Private Art Dealers—The Ultimate Art Market Insiders

Apr 08, 2016

Private Art Dealers are growing in both numbers and influence as more and more art collectors choose to buy and sell art behind closed doors. Private dealers offer access to networks of artists and collectors, insider’s knowledge of the marketplace and great pricing. Savvy collectors, corporations and institutions are discovering the advantages of one-on-one brokered art deals in the midst of a competitive and sometimes overwhelming art world of public galleries, auctions houses, online sales and art fairs.

Knowledge of the Marketplace and a Passion for Art

Many private dealers have long experience in galleries, auction houses and museums. Some keep a foot in each camp, by continuing to show art in a gallery while transacting private sales. They share with their clients extensive expertise in the both the marketplace and specialized knowledge of the type of artworks they handle.

“A private dealer will know more than auction pricing—which is public and accessible to anyone—and will know the people and relationships that make up the artists’ market and their network of followers.” Jason Rulnick, ArtNet (a former private dealer)

Longtime gallerist turned private art dealer, Jayne H. Baum, describes the rise of private dealers as part of the overall changes in the art market. Instead of organizing gallery exhibits throughout the year, she concentrates on developing relationships and—during visits by appointment—she is able to give one hundred percent of her attention to collectors.

“The art world is changing every single minute. With major shifts in the marketplace and how the marketplace is looked at, it’s important to discuss the intrinsic value of art. I try my best to preserve the things that are of deep value to me, while looking at the market and understanding where it is going.” Jayne Baum

Successful private dealers tap into the passion of collectors, helping them identify and obtain works that they will love for years.

Art Partners

Private dealers in the primary market act as a bridge between living artists and collectors, forming partnerships with artists, individual collectors and representatives of institutional collections. A profound understanding of both an artist’s work and a collector’s aspirations enables the private dealer to create mutually beneficial partnerships.

“I’ve worked with some artists and collectors for 20, even 25, years. I look at new works all the time—works by mid-career and senior artists, too. I enjoy the engagement with artists and the dialog that continues over the years. Each collector has a vision of the art they want in their lives and how they want to acquire it. It’s about building relationships and trust. Good business is done through these partnerships. ” Jayne H. Baum

In the secondary market, private art dealers buy and sell their own inventory or act as an intermediary between art collectors and sellers—auction houses, galleries and other private dealers. From the collector’s point-of-view, private dealers may offer superior service due to the smaller scale and specialized nature of their art offerings.

“Private dealers can often be successful in luring consignments away from bigger or more established resellers because they are able to focus their time and efforts into fewer artworks, and are nimble enough to change course or adapt strategies to new market conditions.” Jason Rulnick

Access, Entrée & Personal Service

Private art dealers are the ultimate insiders offering collectors an insider’s view and often an insider’s price in an increasingly competitive market. When private art dealers focus on nurturing long-term relationships with collectors, they may negotiate lower fees and seek other ways to add value to their role.

“The art dealer can help the collector find the artwork he wants wherever it is located in the world. He is not tied to a specific gallery, location, or provider and can also work directly with the artist. In summary, the art dealer will get the best work at the best price for his client. Auction houses are a convenient place to buy art, but they can charge very steep fees. Buyer’s premium is generally around 25% on top of the hammer price. Additionally the collector won’t get much help after the transaction is conducted, should he want advice on shipping, insurance, framing, and installation of works or any other services. The art dealer on the other hand tries to build a long-term relationship with his clients and will generally help his client as much as possible.” Laetitia Lina, L&L ARTS

When Jason Rulnick was a private dealer he emphasized what he could offer collectors in efficiency and flexibility as well as price.

“I was often willing to offer better, more efficient service, for clients where I felt there would be a long term relationship, or business going in both directions (buying and selling) or the client would be willing to make networking or client referrals to me.”

Private dealers offer access to networks of collectors, auction specialists, galleries and other experts, that collectors might otherwise miss. Knowing who is collecting a particular artist, period or type of artwork, enables a private dealer to make the appropriate connections with benefits for both buyers and sellers.

Art Confidential

Another key advantage for some collectors is confidentiality. Unlike publicly available auction results, the sales prices of private art deals can be kept off the record. For some collectors, the desire to keep a low profile—for personal or business reasons—makes the confidential nature of buying and selling with the help of a private dealer the best choice.

Questions to Ask a Private Dealer

Private dealers are likely to be proactive risk-takers, but that doesn’t mean they are not serious about business. It’s important to discuss all the usual—and unusual—issues that relate to the purchase or sale of art, including:

  • Fee Structure on Sales
    • Including: commissions, taxes and any additional costs
  • Due Diligence on Sales
    • Including: verification of legal provenance, condition of artwork and its restoration history
  • Background and Affiliation
    • Including: work history at galleries, auction houses, etc. and memberships in ADAA, NADA, PADA, AWAD or other professional organizations
  • Additional Services and Referrals
    • Including: art market research and referrals to experts in lighting, shipping, and other important services

Long View of Collecting and the Market

The best private dealers take a long view of art as both a passion for collectors and an investment. At a time when many collectors play the art market like the stock market, museums draw crowds with pop culture focused exhibits, artists double as curators, collectors shop online, record sales figures become media headlines and auction houses compete with a growing number of international art fairs, connecting with a dealer that shares your perspective might be the key to keeping your collecting on track.

To discover private art dealers near you, visit The Clarion List, the leading directory of art service providers with ratings & reviews. Sort by location, art specialty, company size and years of experience. Visit