What I Learned From Breakfast With The Art World.
Recently I was lucky and appreciative to have breakfast at The Ivy with Hugo Nathan, of Beaumont Nathan Art Advisory in Mayfair’s Bruton Street.
Homes One clients often ask for advice outside of the property sphere as they orient themselves, and their homes, to life in London. Usually these enquiries circle around interior design, education, concierge and asset and risk management… and sometimes into adjacent fields such as art and insurance.
I was excited at the prospect of meeting with Hugo and left The Ivy feeling informed, entertained and enthused to share his insights about investing in the masters, old and new. He answered my questions with the air of a man who has seen it all in the art industry, and possesses the wisdom to prove it.
My key learnings as follows:
1. If it feels too good to be true, it probably is! The old saying is as true in art as it is anywhere else in business. There are many reasons why a painting is valued at a certain price. The artist themselves is not a harbinger of future value in isolation. A certain period may have seen a lifelong painter outshine themselves at any other stage of their life. And likewise inside each of these periods you may come across a masterpiece, or a busted flush. A Monet could be either, vis a vis a Picasso. Therefore a ‘cheap’ picture from such a master may well be cheap for a reason. These examples are often overpriced in the hope a naïve buyer will appear – perhaps a first time investor.
2. Provenance is key. Or as Hugo eloquently put it ‘if I know that the pope bought the picture straight from Raphael, and I can see every owner since, the value is likely to hold!’… so, a painting’s track record does similar things for the valuation as an up-to-date log book does for a car. Similar nuances to those mentioned above occur in matters of authenticity and verification. Paintings from a similar era often only appear to have been crafted by a true master, and distinguishing these pieces from a great work is a matter of consensus for recognized experts (usually a closely-connected network), especially with super-prime purchases. Looking for low prices for genuine masterpieces is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, and much like prime London property, you are best advised to buy on the back of good guidance, and consider your investment a long-term play.
3. Don’t talk to strangers! Or novices. Always check if the opportunity comes from inside a recognized network, or from, shall we say, further afield. The most famous archetypal operator in the art world, in this instance, is ‘the lawyer you’ve never heard of’… who often represents equally anonymous sources of unimaginable wealth. In the art industry, again like in property these days, KYC (Know Your Customer) is not so much to the fore on your list of priorities as it is right up there in first place.
In addition to the above I was struck by the huge similarities between property and art, on both the buy and sell side. Hugo’s value proposition to his clients is similar to ours at Homes One – if you invest in the right advice for super-prime purchases then the ROI is significant, with savings usually outstripping the fees you pay for expertise… and deal making.
It’s easy to see where the value is delivered, once you speak to someone who has worked day in day out in a highly specific niche for many years – and the difference between an enthusiast and a professional is often most evident only in the commercial realities of a transaction… where the discrepancy between a good deal and a soft deal can be eye-watering. In Hugo’s words, ‘adding value not cost’ is the objective. Or as we say at Homes One, ‘you pay to save’.
Lastly, there is something magical about buying a dream home or finding the ultimate piece of art for your collection. Both often come at the end of a long journey or quest, and represent an emotional moment, and a celebration of life in which it all feels worthwhile. Making these investments are big decisions, and having expert guidance as you navigate specialized and unfamiliar territory is essential.
At Homes One we are happy to continue offering this service to our clients, and also to recommend Hugo, and the team at Beaumont Nathan, as providers of the same.