COLLECT: Finding an Art Advisor: Robyn Siegel

FYA Talks With Robyn Siegel 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.

Working alongside her mother, an art advisor for the past 25 years, Robyn Siegel brings a lifelong education in the arts (with Bachelor Degrees in psychology and journalism and a Master’s in art history) to her work.

Specializing in post-war contemporary art, Siegel focuses mostly on emerging artists working in a variety of media, from painting and sculpture to mixed media and photography. She serves on various art councils around Los Angeles, including MCAC at LACMA and the Curator’s Council at LA><ART. ForYourArt asked her to share some pointers.

Alexis Johnson: How does one find an art advisor? 

Robyn Siegel: The best way to find an art advisor is through trusted references such as peers, curators and dealers. 

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

Siegel: An art advisor helps to guide this process of learning to look with an open mind. The advisor should simultaneously understand what the client’s intensions are in beginning a collection and should tailor the working relationship to [fit the client’s] personalized criteria in collecting. 

Johnson: Should you talk to many before deciding on one?

Siegel: Like any relationship, a relationship between advisor and collector should feel natural.

Johnson: What are some of the questions clients should ask a) themselves and b) an art advisor?

Siegel: A) What are my goals in my collection? What amount of time do I have to devote to this? Am I willing to travel (art fairs, galleries, auctions)?

B) What is your background with art? What is your area of specialization? How do you typically work with your clients (commission, retainer)? 

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

Siegel: Constant communication is key. The advisor should set the parameters of how the advisor and client customarily work together, and it should be negotiated to suit both parties. I’ve found the best relationships to be when there is mutual respect for how this plays out. 

Johnson: What preconceptions do you recommend they let go of when they start this process?

Siegel: I recommend my clients look at a lot of art before making their first purchase. I want them to feel sure-footed with their purchase. To this effect, when we first begin working together, I share (or should I say bombard my clients with) a lot! As we begin to focus further, I know what best to present for acquisition. In short, we start broadly with a focus on education and narrow down to key artists and bodies of work.

Johnson: What makes a successful collector?

Siegel: My collectors are more successful than they realize. I admire that even if they seem unsure of what they want to collect, they have consistency in their taste. It’s often easier for me to identify what that is than it may be for them.  When they trust this voice, paired with my guidance, it makes for a fantastic outcome.

Johnson: What are the benefits for clients when they hire an art advisor? (Access to better works, etc?)

Siegel: A collector’s benefit from their advisor is two-fold. The collector is privy to the advisor’s knowledge, but also their knowledge base of artists and galleries. Clients benefit from networks that advisors spend years building.

Johnson: Do you have any advice regarding etiquette for collectors buying works through galleries, auction houses or artists directly?

Siegel: Don’t be afraid to ask for protocol. Like any other industry, the art world has its own set of rules and its best to respect that. An advisor helps to explain why art buying works in a certain manner; however, if you aren’t working with an advisor, respecting the way business is conducted goes a long, long way. 

Johnson: What are some resources for the collector not quite ready for an art advisor?

Siegel: I would advise, at the very least, picking up an Artforum and going to local museums. Better yet, if you are serious about beginning a journey with art, dig a little deeper. Join a support council at the museum, get to know the curators, get to know other collectors, visit the galleries, read criticisms of shows—get out and get involved. I also recommend finding specialized blogs and publications. Reading and looking can only fine-tune one’s focus and taste.

To learn more about Robyn Siegel, check out her website and follower her on Twitter @RobynSiegel.