As the art market heats up ahead of the May auctions, two top advisory firms today announced a new global alliance.
The Fine Art Group, the 20-year-old London-based investment and advisory firm, and Schwartzman&, a multifaceted advisory business started two years ago by veteran art adviser Allan Schwartzman, will work together on multiple aspects of their dealings.
Fine Art Group founder Philip Hoffman, a former Christie’s executive, sees the relationship as one that will allow the two firms to offer added value to the world’s top collectors.
“We will be working on big agency sales together,” Hoffman said. “We’ll be working on financing and I’ll be forming and working on investment partnerships for our clients. We will be cross-referring. We will be bringing each other into every major deal where we feel this brings added value to our clients.”
He characterized the approach as having “the art business’s old-fashioned ethics, but with contemporary vision and knowledge and access.”
When Hoffman started the Fine Art Group, it was one of the first art investment businesses of its kind. He expanded it into an advisory firm and, more recently, into art financing. He has recently been expanding through acquisition, and he has been working with Schwartzman is part of his strategy in the United States, which started a year ago, when Fine Art Group completed its acquisition of Pall Mall, one of the largest U.S.-based art advisories.
Shortly after that, Hoffman said, he reached out to Schwartzman, who had just formed his new firm, having left Sotheby’s. Unlike Pall Mall, this is not an acquisition. The two entties will keep their own names and identities. Hoffman says next on his expansion agenda is “a big operation in Asia.”
“He’s focused on one core aspect of our business,” Hoffman said of Schwartzman, “which is the advisory.”
Hoffman’s firm is far higher in volume than Schwartzman’s, and it is more diverse in the material it deals with. Hoffman has a staff of 60, Schartzman 18. Whereas Schwartzman is focused on fine art, Hoffman works in areas including jewelry and other luxury goods (and, more recently, NFTs). The Fine Art Group represents 300 family offices in almost 30 countries, and some of those clients wanted “that really top art advisory out of New York to help them buy masterpiece works, and build out a museum-type collection,” Hoffman said. Schwartzman& specializes in “museum-type” collections, serving the likes of Howard Rachofsky in Dallas and Bernardo Paz in Brazil.
Schwartzman, whose three-decade career as an adviser followed stints in curating and journalism, started his new firm in 2020, after parting ways with Sotheby’s, which had acquired his previous firm AAP (a partnership with former auction house executive Amy Cappellazzo and investment banker Adam Chinn) for $85 million.
To date, he has offered few details about his firm’s focus. With Schwartzman&, he told ARTnews, he aims to offer services beyond the high-end collector handholding that’s typically offered by an art adviser. Most notably, he now advises artists as well as collectors, in an attempt to redress some of a booming art market’s less salubrious effects. He sees his services less as competition with art galleries than as something potentially synergistic.
“Many very successful galleries and a number of advisory firms have been honing their businesses, focusing much more in transaction and narrowing some of the other ancillary services—or in the case of galleries, exhibition opportunities—that they had offered in the past,” Schwartman said.
The focus is on artists foundations, artists aged between 40 and 70 who are starting legacy and estate planning, and younger ones who are looking to navigate an increasingly complex and fast-paced art ecosystem.
“I think this is a market that, in its voracious and greatly increasing appetite for very new art, also has the potential to kill off art,” Schwartzman said. “There is a certain kind of attachment to very fast, highly-rising transactions that could also easily suggest that a large parts of the market are after the quick buck and not the long run. And while always advising or representing our clients in the best ways for them, I personally have great faith in in art and its importance within society. And so we’re feeding a lot of these other parts through other advisory means.”
The artist advisory part of his business has, he said, ramped up more quickly than he’d imagined it would, and now composes half of what he and team are working on.
Half of the projects come from the artists’ galleries themselves, who are looking outside for strategic planning. Estate and foundation clients include the Rauschenberg Foundation and the estate of Jimmie Durham (in collaboration with Kurimanzutto gallery). Living artists include Doris Salcedo (on legacy planning and major commissions) and Claude Lawrence, a Chicago-born self-taught painter and jazz saxophonist in his late 70s whose work has rarely been shown.
“The number of people who are seeking art, whether they’re collecting blue-chip exceptional works or emerging artists, is unprecedented,” Schwartzman says of today’s art market. “The appetite so exceeds the supply, at least for the things that it has the appetite for.”
That, he says, poses a risk for artists. “What it takes to build a stable and potentially lasting career legacy is far more complicated.”