do you have any comments on that in terms of what it says in the market? in general ? Does it have longevity?
The art world is not going anywhere. Again, the market is getting deeper and deeper as a whole new generation of global buyers enter the market. Young collectors obviously start with the contemporary side of things with what their friends collect and understand. Sometimes they then work backwards until the start of modern times, which seems like such a good value in comparison at the moment. On the flip side, their parents started with some classic names they knew from their art history books – Van Gogh to Renoir to Picasso – but as these artists become harder and harder to find (and more and more expensive), some of them realize that it was actually more fun in a way, once they put together what they wanted, to move on to the contemporary. So it’s very interesting where all the generations meet.
What could be your predictions when coming out of confinement?
Once out of containment, people are going to be more and more selective about the number of art fairs they attend, as well as the actual auctions. That said, they also take every opportunity to see the art in person again. You can familiarize yourself with a particular artist’s paintings, but nothing replicates the experience of actually standing in front of a work of art. Interaction with artists is also vital for collectors – they love a good studio visit. They derive great satisfaction from meeting artists, understanding their thought processes, seeing their progress, supporting them and often becoming friends. It is a dynamic that will last for hundreds of years.
Are there currently any art fairs that you’ve booked to visit on your calendar now that some areas are opening up?
The size and number of art fairs can be reduced as many small galleries find that without the huge expense of these overhead costs, between travel, shipping and hotel costs, plus of course the cost. rental of a booth for the fair, they can do the same and more with the .jpg and online viewing rooms. It is also an impetus to bring clients back to the brick and mortar galleries and see the appropriate exhibits. Nonetheless, I look forward to Art Basel Miami in early December, as well as some great satellite fairs. In addition, everyone is in a good mood in the sun.
How can people try to navigate a complicated and increasingly overwhelming market?
The art world has become an almost impossible beast to navigate, even for professionals. This is why an art advisor is so essential if you want to take collecting seriously. It would be physically impossible for a layman to go to all the exhibitions, auction tours, museum exhibitions, gallery openings that I attend, as well as read every website I visit, exhibition previews and art fairs – not to mention the endless auction catalogs. So you really need someone in your corner: a support system, a teacher and an educator to really understand the intricacies of this absolute minefield, especially when there can be so much money at stake. in art pay themselves, just for that aspect.
What advice would you give to aspiring collectors who don’t know how to put together their collections?
You can’t see enough. View art anywhere, anytime and on any occasion. Start to really understand your taste, that’s why it also helps to see the bad, in order to understand the good. It can take years to build the confidence and education to build a collection, so there’s no need to rush, but if you’re still not sure, professional advice would make all the difference.
You can read more about Wendy Goldsmith and Goldsmith Art Advisory here.
(Hero by Iona Wolff)
This story first appeared on PrestigeOnline Hong Kong