In Conversation with Scott Stover

Art Strategist Extraordinaire

Scott Stover is best known in art circles as the man who was and is instrumental in the vast success that is the Centre Pompidou Foundation (an American foundation dedicated to supporting the Centre Pompidou in Paris). Our conversation started, predictably enough, with his impressions of the 2011 Miami Basel and went on to discuss art collecting in general. Below is a summary of what he told B Beyond.

Miami Basel is the most important event in the art calendar after Basel itself, yet the Miami fair is increasingly used by fashion and luxury businesses to promote their products. By association, this creates a trivializing of art and its meaning which I deplore.

Art has a wonderful and far-reaching influence on people’s lives – this passion is something to be celebrated, rather than the length of skirts in any one season. Contemporary art is fundamentally about connoisseurship and scholarship, not about artketing – it should focus on what is important.

Nevertheless, Miami Basel was, as always, a snapshot of current market trends in contemporary art. This year’s version had a preponderance of mainstream artists and paintings with little video, installations, sculpture or conceptual art. Basel has always had this club-like atmosphere where one meets all of one’s friends and fellow art collectors and professionals. We all got caught up, to some extent, in the supercar and fashion shows this year and I personally ended up attending no fewer than five events the first evening before questioning my presence there.

I have been involved with Centre Pompidou and the Centre Pompidou Foundation since 2004. This has been a hugely successful endeavour, not because its members are individuals with unlimited resources to write a cheque, but because we take the time to learn about what interests them.

27% of contemporary art collectors today come from finance and 29% from management and they are still very much actively working. Their major motivation for collecting is the desire to learn and advance their appreciation of the world and to increase and enhance their experience of life itself beyond their very successful business careers.

scott stover
Paris home, Thomas Ruff photo over fireplace: Substrat and Marie Bourget untitled sculpture

Art, like most things today, has become truly international. Old boundaries have been dismantled, and with the advent of the internet, globalization has a greater impact on both the market and on collectors’ approach to buying. Boundary-shattering art forms and global collaborations, fresh artistic hybrids and creators who work in multiple media simultaneously, pioneering economic models and ground-breaking cultural movements all have one thing in common: each utilizes innovative technologies and social networks. The geography of the contemporary art world provides burgeoning opportunities for both private collectors and institutions to move art agendas forward.

For all that and perhaps more than ever, both new and established collectors need the art establishment to validate the commercial value of any work of art.

I have developed a unique art consultancy, GLOBAL ART DEVELOPMENT, which strives to nurture and inspire creative thinking. It is unique in the sense that it offers advice outside of the commercial framework. By this I mean that GLOBAL ART DEVELOPMENT is not beholden to a particular set of artists, dealers, galleries or other commercially motivated entities – rather, the firm works with foundations, arts organizations, museums and collectors to provide an independent planning process focused on their best interests.

The global collector is the driving force of the entire art industry. In working with art institutions and foundations, I have been surprised to note that they often do not put their donor/collector first in their strategy to develop institutional goals. Global Art Development works on a strategy, mission and organization for art institutions and foundations that reposition the global collector at the center of their reflection.

scott stover
Mid-century home in Beverly Hills, Tillmans, Freischwimmer 50 (2004) and James Welling, T3 (2008)

Scott Stover on the role of the expert, critic, dealer and museum in emerging art.

The art world has its own dynamics wherein emerging art is discovered and promoted by the collector, dealer and critic and eventually validated by the museum. The museum structure is an essential component in establishing a track record for a particular work of art, the artist or an entire collection.

Expert, critic, dealer and collector validate the emerging artist with final credibility and longevity dependent on the museum.

The key, in this context, is not just selling, but placing artists in museums of international repute and pedigree. The dealer validates the work, while a museum and serious art publications give it an all important track record and global recognition.

This is where Global Art Development steps in, with its professional expertise, access to global art institutions and a lifelong passion for collecting. I am, in fact, more of an art strategist and analyst than an art consultant in the traditional sense.

I come from a finance background in European distressed debt and have found that my success in my former career was largely due to being a good analyst in the context of a non-transparent, illiquid market that is not dissimilar to the art world.

I have always marveled at the fact that collectors are prepared to make a huge commitment, both in terms of time and finance, yet often end up being beholden to people with conflicting commercial interests of their own. There are many reasons why a new collector should think twice before working with an art advisor who’s been recommended by a friend. There are today countless such advisors, from small to powerful, who are, not unlike a dealer, commercially motivated to push a particular artist.

The role of Global Art Development is to implement a successful structural approach to collecting – in this, we act as a strategist. It is well known that the art market is neither transparent nor regulated.

Global Art Development works with a limited number of clients with whom have a long-term involvement and our first objective is to ascertain what they want to do – what their goal is.

We help them become proactive; we help them clarify why they want to collect, what interests them, how much time they are prepared to commit to collecting. We then tailor our approach based on their goals.

scott stover
Wolfgang Tillmans – Paper drop (space) (2006)

Another important part of our work is to advise on art philanthropy – whether and how collectors should be involved with specific institutions, the benefits they accrue from their involvement and how to approach giving in a structured way.

In summary, we help clients express their wishes and motivations and we provide them with the tools to achieve the results.

Contemporary collection I most admire: Bernado Paz’s Inhotim, as much for its presentation of contemporary art in pavilions in an incredible garden, as for the collection

Contemporary artists on the rise to watch: Jacob Kassay, Rashid Johnson

Collector I’d most like to dine with: Sheikh al-Thani Favorite places in LA Galleries: Regen Projects, Blum&Poe, Gagosian, Overduin and Kite, 1201PE, Mark Selwyn

Restaurants: Soho House, Nishimura, e. Baldi, Red Medicine, Osteria Mozza, Providence

Shops: Maxfields, James Perse

Parks: Runyon Canyon, Huntington Gardens’ cactus garden, Hannah Carter Japanese Garden