Gallerists and Art Advisors: How Should They Work Together

Talking Galleries is an international art platform which specialises in the field of the art market and art galleries. Through a series of discussions and debates the initiative brings together internationally recognised experts who share their invaluable experience in order to create strategies which can be adopted in the future. For those of you who might not have time to watch or attend all of the excellent Talking Galleries panel discussions or watch their YouTube videos, we’re pleased to announce that we’ll be summarising some of the key points in upcoming articles.

The annual symposium held in Barcelona at the Museum of Contemporary Art welcomed the thought-provoking discussion titled Gallerists and Art Advisors: How They Work Together in April 2018. Here it is discussed how the Gallerist and Art Advisors can work together to form a more fruitful relationship which would in turn benefit the art world as a whole. The panel is moderated by Jeffrey Boloten from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, with panellists including Claes Nordenhake from Galerie Nordenhake, David Juda from Annely Juda Fine Art, Lisa Schiff Art Advisor & founder of Schiff Fine Art.

The specific role of the art advisor is introduced with Boloten who asks Schiff, a famous art advisor herself if she believes art advisors should have a background in art history as a prerequisite. Schiff believes that having some sense of history is very important to the profession, the role is about making the art world transparent and educating the client if he or she need to be, therefore, a rich knowledge on the subject is of course in some ways essential. As an art advisor Schiff mentions that her main criteria for finding works for her clients are making sure they are:

  • Visually and conceptually compelling
  • Historically relevant
  • Strategically placed


As a profession the art advisor has previously been known as ‘a runner,’ however, it is now a profession in its own right. Larger galleries will often have art advisors who have close links with them, however, smaller, upcoming galleries often do not have someone fulfilling this role. This is because the art advisor needs to be acting for clients and galleries in order to earn a high enough commission, often smaller galleries and emerging artists are somewhat neglected which is an issue.

Boloten addresses the question of who the art advisor is for, collectors often hire art advisors to give them guidance on what to buy, the motive being that they have inside knowledge and connections in the art world making works more easily accessible. For young collectors who need guidance and perhaps do not have a huge wealth of art knowledge, hiring an art advisor can also be hugely beneficial, in this sense they are becoming a go-to guide for collectors.

Talking galleries
Talking Galleries Barcena, Symposium 2018, “Gallerists and Art Advisors: How Should They Work Together?”, moderated by Jeffrey Boloten (Sotheby’s Institute of Art)

Nordenhake who is a gallerist discusses his reservations about the role of an art advisor, claiming it could be very efficient, but very few art advisors are of the quality and educational background that they should be. There is a lack of code of conduct in the art advisor world which results in some ‘deplorable’ behaviour, such as advisors only being interested in works that are going to be most sellable. He gives the anecdote of an advisor at Miami Beach – Art Basel putting multiple works on hold that were the most ‘in demand pieces,’ however, they did not end up buying, resulting in the galleries losing valuable clients. Both the art market and art advisor are unregulated which causes difficulties, Nordenhake and Juda both think that the profession is valuable in the art world, but there needs to be some sort of discussion as to how they can work together to avoid these kinds of problems.

Schiff responds to both gallerists arguments and agrees that there are some art advisors who are not doing their jobs properly, however, this is the same in every profession. The art advisor should be valued by galleries as they are an efficient way of bringing in new clients, people who perhaps would not have stepped through their door otherwise. It is when art advisors take commissions from both the client and the gallery that issues arise, Schiff remarks that this practice is ‘criminal,’ and working in this way will only lead to a loss in clients and the advisor’s own downfall. The question is brought to the panel as to whether art advisors should have to sign forms pinpointing what they are and not allowed to do, as gallerists have to. Schiff thinks it is a pointless mission to try and regulate the role of the art advisor as it will never work, just like other professions in the art world, there are always going to be crooks. Juda comments that where things start to go wrong is when people call themselves art advisors when they actually just have friends who have money and are collectors. In this case they are usually in it for the money rather than a love for art.

As a way of combatting this problem Schiff claims she is very selective when picking her clients. Acting as an art advisor is a time-consuming profession as she is constantly travelling the world, keeping up to date with the latest art trends and occurrences. Often her clients know very little about art, so a lot of her time is spent educating them. Schiff also touches upon a second issue one can often see in the art advisor which is they very often are building their own collections, rather than their clients. The first task of an advisor is to find your clients aesthetic interests and expose them to the types of art you think they would be interested in. Bad art advisors are instead selling works which are purely based on their own taste. In order to be a successful art advisor, you have to remain completely transparent, although it is sometimes difficult to stay on top of everything happening in the art world with the increasing number of art fairs and artists’ works now being spread more thinly in multiple galleries rather than being represented by one or two. Schiff also comments that as an art advisor it is good to buy from multiple galleries, working with different groups of people creating valuable relationships.


The role of the art advisor is becoming increasingly complex, now involving managing your client’s collections, curating them, activating them and often deciphering what boards your collector would like to become a member of. The question of how the gallery and art advisor can work together in terms of building the artists profile is next addressed. Gallerists are there for both the artist and the collector, resulting in the increasing need for the art advisor who can be there for the collector alone meaning galleries can place more focus on their artists. Schiff comments that more and more ‘rubbish’ art is being allowed to filter through, protecting worthy art is very hard and this should be the galleries responsibility. The galleries costly task of doing this and working alongside the artist keeping them as priority at all times is very hard.

In summary the panellists agree that both the art advisor and gallerists need to start working together in order for them to have a successful relationship. However, both Juda and Nordenhake seem to imply they believe there should be some sort of regulation within the profession of the art advisor.

  • The role of the art advisor is steadily increasing although has courted much controversy
  • Gallerists Nordenhake and Juda claim that although the art advisor is a credible profession there are some that are not knowledgeable on art and are in it for the wrong reasons
  • As an unregulated profession the panel debate whether the art advisor should have to sign documents outlining what they can and cannot do
  • Art advisors need to keep their clients’ interests as top priority, there is the danger that they start building their own art collection rather than listening to their clients own aesthetic tastes and interests
  • Role of the art advisor is becoming increasingly complex; therefore, the gallery and advisor should start a more collaborative relationship which would enable the gallery to focus on the artist and the advisor to focus on the collector