Serious collectors make regular purchases and in general they have a certain understanding of the art market before they buy. Sometimes they do this with the help of an expert who can authenticate and assess the object of interest since collectors are often driven by passion. It is this passion that mainly creates a selection that reflects the collector’s taste that can build a strong and interesting collection. But a collection would only remain of personal value if the object that you bought is not market competitive. This can also be the case when people buy art objects that are vulnerable and perishing. Art is an asset and it needs to be taken care of to keep its value over time. That is why collectors should be aware of a certain number of key aspects before they start thinking about acquiring an object to extend their collection.

Adriano Picinati di Torcello, Deloitte Art & Finance director asked Kees van den Meiracker, Head of Collections and Preservation at the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam, to share his expertise on seven key questions to better equip the collector’s decision-making process.

Before buying an artwork is there any specific questions that any buyer should ask himself/herself regarding the future protection of the integrity of an artwork?

If you have found an art object of your interest and you are considering a purchase it is of crucial importance to double check the provenance. You need to control all associative data relevant for the object, because you want to understand if an art object has specific historical relevance. Certification by renowned institutes or experts is a must. Furthermore, the condition and authenticity will have to be examined (especially for artwork made by artists like Vincent van Gogh). This is done by examining reports concerning the condition of a work and the exhibitions in which the art object was displayed.

Once you have acquired an artwork, what are the main questions to keep in mind to protect the physical integrity of an artwork?

To protect the physical integrity of an artwork, you continuously need to keep track of the movements and developments of the art object. This is done by keeping professional condition reports, transport and exhibition data and documentation regarding general and detailed images and other relevant data.

Why is it important to have and maintain an inventory collection management? What kind of information should be kept in the inventory management?

An art object is part of a collection. To preserve it for the future and to keep the best conditions possible the importance of managing and taking care for the artwork is not to be underestimated. The accessibility of the collection, associated documentation and data about relationships with other work are essential for the future historical and financial value of the object.

Are there specific differences by art category (contemporary vs old master vs impressionist – painting vs sculpture vs photography) regarding the physical protection of an artwork ?

Each object has its optimum environment and treatment. Relative humidity and temperature should be within strict limits and changes should be avoided whenever possible. Measures to protect an art object are essential. In case of a Van Gogh painting this would be glass on the front, climate boxes on the rear side of the painting and a frame gives extra protection to the artwork. Furthermore, the quality and intensity of light is becoming an issue.

If you loan an artwork to a museum for an exhibition, what would be your advice to a collector to ensure a proper handling of
the artwork? 

Do not forget that the preparation, packing, transportation, unpacking and installation of an artwork is a true profession. The weakest link determines the success. For example, if the security is not according to international standards, this can be a risk when the artwork travels from A to B (clearance, airplane, customs etc.). But the dependence of the conveyer can also be a weak link that is not to be overseen.

Can you explain how light—natural and artificial—affect an artwork? 

Light is energy and in combination with chemical processes always harmful. The UV part of the spectrum has the most energy and is therefore the most damaging. The complexity is within the fact that the damage that occurred is not reversible. You will not manage to get a browned newspaper that has been lying in the sun back to its original state. LED lights are getting better, but they have a blue peak in the spectrum.

How can you help a collector to learn best practices when it comes to protecting a collection or assist him/her in protecting the art collection?

Taking properly care of your art possessions is a profession. But with art objects and collections this can cause dilemmas. Do you want to store your artwork under perfect conditions (safe, dark, constant humidity, high quality storage systems) or do you want to exhibit the object knowing all the impacts on the artwork and therefore the risks it encompasses (transportation, light, vibration)? There will always be a field of tension between safeguarding your artwork for the future or appreciating the purpose of the work and what it was originally made for.

For serious collectors and/or their advisors looking for professional advices on the various aspects related to the protection of their art collections, the unique collaboration between the Van Gogh Museum and Deloitte Luxembourg could be a solution. The two institutions work together to provide their complementary services when either the competences of Deloitte or of the Van Gogh Museum are required. Thanks to their partnership, the Van Gogh Professional Services can deliver creative solutions to individuals and institutions at the crossroads of business, finance and the arts. Deloitte Luxembourg complements today’s art-specific needs with related financial services. Their global network of specialist can offer collectors, wealth managers, art-related businesses and cultural institutions an entry into Deloitte’s tax, consulting and business intelligence services.

Kees van den Meiracker is Head of Collections and Preservation of the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam. He has a degree in cultural anthropology and is a specialist in imagineering as a method and a tool and the use of cultural anthropology as a research method and approach. He came to the Van Gogh Museum in 2012 bringing a lot of experience in art and museums.

Adriano Picinati di Torcello is in charge of the art & finance activities within Deloitte Luxembourg, an initiative he has been coordinating since its beginning ( Adriano also coordinates the development of the Art & Finance activities at the Deloitte group level. Deeply involved in creating awareness of the “art & finance” subject, Adriano has initiated the international Deloitte Art & Finance Conference that has become the annual benchmark event in the field. He is the co-author of the Deloitte and ArtTactic Art & Finance Report. Being the spokesman of the Art & Finance initiative within Deloitte, he regularly speaks at international conferences.