Written By: Ivan Macquisten

Museums need to be more business-like in their dealings with collectors if they want to attract the most desirable works for loan or donation, two new reports by Vastari advise.

The 2020 Global Collector Trends Report and The Finances Behind Collecting also reveal significant potential for insurance companies and shippers to expand their reach among collectors.

The twin studies, drawn up from survey responses among nearly 400 collectors, highlight the conflict between the curatorial and the commercial that can dog relationships and agreements among interested parties.

While the main drivers persuading collectors to loan artworks are non-commercial – supporting artists, fostering research and enhancing the reputation of their collections – many feel that museums don’t do enough to reciprocate by acknowledging the likely increase in value for a loaned work.

Annika Erickson, CEO of Articheck, the specialists in digital art condition reports, says: “Museums notoriously don’t like to feel manipulated by collectors in a loan scenario, so if you are keeping [a work] tucked away and then suddenly unveiling it, a museum might not like to be a part of that strategy – but secondly, collaboration between museums and collectors is key to weathering the present storm. It can be as simple as having a conversation and building trust.”

Institutions have also traditionally been wary of endorsing such value enhancement because it highlights their potential influence on the art market, thereby diverting attention away from their primary areas of interest: conservation, preservation and education. It can also create difficulties in relationships with international cultural bodies who wish to maintain a clear distinction between the curatorial and commercial.

However, the downside is that it probably means that some museums, at least, miss out on important loans – and even donations – that could enhance their reputations as institutions, attract visitors and revenues, as well as pave the way for even more important loans.

The reports also reveal counterintuitive data that museums should take into account: what Vastari calls ‘professional collectors’ – dealers and others looking to trade and make a profit – are not necessarily the most active in seeking to loan to museums in the hope of enhancing the value of their art. This can be because the cost/benefit analysis for loaning works is not persuasive enough for them.

The Collectors Trends report concluded: “Those collectors who ranked monetary remuneration such as loan fees as their main criteria for selecting museum partners were almost exclusively non-investment-driven independent collectors. This may seem counterintuitive at first, but it is likely that most investment-driven collectors do not consider loan fees to be a substantial revenue stream.”

Vastari note that while younger collectors warm to the idea of loaning works, they are put off by the idea that their collections are not important enough, while older collectors are dissuaded by perceived security risks around loans.

The survey has also assesses the demographics around loans.

Those who most often say they would like to loan to a museum are young collectors driven by investment considerations. However, young US collectors over the age of 36 tend to think museums are unapproachable, while older European collectors find museums more approachable.

The informality of many of the relationships between museums and collectors may mean that institutions are not studying data and trends closely enough to pick up on such findings and adapt their programmes accordingly.

For instance, those wishing to donate, rather than loan, to museums are most frequently found among young investment-driven collectors, yet this group is among the least likely to have an established relationship with a museum and often finds museums unapproachable.

“Might these diverse motivations amongst both professional collectors and independent collectors present museums with an opportunity to review their selection of collaboration partners?” Vastari asks.

Insurers and shippers should also be interested in the findings of Vastari’s Finance Report.

It reveals that although 63% of survey respondents believe their art is an important part of their net worth, only 24% include their art assets in their annual financial review and just 20% view their art as an asset.

One in five do not insure their art at all, while among those who do, a large percentage rely on their own condition reports for establishing premiums.

“Respondents seem to prefer undertaking their own condition reports, regardless of the Overall Insurance Value of their collection,” concludes the Finance Report. “Given the high proportion that prefer doing their own assessment, this could be an opportunity for suppliers if they can establish a connection and trust with Respondents.”

The Finance report also shows that two thirds of collectors preferred to use specific shippers and that this loyalty increases as the overall insurance value for a collection rises, an understandable correlation for those wanting to protect their art in transit.

But what makes them choose a specific shipper? Reputation in the market is the outstanding factor for high-end collectors, with price more prominent for lower value collections.

The two Vastari reports make numerous other findings that help them build a family of collector profiles, divulge motives and favourable conditions for encouraging buying, and help point market stakeholders as well as institutions in the right direction.

“After Vastari’s 2018 reports about museum exhibitions, we realised that there is a lot we don’t know about the international collecting community. Reports focused on the art market don’t look at the relationship between collectors and museums, for example. So we decided to embark on this research,” said Vastari CEO Bernadine Bröcker Wieder.

Find out how to gain your access to the reports here.