COLLECT: Finding an Art Advisor: Sima Familant

FYA Talks With Sima Familant 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 advisor and how to make that relationship a successful one.

Sima Familant’s love affair with contemporary art began in the mid-1990s while studying for her MA in Postwar and Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute in London after which she moved into helping build contemporary art collections for blue-chip galleries like Baumgartner Gallery in Washington D.C. She then became director of Green Naftali Gallery in New York for four years, followed by a stint as Associate Director of Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, also in New York. Familant serves on the boards of Steep Rock Arts Association Co. and LA><ART in addition to maintaining her own art advisory. Her relationship to international dealers, curators, artists and critics has been bolstered by her extensive traveling to view various artworks and exhibitions around the world, all of which have shaped her philosophy about art: “You need to see art, a lot of art, to understand art.” With an area of experience in European and American work from Warhol to the present, Familant in well-versed in contemporary art. Yet in recent years her eye has been focused on Asia and Australia as well as what is happening in India and Indonesia. Here she discusses her thoughts on what makes a good working relationship between collector and art advisor.

Alexis Johnson: When do you know you’re ready for an art advisor?

Sima Familant: You are too busy with your job and your life, yet you’re interested in art and collecting. You want nonpartisan feedback, and you want someone who is on the inside, therefore able to bring more to the table in terms of experience, education and market knowledge.

Johnson: How does one find an art advisor?

Familant: Most art advisors have independent businesses, so there is no “phone directory.” With it being a specialized field, word of mouth from other collectors and from art dealers seems to be the most effective method.

Johnson: Do you have any advice regarding etiquette for collectors buying works through galleries, auction houses or artists directly (with or without the assistance of an advisor)?

Familant: Collecting is a privilege, especially when buying from galleries on the primary market. The galleries, particularly in today’s seller’s market, are able to sell to whomever they like. Therefore, you have to differentiate yourself from the next collector through such activities as acquiring works on behalf of museums, lending works, funding museum shows and being involved on museum boards.

Johnson: What makes for a good working relationship between a client and an advisor?

Familant: The relationship between client and advisor is the crux of a great working experience. I find that as an advisor I do more listening, and spend much time understanding the client’s interests and goals. I feel that it is my job to understand their aesthetic and then educate them on the best choices in this area. For me, it is all about the ongoing conversation. And it goes back to question that I ask the client when we begin our relationship, “are you ready to spend a lot of time together?”

Johnson: What makes a successful collector?

Familant: Being successful at collecting is a pejorative term as collecting is not a game or a race, so the quantifying factor is not obvious. Instead, you have to decide what a successful collection means for you – investment, finding art that has been difficult to find, identifying new trends, creating a collection that is personal or an activity that brings the collector much fulfillment, etc.

Johnson: What are the benefits for clients when they hire an art advisor?

Familant: One cannot know everything, and I find that the successful people whom I respect are the ones that acknowledge this and turn to experts to assist them in their pursuits. Hiring an advisor is a great way to narrow a playing field that is quite large.