COLLECT: Finding an Art Advisor: Nancy Chaikin

FYA Talks With Nancy Chaikin About When You Need an Art Advisor and What to Do When You’re Ready


ForYourArt talks to some of the most sought-after advisors in this ongoing feature about how to find an art consultant and how to make that relationship a successful one.

Nancy Chaikin has helped everyone from talent agency execs and real estate moguls to actor Tobey Maguire find artworks they love. Her experience with art traverses a wide spectrum—she holds a BFA and an MFA and has worked as a gallery director and as a corporate consultant in acquisitions. She worked with a team of advisors for Viart Corporation (a former corporate consulting firm) in New York, who managed many prestigious collections including Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, The Capitol Group, TIAA /CREF and others. She has also curated numerous gallery exhibitions and was one of the first curators to show now-renowned artists such as Barnaby Furnace, Wade Guyton and others.

With a specialty in modern and contemporary art, Chaikin loves female Abstract Expressionists and early video art from the 1970s but prefers to find under-recognized artists who have been left out of the history books but who were very influential on contemporary artists. She formed Nancy Chaikin Art Advisory 10 years ago and has (proudly) had some of her clients go on to join museum boards, fund exhibitions, and donate works of art. ForYourArt asks her to share some pointers.

1. How does one find an art advisor?

Clients have come to me mostly by referral; however, someone could find an advisor through an arts organization, a gallery or The Association of Professional Art Advisors. I am a member and it’s great because in an unregulated business they have a very sound code of ethics, which is important.

2. Should you talk to many before deciding on one?

Perhaps since it is such a personal choice. A good art advisor has to be thoughtful and sensitive to the needs and desires of a client. It should be someone who you get along with and have confidence in. And obviously someone who is incredibly knowledgeable, not just about art and art history, but about the contemporary landscape of the art world and the art market.  It is a very symbiotic relationship.

3. When do you know you’re ready for an art advisor?

When you want to learn, invest time and resources, and be receptive to trusting an expert—and yourself. Ultimately you’re ready when you want to start looking at a lot of art and to make some acquisitions. It is a small fee for what you get.

4. What are some of the questions clients need to be able to answer when they first meet with an advisor?

When you meet with a consultant or advisor you need to begin to identify what your goals are, even if they are preliminary, and a good consultant can help  you define those goals.  It is important to come up with a budget, the sky is the limit so have an idea of  what you want to spend.  Think about what you respond to, If you want to collect emerging or established artists or art from a certain period. For example, someone might be attracted to figuration or abstraction, or very contemporary or conceptual  work– there are numerous ways to approach collecting. As a consultant you have to be able to understand your clients’ proclivities and their taste, but taste changes and evolves over time so a good consultant has to have the foresight to see where the client’s eye might go, it is a process.

5. What are some of the questions they should ask an art advisor before they start working with one?

You should ask about the process, how the consultant works, what they specialize in and what their experience is, their education and what the fee structure is….  It should not be mysterious.

6. What makes a successful collector?

The most successful collectors are curious and passionate and love looking at art.  A successful collector has to be bold and confident and have a strong point of view. In my mind collectors should be generous and willing to loan their art to museum exhibitions. Collectors are also custodians; what they own is part of our shared cultural heritage, so it comes with a responsibility. Look back at the great patrons and collectors throughout history—they gave us something that we can all enjoy, and it’s wonderful.

7. What are the benefits for clients when they hire an art advisor?

You are being introduced into a big world when you start collecting, and it is great to have someone help you navigate that world.  Also a consultant can help you find your voice; collecting is a form of expression. Having a consultant is like reading the CliffsNotes to War and Peace. And yes of course access to the best works, years of knowledge, decades of relationships. Art has many identities, one of them is that it is a commodity, so if you are spending a lot of money you want to make sure your consultant is watching the undulations of the market.  Ultimately though, the “investment” is being able to live with a beautiful and stimulating collection that is distinct.

8. What is your advice for the collector not quite ready for an art advisor?

Buy a piece of art, follow your gut, see how it feels.

9. What are some resources you recommend for those starting to collect? Any books, magazines, websites, etc. that can help people figure out what they want to start collecting or how to educate themselves before they buy their first piece?

You can join a museum group. Most important, go to look at a lot of art in museums and galleries. Looking is the best thing. One could also buy art magazines. I like Art in America and ArtForum–they’re great resources!

by Alexis M. Johnson


1. Photo of Nancy Chaikin by Chuck Espinoza