"Why do I need a professional art collection manager?"
by Phillip Schubert
This is typically one of the first questions I'm asked when initially approaching a potential client, and it's a
fair one. After all, professional services represent increased expense, especially when we consider the cost
of producing or acquiring works of art in the first place. But the benefits--for your collection, for your peace of
mind and for your bottom line--of retaining an experienced, knowledgeable collection manager are often well
worth the additional investment.
The many levels of vital details pertinent to a dynamic collection can be daunting to uncover, track and
navigate. Yet it is these very details that comprise the crucial connections between an artwork, its history
and its future. A smart collection manager will take on early the task of gathering and compiling as much of
this important information as possible. Like a museum registrar, she or he will document not only basic
particulars of a work like artist, title, date and media, but also aspects such as condition, provenance,
exhibition history and valuations. If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. Often, it requires a fair amount of
research and investigation, which can sometimes be rather time-consuming. As material surfaces and
activity occurs, the relevant information will be entered into a database for storage and future reference.
Having a collection manager to do the work means that you don't have to do it yourself! Wouldn't you rather
devote your efforts toward realising your vision?
Here to there and back
Art collection maintenance often calls for individual works to move through different processes. Works
sometimes need installation, conservation, reframing or storage. A work may be requested to go on loan to
an institution for exhibition; or a potential buyer might ask for it on consignment. Each of these scenarios
presents its own set of issues to be addressed, and a good collection manager will understand the
intricacies involved, and advise on the best ways to proceed in guiding your works safely across these
transitions. Organising collection activity is one of the most involved, and therefore one of the most
important tasks required of a collection manager. It requires the convergence of a number of skills--among
them risk management, logistics, timing and communication. The more active a collection, the more all of
these forces come into play, and the more an experienced collection manager becomes essential. Trusting the
coordination of activity to a professional will virtually eliminate costly errors and allow you to breathe
more easily, while also freeing up even more of your time.
The future is now
A collection manager will advocate for that which is in the best interests of your art collection. Foremost of
these concerns is the preservation of each artwork. From this prime consideration flow all of the other
decisions that are made at every phase from pre-acquisition through deaccession. Regular, thorough
condition reports identify changes and wear that can be difficult to see at first, and which indicate the extent
of conservation required. Proper packaging, appropriate for the circumstance, is essential during transit and
storage. Environmental factors such as light, temperature and humidity need to be considered at every
stage. A collection manager realises the importance of these matters, and combines a knowledge of applied
materials and techniques with a highly tuned attention to detail, to recommend the course of action that will
keep your art safe for the long term. Sometimes these measures seem costly in and of themselves, but
must be weighed against the value of the work, for extraordinary care must be taken to ensure the lowest
possible impact over the greatest period of time.
Keeping the faith
A professional collection manager will value your trust above all other considerations. He or she will
safeguard your private collection information, treating it with absolute discretion, and will consult with you
regularly as to your wishes regarding collection activity. It is important that any advice offered is presented
thoroughly and clearly understood. Armed with this expertise, you can then make informed decisions that, once
established, are implemented with integrity and meticulousness. In this way, the working relationship
between you is cooperative, productive and rewarding; you have a seasoned professional as a partner in
maintaining some of your most valuable possessions, who provides you with lucid insight and sound
guidance, ensuring that your collection is maintained to a high standard and according to your objectives.
Ultimately, all of these advantages combine to align with one simple precept: a well-managed art collection
greatly increases in value. An artwork that has been properly protected and maintained, and has
comprehensive documentation of its history, is clearly worth more than a similar work that hasn't, both in
terms of resale and of aesthetic value. Multiply this by the number of works in your collection, and it
becomes readily apparent that the benefits of securing the services of a skilled art collection manager
cannot be overstated. Your experience of the art you love will be enhanced by having
more time to enjoy it, more peace of mind that it is well-looked after and more confidence in its long-term stability and
Phillip Schubert is the founder of Schubert & Associates.
Copyright © 2011 Schubert & Associates. All rights reserved.
This article is published in the Fall 2011 issue of Visual Overture magazine.