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What does an art consultant do all day? | Insights from global leaders in art consultancy

Woman looking at artwork
Photography : Pauline Loroy

So what does an art consultant do all day? A profession that is often shrouded in mystery, art consultants are perceived as working for wealthy art buyers boasting an exclusive network of contacts within the art market. Although this is often part of the role, in reality most art consultants work with a diverse range of people from all walks of life. They may help put a local artist on the map, pitch art concepts to interior designers and property developers, guest lecture at a university or spend the day showing a private client around galleries in Mayfair .

A role that is exceptionally multifaceted, being an art consultant requires expertise across different domains addressing the unique needs of each client. From curating art collections to discovering emerging artists, art consultants serve as a vital link between artists and the broader art market. In this article we will speak to leading industry experts, looking at the wide range of responsibilities and specialisms within the field.

With the ever changing nature of the art market, the team at Artelier (a leading international art consultancy) pulls back the curtain on what it’s really like to work for an art consulting firm today. This article will also cover different pathways to art consulting as a career, as well as provide advice on how to approach an art consultant if you are looking for assistance with your next project.

Image Credit : Artelier

What is an art consultant?

An art consultant is a fine art specialist who is hired to provide their expertise to private collectors, businesses or institutions. Those who work with art consultants are usually looking to purchase, sell or manage an art collection. An art consultant usually works with contemporary artists and is particularly sought after for their inside knowledge into the art market, acting as an intermediary between clients, artists, galleries, auction houses and art dealers. Working with an art consultant can give clients a significant advantage,  leveraging their expertise to make informed decisions about purchasing or divesting significant artworks.

Who Hires Art Consultants?

Anyone looking to purchase art,  sell an existing collection or even to temporarily rent artworks  can approach an art consultant. Typically art consultancy services are particularly sought after by private collectors, large institutions, private dealers, interior designers, property developers, public art initiatives and biennales.

Private clients often have the goal of expanding their personal collections, as well as to grow their understanding and taste of art. In order to achieve this, an art consultant may take the time to show a client around different art fairs and exhibitions, deepening the client’s understanding of a particular genre or a specific art movement. 

Private clients, corporate clients and large institutions such as museums will all have an interest in acquiring investment grade art and so may work with a consultant with that particular skill set. Property developers and interior designers will be looking to work with an art consultant that can help to elevate their existing projects by adding an artistic component. The earlier a consultant is brought on the more seamlessly the artworks can complement the design schemes and enhance the overall ambiance of the space. 

Lastly biennales and art fairs will require temporary assistance at every stage from finding and commissioning artists to the art installation, and final takedown. They will often seek out the help of an art consultant to make the process more streamlined.

Specialisms and responsibilities

An art consulting firm has various moving parts, and is constantly changing and evolving, it is therefore essential to have a diverse team with different areas of focus and specialised skill sets. In our conversation with industry leaders, we explore the various roles, and important skills that are essential for the efficient running of an art advisory firm.

Creative Director: Nurturing the Company's Curatorial Vision.

At the head of operations will be the most senior art consultant, art curator or art advisor, usually also the founder of the company. David Knowles founder of Artelier Art Consultancy explains that his role as senior art consultant and creative director is first and foremost about looking ahead.  In an ever changing artistic landscape, the most important aspect of the role is to “maintain the curatorial vision of our work.”  He navigates the delicate balance between the company’s vision and the client’s needs and expectations for each project. David will delegate work to art researchers, curators and project directors, while overseeing the entire process from initial artwork concepts to final installation. He is also a mediator between clients and artists particularly when it comes to commissioning bespoke pieces.

“I am the bridge between the clients and the artists, my role is to make sure that everyone is on the same page. It is important for clients to understand that artists have their own unique ways of working. For instance, when it comes to materials like bronze, marble, and stone, imperfections are part of the charm. In equal measure I work closely with artists to ensure that they are working with the best materials, and to the highest standards protecting the clients interests and ensuring a timely process.” - David Knowles, Creative Director

Commercial Director: Driving Sales and Marketing Strategies

Within an art consultancy, the Commercial Director holds a crucial position, driving sales and marketing strategies forward. Their duties typically involve securing new contracts and partnerships, fostering strong client relationships, and shaping the company's global sales and marketing strategy for sustained growth and success. This role requires a strategic mindset and a keen focus on business development. Lucy, Commercial Director at Artelier, explains that her responsibilities include “working on and winning new contracts, maintaining a robust pipeline of projects, and providing input on the company's strategic direction, for the sales and marketing department.” 

Art Researcher: Delving into Cultural Contexts and Identifying Emerging Talent

Following the successful acquisition of a project by the Commercial and Creative Directors, the first point of contact typically falls to the Art Researcher. It is their task to flesh out an initial artwork proposal, drawing upon the geographic and cultural context of the project's location. This involves comprehensive research into the local artistic landscape, as well as identifying potential collaborators among both local and international artists.

The role of an Art Researcher is vital in crafting culturally resonant artwork proposals and identifying emerging talent. Their meticulous research ensures the right artworks and artists are approached for each project. As exemplified by Océane, Art researcher at Artelier,

"I develop artwork proposals around themes like the Danube river of Belgrade or the Atlas mountains of Morocco. The work of an art researcher is the basis of every artwork proposal, ensuring the selection is appropriate for the project and meaningful to the client." Océane, Art Researcher

Senior Curator: Crafting Concepts and Overseeing Artwork Development

Marie, Senior Curator, explains how her role is central to the art curation process: "My role involves researching, proposing themes, creating presentation boards, and working with artists to develop artworks from the concept stage to just before sampling."

Senior Curators meticulously research and propose themes, develop artworks, and present them in detail to clients. They can assess spaces, understand artwork locations, and create mockups and presentations to convey how the artwork will look in the space. Moreover, they collaborate with artists to bring concepts to life, ensuring each artwork meets the client's expectations while maintaining artistic integrity and quality.

Project Director: Managing Production and Ensuring Quality

Being the Project Director at an art consultancy means overseeing production and ensuring quality control. Alice, Project Director at Artelier, manages logistical aspects, communicates with artists and suppliers, ensuring a timely delivery within budget.

As Alice describes, "Managing the production side of projects involves delving into the finer details, from specifying the size, material, and framing of select pieces of artworks to determining installation methods." She emphasises the importance of meticulous attention to detail, ensuring practical considerations align with the artistic vision conceptualised by colleagues like Marie and David.

Throughout the process, Alice serves as the intermediary between artists and clients, facilitating communication and ensuring that both parties' expectations are met. "Once an artwork has been made," Alice explains, "I share images with the team to ensure it meets specifications and looks right, if we are happy, we then pass this on to the client for approval." Her collaborative approach ensures that diverse perspectives contribute to the project's overall success.


A Day in the Life | The Hustle and Bustle

Working in an art consultancy is always a fast paced and ever changing environment. David, Creative Director at Artelier may spend his day showing private clients around galleries in Mayfair, or present a proposal of curated art to a hotel group or overseeing the progress of artworks being developed by artists.

"The most important aspect of my role is maintaining a company vision - understanding and reevaluating what it means to be an art consultant today. I am always challenging the status quo and overseeing all of the creative output to maintain the highest quality of work for our clients. "

"No one day is ever the same" explains Lucy Clark, Commercial Director at Artelier, "I particularly enjoy working with companies and people from all over the world, with different cultures, languages, industries, and ways of working."

Océane, Art Researcher echoes this: "I might spend my morning putting an artwork proposal together for a new hotel in Kyoto and then be researching the rugs of the Berber people of Morocco by lunchtime...Even without leaving the office it sometimes feels like you've spent the whole day travelling."

For Alice, Project director at Artelier the excitement lies in the connections she has with the people she collaborates with daily. "I really enjoy the conversations I have with people while overseeing artwork installations on-site, after months of work, it is always satisfying to see the artworks installed in their final locations. I also love finding artists that are working in a completely new and different ways.


How to work with art consultants

Articulate your vision

When approaching an art consultant the most important thing is to know your end-goal "Be clear in what you’re hoping to come out of it... Try to articulate what your vision is from the start." - Alice. Think about things like the scope of the project, the budget, how much experience you already have with art, if you are starting from the beginning or know exactly what you want already.

"Speak to a few consultants before making a decision. Make sure you have a good rapport and give them a clear brief." - David

Background check the consultants

Art advisors and consultants come in all shapes and sizes, some work as an individual freelancer while others have whole teams. Consider the consultant's team size, international experience, and track record. "Be wary of art consultants with localised portfolios or presence... you need the right scale team for your project, international experience is often a bonus, so do checkout their track record and previous projects." - David, Creative Director

Compare apples with apples

"Be aware of the quality of artworks being presented, make sure you are comparing apples for apples. Whilst Artelier’s pieces are all bespoke, handmade commissions by selected artists, some art consultants can be offering a totally different ‘factory’ made artwork. Think about local experience but also global expertise. Many projects require a fusion of both for optimal project results that cater to an international market whilst speaking to local cultures and traditions." Lucy, Commercial Director 


Pathways to Art Consultancy: Diverse Backgrounds

Art consultancy is a very niche industry, individuals often come with a wide variety of backgrounds and experience. From having worked in the museum sector, to running arts council funded galleries, to an established career as a senior interior designer, an art consultancy firm is made up of individuals with a wide set of skills and experience.

Marie, senior curator at Artelier worked in her previous role as a senior interior designer, her experience is invaluable when it comes to analysing spaces and collaborating effectively with interior designers and architects on complex projects. Her background as an interior designer ensures a seamless integration of artworks into the diverse environments.

David, creative director at Artelier came at it from an 'artists perspective', emphasising the importance of authentic roots in the art world. With a trained eye and artistic sensibilities, he can quickly understand an artist's process, quality of work and approach. His ethos centres around supporting artists and fostering genuine relationships, which has lead to unique collaborations between artists and discerning collectors.

Oceane, Art Researcher at Artelier, has experience of working in the museum sector as well as having classical art training in Florence, Italy. Her unique experience means she has an eye for the classical and historical artworks which is particularly beneficial for clients needing investment grade art.

Each individual brings to the table a unique set off skills and experience and can therefore specialise in a different area of the business giving a wider offering to the client.


Why Become an Art Consultant | Job Satisfaction

Art consultancy attracts individuals driven by a deep passion for art, creativity, and the opportunity for international collaboration. Being an art consultant means working with different people across industries to commission or purchase unique artworks. It is a specialised role that can be challenging but also extremely rewarding.

"A highlight of the role is finding new artists, and seeing new possibilities and techniques that are constantly being developed. Discovering someone that's doing something completely new and different is always exciting as well as being able to look at art all day long." Alice, Project Director

"Working with artists and understanding their techniques is huge.  The idea of working with emerging talent and putting them on the map is very exciting." Marie, Senior Curator

David Knowles, Creative Director "I like working with the team of likeminded people, getting to know artists and their work on a deep level. I always enjoy meeting new clients and understanding the context they are working in.


Advice for Aspiring Art Consultants

There is no one way to become an art consultant, however there are steps you can take to be well on your way to working professionally in the industry.

"Get the right training to an MA level or more, you will also need professional experience in galleries or museums or an art related company. You need to have a genuine passion and hunger to learn about contemporary art itself. You also always need to be evolving, and have a strong work ethic. Being an art consultant is not something that can come easily it takes dedication and hard work. It won’t happen over night, but you can succeed if you are willing to invest your time and energy and to build the right team around you. Always be mindful of the quality of work you represent or commission, and never settle for second best, be obsessive about delivering the highest quality. Always strive to deliver something truly original and never follow trends." David Knowles, Creative Director

Alice underscores the significance of having great attention to detail, both in presenting documents and in the artwork itself, reflecting a commitment to quality. She emphasises,

"You have to be detail oriented, whether it's in the documents you’re presenting, or the artworks themselves, everything has to be super sleek, and beautifully put together. Always be open to learning about new techniques or materials. Finally, trust your own judgment, if you have a feeling something doesn’t look quite right trust that initial instinct."Alice, Project Director

Marie advises aspiring consultants to explore beyond their initial ideas and to understand clients' needs deeply in order to propose solutions that align with the project's objectives, she suggests:

"Never count on your first idea, and truly listen to client feedback in order to arrive at something that works for the project. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, find what you can bring that’s special to you, whether it's a creative mind, being more logistics focused, or a great eye for detail.



The difference between art consultants and art dealers

Art consultants and art dealers have different sets of skills, approaches and responsibilities. While an art dealer may own specific artworks or represent a certain style of artist, art consultants offer impartial advice that is specifically tailored to the client’s personal aesthetic and needs.

An art dealer will be a specialist in a particular period, genre or art movement and will be known as the go-to contact if you are looking to acquire a specific work. Consultants on the other hand are not limited by any one artist or period, often holding vast databases of artists in all genre and styles and a little black book of contacts which may include art dealers.  

An art consultant therefore has the flexibility to adapt the artwork selection to meet the client's specific preferences, budget, and objectives and more closely match the clients goals. Generally, an art consultant will be more likely to work with contemporary living artists, while an art dealer is more likely to work with artists of the past and may have a background in art history, although this may vary.

Costs & Fees in Art Consultancy

Art consultancy fees vary based on project size and complexity. When working with an art consultant, it is importance to establish a clear service scopes and fee structure, whether for large commercial ventures or individual art collections. Fees may be fixed for specific tasks or determined as a percentage of the project's overall value.

Art consultants typically offer flexible pricing tailored to each project's unique needs. For single bespoke artworks, fees typically range from 5-15% of the artwork's value, while larger projects may involve comprehensive package deals covering consultancy and artwork costs. This collaborative approach ensures alignment with the client's budget and project goals.

Engaging an art consultancy often leads to cost savings for clients. Consultants leverage their expertise to source high-quality artworks within budget constraints, minimising the risk of costly modifications.

Additionally, a consultants extensive network of art specialists allows for competitively priced services without compromising on quality. To kickstart collaboration, most consultants will offer a complimentary initial consultation in order to discuss a project scope with a client, with this information, they can provide preliminary cost estimates, ensuring transparency from the beginning. The final cost of a project will involve many moving parts such as artist fee, transportation costs, framing costs and the consultant fee so initial proposals of costs will typically be estimates.

Are you looking for advice?

Working with an art consultant is a unique opportunity to arrive at the perfect artwork solution for your project. Whether you are looking for one statement piece for a private home or a complete artwork solution for 200 room Hotel our team of specialists can help.

You can find out more about our art consultancy services by visiting our art consultancy page or simply by getting in touch today so that we can discuss your project.


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