If you want to become an art collector but don’t know where to start, or you just can’t figure out what to hang on a particularly tricky wall, you might consider enlisting an art consultant. Unfortunately, in Washington, it’s an industry in which many pros focus on finding art for corporate spaces. Here are a couple who work with actual homeowners.
The business model is pretty straightforward: The consultants typically don’t charge the homeowners a fee but make their money via commissions from the artists whose work they sell. They focus mostly on contemporary art, including paintings, photography, and sculpture—and can source for a surprisingly wide range of budgets.
Who: Jessica Naresh, the Art Registry DC.
What she does: She and partner Jill Pearlman work with both homeowners and interior designers. (They consult on corporate spaces, too.) They pull from a large network of galleries and studios, focusing heavily on local work because that’s often what clients want. They don’t represent specific artists.
Her method: To start, Naresh takes homeowners through dozens of digital images to zero in on their aesthetic. “What they don’t like is as important as what they do,” she says. During the second meeting, she’ll bring actual pieces to the client’s house so they can see the artwork in their space.
Who: Edith Graves, Studio E Partners.
What she does: Graves is both an artist representative and an art consultant. That means most of the art she sells comes from her own stable of about a dozen artist-clients—some local, some from around the country. She visits collectors at home to determine the scale and style of pieces that will look best. Then she recommends particular artists from her roster. In some instances, if nothing quite fits the bill, she’ll expand the search beyond her own network.
Her method: Graves says she never sells anything before first introducing the homeowner to the artist. Whenever possible, she’ll arrange a studio tour or invite the artist into the collector’s home. “It’s much more personal,” she explains. “They learn the story behind the piece, which adds another dimension to the story of their house.”
Photograph of Graves by Leslie Cashen.
Photograph of Naresh by Angie Seckinger.
This article appears in the February 2022 issue of Washingtonian.