Inheriting an art collection can be emotional, meaningful and overwhelming. On one hand, the art someone leaves behind can present 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 grow into a mighty 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. 

What to save and what to sell 

Once you have a handle on what you’ve inherited, you can begin mulling over what you might like to retain versus sell. These decisions are personal and ought not be rushed. When Jaye Smith inherited her mother’s collection of photographs, thousands in volume, she discovered some were highly prized. One, by pioneering photographer Berenice Abbott, sold at auction for $50,000 USD. In retrospect however, Smith regretted selling so quickly, “I got caught up in the enthusiasm of Christie’s and the sale”. This is all to say – take your time. 


Get help

For others, the challenge is figuring out what does have an audience. Here, our Collection Management can work wonders. Tasked with assessing, appraising and advising on your collection, a Collection Manager works on behalf of their client to achieve their goals. This can mean gathering appraisals from auction houses, researching artists, advising on condition, display and value, and figuring out the best sales solution. 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."