During lockdown earlier this year, members of the Paris Opera ballet made a YouTube video where they each danced individually to a sequence from Romeo and Juliet. Musicians performed together remotely and artists turned to Instagram to sell work. ‘It was wonderful to see that even at a distance the need to create remained intact, although it was a difficult time,’ says Christine Mostert, head art advisor for the Quintet group for the last nine years who works with clients objectively on all aspects of their artistic heritage, from insurance and tax issues to organising an inventory and art market values.
‘Yes, art is an investment but it’s really about emotion – that’s the most valuable thing.’
Art, she believes – both for the artist and the audience – is a way of connecting and this is what differentiates a collection of artworks from other forms of wealth. ‘Yes, art is an investment but it’s really about emotion – that’s the most valuable thing,’ she says. ‘Part of my role might involve helping a family at a time of grief, work out which pieces of a much-loved collection are best to keep, balancing the financial and emotional value. Knowing the historical context of the work, ensuring its authenticity and where it sits in the market are all important elements.’
‘Through looking at art, people discover their own sensibility. It opens you up to something deep inside and connects you to yourself as well as to others.’
A collector, she says, has a special mindset. ‘Someone buying a piece of contemporary art wants to support the artist, almost like a patron. They don’t want to overpay for a work of art and they have a clear idea of the market, but at the same time, they will usually buy a piece that they love for life. Investing in an artwork can be like a marriage.’ The majority of collectors also want to share their art by loaning pieces to museums or institutions. ‘It’s not about possession, it’s about sharing a passion and it brings them enjoyment,’ says Mostert, citing a recent visit to Collezione Maramotti in Italy, a collection of contemporary art acquired by the Max Mara founder Achille Maramotti, as an example of a personal collection made public.
‘Loaning art is good for the artist’s career as more people have the chance to see his work, and for the viewer it is a chance to discover something new. You feel a connection, not just to the art but to whoever you’re visiting with or to others in the room,’ she explains. ‘It’s a common interest, a moment, and you feel something. I remember eight years ago I visited the ‘1917’ exhibition at Centre Pompidou Metz in France. You could feel the silence and emotion in every visitor.’
Of course, this idea of connection also extends inwards. ‘Through looking at art, people discover their own sensibility. It opens you up to something deep inside and connects you to yourself as well as to others.’ One particularly memorable art-related moment for Mostert in her career was meeting an elderly client couple and their children who showed her a photo album from WWI. ‘Their grandfather had served in the war and inside the album were photos and four years’ worth of correspondence that he had written from the trenches. It wasn’t a piece of art, but it was a collectible piece of heritage, the most valuable item that belonged to the family; for them it was treasure,’ she recalls.
‘Art has a way of connecting people, not just in the present but through the past too.’
Photo credit: courtesy the artist and Meessen De Clercq, Brussels
It’s this combination of working with art and people that for Mostert, makes her job so rewarding. ‘Art for me is beauty and it makes the world a better place to live but my job is also about meeting people and respecting the objects that they collect,’ she says. Having studied history of art at university, she worked as a business co-ordinator at Christie’s for nearly twenty years before joining Puilaetco – part of the Quintet group. Here, initial conversations with clients help her to understand their art needs and the way they think about investments. ‘Art is always a moment of exchange and it allows sensitivity, tastes and values to be revealed,’ she says.
Puilaetco has its own collection of art, loosely themed around nature. As well as depicting landscapes and trees, many of the key pieces such as ‘Au couchant de Fordlândia, 2015’ by artist Thu Van Tran are also more symbolic. ‘It’s a photogram, comprised of ghostly leaves on a blue background that recalls the “forgotten” history of Fordlândia, a city created in Brazil for the exploitation of latex by John Ford for his automobile industry. Thu Van Tran recalls colonial and neo-colonial history in a very poetic way,’ concludes Mostert. ‘Art has a way of connecting people, not just in the present but through the past too.’
This is where it all ties back to the values of the organization I work for. We value connections, we value individuals and we value peoples’ passions and purpose before we even think about the monetary value of ‘objects’. Being able to combine my true passion with my career is what makes a richer life for me.