INTERVIEW/ Art Advisory & Private Banking with Mariacristina Ragazzoni
Director Aletti Lab – Wealth Services – Banca Aletti
Wannenes, as with other Italian and international auction houses, has for years now been increasingly involved in art consulting, following the latest trends and, naturally, in close touch with what has been happening in the banking sector. How do you evaluate this highly diversified approach to the art market?
Positively: for many years now the main private banks in Italy have been offering their clients an art advisory service, aiding them with discretion and professionalism in the management of their art collections. Art advisory services have grown over the years and have followed the evolution of the markets and the needs of the collectors themselves. Anybody who has been consistently frequenting the art world over the last ten years has been able to witness a radical transformation in trends, in ways works of art have been exchanged and in the circulation of information that has occurred on an international scale.
Greater amounts of information have equalled better opportunities for study and research. Nevertheless, the sheer quantity of information that has become available to art lovers the world over risks causing a sort of short circuit and – paradoxically – is the cause of a greater degree of uncertainty. Indications hailing from the market have to be filtered and evaluated by an eye that needs to be more critical. Competitors must be analysed upon the basis of their professional standing and true competences. All of this requires a certain amount of effort that collectors cannot always provide, on account of lack of time and, at times, lack of experience.
A responsible and informed collector is the best type of interlocutor and all the various operators in the sector gain from such a relationship. This has been the inspiration behind the publication of the volume, “L’art advisory nel private banking. Opportunità e rischi dell’investimento in arte”, (Art Advisory Services in Private Banking. Opportunities and Risks in Art Investment) which has collected a series of true experiences enjoyed by a variety of protagonists including our auction house – representing the situation in Italy – with a contribution by Guido Wannenes. How did this particular project come about?
The idea of producing the volume entitled, L’art advisory nel private banking. Opportunità e rischi dell’investimento in arte, grew from a certain awareness that one still knows too little about the opportunities that a private collector can find within his or her own bank and about which types of services may be used in the management, protection and transmission of that part of a person’s wealth that has been invested in works of art. The Italian Association of Private Banking (AIPB) has asked me to bring together all those professional figures who operate in the varied sectors of the art market (advisory, purchase and selling, insurance and transport, custody, taxation and restoration) and to gather their various contributions into one extremely practical publication that will be useful both for the collector as well as the art lover who would like to enter into this fascinationg yet complex world. The result is a manual covering a whole host of topics and whose main characteristic is its very approach to the subject as a whole – largely set out as it is by the different operators and professionals working in the art world, a criterion that favours responsible and well-informed choices in order to benefit from the opportunities in art investment and to minimise risks.
The book underlines the fact that investment in art does not only involve taste but also involves economic and financial perspectives of prime importance on an international level, elements that are essential for the evaluation of an acquisition that has been undertaken ‘safely’ and in a more protected way. What is the particular current situation that has emerged from this amount of thorough – and, in terms of detail, highly interesting – research?
International surveys have been showing a growing degree of interest in collecting on an international level and a much greater sensitivity to the risks within art investment. This trend has been coherent with the more prudent attitude among investors following the economic recession who have shown themselves to be more inclined towards protecting their art collections rather than engaging in any form of speculation. The high degree of interest in contemporary art – predominant in terms of volume and media coverage – has contributed in increasing the evidence of more superficial attitudes and subsequent hasty purchases.
Initial controls for the protection of wiser acquisitions have been laid down in a manual prepared by the Nucleo Carabinieri Police for the protection of Italy’s cultural and artistic heritage. Therefore, collectors must deal only with serious and qualified vendors, verify authenticity and provenance certifications, be informed about the artist’s works as a whole as well as follow the market trends and the current prices. The inventories of works of art – both photographic as well as documentary – represent a further guarantee that protects collections and is also highly useful in insurance matters and inheritance issues.
A further significant chapter is represented by the correct preservation of a collection: how to exhibit the works, restore them, move them and preserve them safely. The preservation of art works is more often than not associated with old works of art but just as much care also needs to be reserved for contemporary works of art since the latter have often introduced the use of new and exceptionally fragile materials. The sector of photographic collections – increasingly more popular nowadays – needs not only particular attention in terms of purchasing new works but also in the pieces’ subsequent preservation and display.
Taxation and the circulation of artistic assets are characterised in Italy by two very opposing aspects: penalisation represented by notification and by high VAT percentages, as well as by advantages deriving from any general absence of taxation in earnings from the buying and selling of art works and the inheritance of said works. The manual also deals with these particular aspects – with the help of taxation and legal experts – and the variety of issues that are connected to the areas of export and taxation, explaining current laws and illustrating the correct attitudes and behaviour to adopt, both for the private purchaser as well as for the corporate collector.
The most delicate moment for any collection is represented by the way it is passed down through the generations to its heirs. The collector does not always share his own particular passion with his family members and often families are ill-prepared for the management of a collection of which they know little and do not know how to administer. In the case of important collections, a trust or a foundation may represent adequate solutions that will enable the collector’s name and passion to reach forth into the future.
The book concludes with pages dedicated to ‘case histories’, real cases that illustrate real problems and solutions that have been solved by the coordinated intervention of a variety of professionals all managed and manipulated by the collector’s bank’s art advisor.