Collector IQ – Interview with Christopher Vroom

Founded by entrepreneur and art collector Christopher Vroom, Collector IQ, a New York based new art market application, focuses on the intersection of the financial and collectible services. The startup aims to provide collectors with clear, concise information and asset management.

Christopher Vroom, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Could you tell us a bit about Collector IQ and the services it provides. What inspired you to create Collector IQ?

CollectorIQ was conceived to drive greater liquidity in the art market, increase the size of the segment and encourage broader participation. We do this by providing tools for advisors and their clients to quickly assess the value of fine art holdings while at the same time, accessing advice on a range of monetization alternatives. Up until now, the art market has been the domain of a small secretive group who has benefitted from the lack of transparency and information assymetry. We are changing that.

Could you talk us through the technology behind Collector IQ?

The CollectorIQ platform is unique in that it integrates asset management with data and sophisticated analytics. Our valuation algorithms have been back-tested and produce estimates which are far more accurate than leading auction houses. From a technology standpoint on the data side, we use deep learning models, machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive our valuation algorithms while structuring data in a flexible mYSQL database. Our front-end utilizes mostly ReactJS.

How have apps like Collector IQ and Artspace, which you co-founded in 2011, changed the way people buy and sell art? Do you think it fills a gap in the market?

Artspace was an early pioneer bringing fine art to a broader audience and today remains the only e-commerce platform that has direct selling relationships with major galleries. Partnering with galleries in this deep way requires them to trust you; this trust grew from decades long relationships and is an important differentiator. CollectorIQ similarly utilizes bank-level security protocols – and we are the only asset management platform to pass bank-level compliance – to ensure a trusted relationship with clients. At the same time, we’re providing an elegant interface to not just manage collections but to draw actionable conclusions that matter. So in a way, we’re aiming towards the same goal with CollectorIQ and Artspace – drive broader participation, showcase value and make the entire eco-system stronger.

Do you have ideas for other applications? Are you working on any new projects at the moment?

We believe that our valuation and authentication system can support the various new entrants developing blockchain solutions. We’re going to be the source of truth for these operators – an essential part of a decentralized network.

You bought your first piece of art at an auction, some Francis Bacon lithographs, do you still purchase art at auctions?

I still have my Francis Bacon works and I love them. Auctions are a great way to get started but I’m committed to supporting artists directly so most of my collecting attention is on the great galleries working with living artists.

Are you on the lookout for anything in particular to add to your collection?

I have a Soundsuit by Nick Cave, whose work I love. I’d like to add another one.

What advice would you give to aspiring art collectors?

My advice is to be prepared to commit the time to hear artists tell the stories that inform their unique perspective of the world. Artists take us on a journey that is at once personal and universal. It’s a privilege to be able to participate in the development of an artistic vision. Establishing that foundation of understanding artistic intent is, for me, critical. Reading art theory is helpful and can be fascinating too. I started my collecting life focused on German Expressionism, as an outgrowth of my interest in history. I found this book: “German Expressionism: Documents from the End of the Wilhelmine Empire to the Rise of National Socialism” edited by Rose-Carol Washton Long, a curator at the Guggenheim. It revealed the intense political awareness of artists during that period and the role they thought art could play in that period. Reading these artist statements, illuminated a whole new aspect of that period for me and I’ve tried to find similar summaries for the different periods of art that interest me.

What difficulties do you think artists and cultural institutions face in the current art market?

Over the past twenty years, there has been dramatic changes in the art market that have created major challenges for artists and cultural institutions alike. On the artist side, the gallery system has imploded with mega-galleries increasing their dominance and mid-tier programs susceptible to having their top artists lured away with the promise of higher and higher prices. Most galleries are small operations that are reliant upon one or two artists for literally their survival. That dynamic de-stabilizes the market and makes it more difficult for artists. Cultural institutions are operating in a similarly Darwinian environment, chasing limited resources to compete. Overall, arts-related philanthropy in the U.S., upon which all these institutions rely, accounts for less than 0.2% of national income. Most donors like to see their names on buildings; this propensity leads museums to build more. But programs are starved of adequate funding and, partly as a result of the fear of alienating a prospective or current donor, they become more conservative. That’s a big problem for us all.