This is an interview with Annelien Bruins, the internationally acclaimed art advisor who has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. She is the COO and senior art advisor at Tang Art Advisory which operates out of New York, Miami, London and Hong Kong.
1 What does your firm do and what is your role?
Tang Art Advisory is a full-service art advisory firm operating out of New York, Miami, London and Hong Kong. I am the chief operating officer and senior art advisor which means I am responsible for growing and advising Tang’s client base. We assist our private and corporate clients with buying, selling and managing their collections of fine and decorative arts. When our clients buy art, for example, we do the price research and due diligence to ensure that they do not overpay or buy a fake. When our clients want to sell art we find the best sales channel (i.e. bringing it to auction or selling it privately) so that the client can maximize their financial result. We save our clients time and money by negotiating transactions on their behalf. When we are engaged to manage an art collection we ensure that the condition and therefore the value of the artworks are maintained: we handle technical matters such as insurance, appraisals, conservation and condition checking, administration and tracking, transport and storage on behalf of our clients.
2 What does art mean to you?
Art is an essential part of being a human being. Good art questions assumptions and makes you think. Great art makes you feel something, it touches you emotionally. I don’t believe that it is necessary to be able to explain what you like or love about an artwork. Art is often over explained. Simply enjoying it for what it is, is absolutely fine.
3 Where do you see your business growing most in the next five years?
We are experiencing most growth in the United States right now and I expect that to continue for the foreseeable future. In the US we are based in Miami and New York and we are starting to explore the West Coast a little bit this year, which is a great opportunity for us. We are currently looking to expand our team in the US.
4 What is the biggest mistake that you have made in your career?
I would say that my biggest mistake is trying to do everything myself, which I did when I started my art advisory business in London. Huge mistake! I am happy that I was able to learn that relatively early on in my career. Working with the team at Tang Art Advisory, where we have a phenomenal board of advisors, a fantastic CEO and great colleagues makes my work a lot easier. However the most important thing is that with a good team of people, working is simply so much more fun.
5 You operate at the high end of the art world. Are there pros and cons to this?
Operating at the high end of the art market means that I get the opportunity to work with fantastic, rare and wonderful artworks and art collections. That is really a privilege. The only con I can think of is that this is not a high volume business, in other words, deals can be very lucrative but they can take a long time to put together, which can put a strain on your cash-flow.
6 How do you stand out in the most unregulated industry in the world?
By consistently being extremely professional. Discretion is very important to our clients and all the relationships I have with clients are entirely trust-based. We really feel that we have a fiduciary duty towards our clients. So we never operate on two sides of one transaction because that would be a clear conflict of interest. We are very transparent to our clients on our fees and how we work. I personally do a lot of lecturing to clients and their advisors, such as trust and estate lawyers and wealth managers, because I think it is in our interest to have a well-informed client. There are often many questions about art collecting, particularly about art as investment and wealth planning in relation to art.
7 What was your biggest Aha moment in your career?
In my personal experience long-term success is really about persistence and good karma. It does not come about all at once. Achieving success is about achieving a bunch of smaller successes that at some point snowball into something bigger. Understanding that dynamic and understanding that nothing happens overnight is extremely important because it gives you the motivation to go on even if things get tough. I am also a big believer in karma. In the end, how you behave in the world comes back to you and I believe that putting good energy out there, by helping friends and colleagues, will affect your life positively. It certainly has for me.
8 What is the biggest misconception about art these days?
The notion that all artworks always go up in value all the time, which I think is partly based on the record prices that are consistently achieved in the major auction houses. These prices are not related to the middle and lower priced parts of the market. There are many different segments within the overall art market. The market for Impressionist Art, for example, operates on a different cycle than, say Contemporary Art and even within these segments prices can vary wildly from artist to artist.