What to do if you inherit an art collection

Inheriting an art collection can be emotional, meaningful and overwhelming. On one hand, the art someone leaves behind can offer a moving window into that person and what they cared for. On the other hand, sorting through, assessing and either retaining or selling works can seem an overwhelming task. In moving through this process, what’s important to remember and who can help? 

Map what you have

The first port of call is to assess what you have inherited. Depending on the size of the collection, it can be useful to assemble an inventory that records the artist’s names, years of creation, subject matter, medium, size, condition and if known, provenance. Take photographs of each work too – they’ll be a god-send later down the track. 

Erwin Fabian ‘Bon Voyage from Ursula

Slow Down and Consider Carefully

When faced with the task of deciding what to keep and what to sell from an inherited collection, it's important not to rush. Each item holds sentimental and potentially financial value that deserves thoughtful consideration. While the excitement of auctions can be tempting, making hasty decisions may lead to regret.

Remember, the process of deciding what to do with inherited items is deeply personal. Take your time to understand the significance of each piece and how it aligns with your own values and preferences. By slowing down and carefully considering your options, you can make decisions that you won't later regret.

Get help

For others, the challenge is figuring out what does have an audience. Here, our Collection Management service can work wonders. Working as your advocates, we can record, research, appraise and advise on everything from strategic resale to conservation and display. The art world is complex at the best of times, why not enlist an expert?

For an inherited art collection, each work’s next resting place requires thought. Some will persist in the family, a reminder of their former custodian and bearer of new family memories. Others can be passed fruitfully to new custodians. And for help navigating this terrain, we can be your assistant, guide and advocate. 

Tailored to each collector’s needs, our Collection Management service executes the groundwork on understanding and situating a collection in the Australian art market and art history, devising the best strategy for retaining or selling a work. As your researchers, advisors and advocates, we can help you meet your desired outcome.

If you would like to learn more about our Director Angela Tandori and her vision for art collecting, explore her interview with the Art Consulting Association of Australia, where she affirms

"By cultivating long-term relationships with collectors and encouraging sustainable ownership, we can create a bridge between the past, present, and future, ensuring that artworks continue to inspire and enrich generations to come."

Previous post Next post