One of the hallmarks of AXA ART’s operation is the pride it takes in meeting with and building relationships with art and insurance professionals. The company views these activities as central to delivering top level solutions for its clients. On a recent museum conference visit to Seattle, AXA ART America’s CEO, Christiane Fischer, and members of her team met with Erin Fossum, a Seattle-based Accredited Member of the International Society of Appraisers (ISA). Here she discusses the growing Seattle art market and touches upon some of the current issues collectors confront.
Q. Seattle was thrust onto the global art scene with the launch of the Seattle Art Fair in 2015. What impact, if any, did this have on your work as an appraiser?
A. I saw a lot of excitement from clients when the Seattle Art Fair made its debut in Seattle. I have had the pleasure of appraising several works of art that were acquired at the Seattle Art Fair, and my hope is to see the reach of the fair continue to grow in the coming years. The conversations I’ve had with colleagues and clients makes it clear that the fair has built interest and knowledge in art collecting in Seattle.
Q. You have expressed the importance of an appraiser operating in a culture of financial “disinterest”; what do you hope collectors’ understand and appreciate about the benefits this brings to them?
A. Financial disinterest is one of the main qualifications that I recommend clients look for when choosing an appraiser. An appraiser should have no financial interest in the buying and selling of their clients’ artwork, and their compensation should never depend on the value of a work of art. Clients should look for an appraiser whose fee structure is based on an hourly rate, or other factors that have nothing to do with the value of their artwork. That way clients know they are getting an “arm’s length” appraisal and an impartial, third party opinion of value.
Q. Art news headlines are screaming about New York’s blockbuster sales and rising values – the recent Basquiat and Lichtenstein sales are a case in point. Do these prices present challenges as to clients’ expectations of the values of their collections?
A. When the art market makes news, it is usually about blockbuster sales and record prices, and it gives the impression that the value of artwork only grows over time. Unfortunately this is often not the case. It is a pleasure to present a client with an appraisal report showing that their art collection has grown in value over the years, but unfortunately, disappointing clients with the opposite news is common. It is important to temper clients expectations and to be available to explain valuations when questions arise. Most often clients are pleased to have a clear picture of the value of their artwork regardless of expectations.
Q. What would you like the international art world to know about Seattle’s art market?
A. The Seattle art market is really one of a kind with its mix of internationally famous contemporary artists, relatively unknown but wildly talented local artists, and Northwest Coast Native artists whose work is unlike anything you will see outside of the Pacific Northwest. In addition to the artwork that will be exhibited at the Seattle Art Fair, there is a satellite exhibition happening just blocks away called Out of Sight. It is a unique exhibition because it focuses on contemporary Pacific Northwest artists that visitors to the Seattle Art Fair may not be fami
liar with. The Seattle art market has been a small market of dedicated collectors, and it is exciting to see the possibility that these exhibitions bring for that market to grow.