Viola Raikhel-Bolot: The Art of Investment

Portrait of Viola Raikhel Bolot, 2014, Photograph, Courtesy of the artist and News Corp Australia.

Leading world art consultant and a co-founding director of a global art advisory agency 1858, Viola Raikhel Bolot, perhaps found a way to marry the impossible: art, business and the luxury market. But is it just all too commercial? In a free market economy, should art be treated as a financial instrument rather than a subject of cultural value?

Au contraire, when it comes to artworks, Raikhel-Bolot believes that cultural and aesthetical value is what should be preserved and not devalued by unwise investments. Raikhel-Bolot gives us an insider’s opinion, “It has to be the right auction at the right location at the right time and that’s what we know and continually educate ourselves to know about.” That puts an interesting perspective on a subject of value. While our society is so focused on how much things cost, artists also have to play by the rules of the market and ensure that their work, the craftsmanship behind it won’t get overlooked, which is indeed a true modern take on the perception of luxury.

Raikhel-Bolot is the epitome of the new era in art, where creativity is linked with revenue. Originally from London, Raikhel-Bolot has established her agency first in London, later opening offices in Paris, New York, Dusseldorf, Sydney and Hong Kong. Through international offices, her agency manages an existing network of clients as well as their art collections. The target market includes private clients; companies, such as Louis Vuitton, private banking institutions, such as HSBC Private Bank and museums. Having such high net worth clients is a constant motivation to thrive for excellence whilst maintaining a certain level of autonomy.

When art is such a subjective matter, how does the firm retain an independent outlook? “Unlike auction houses or galleries we don’t own any stock. We don’t have any exhibitions or artists to promote and sell. Our objective is to fulfill the requirements of our clients,” says Raikhel-Bolot. Having the freedom of presenting themselves as a consulting bureau rather than an art dealership firm gives 1858 the freedom of being critical and independent when it comes to advising their clientele. Raikhel-Bolot puts her formula for success into words: “It’s about helping clients make informed decisions when investing in art and helping them with authentication and attribution of works.”

Getting a glimpse of a thriving art dealership market makes us wonder; what are the attributes of a successful, investment-worthy artist? Interestingly, there is no specific formula on that one, as Raikhel-Bolot fairly mentions, “there’s no particular style or genre one must follow as a sure-fire investment”. Naturally, observing auctions and looking at successful artists you can trace certain qualities in their work or public image that lead to the increase in artist’s value. Another question worth asking, is how agencies like Raikhel-Bolot’s get their share of the pot, when logistics – shipping, transport, import and export licenses – all are handled by the agency? For the amount of work, their fees seem incredibly transparent; typically 10 per cent of the value of the work being bought or sold. Just another reason to make you buy an expensive painting, I suppose.

While globally, the art sector is struggling from a lack of government funding and the general audience interest for art is inconsistent, one question remains open. Is there a solid ground for treating the art industry just like any other area of the economy and can we expect a return on investment from an artwork of any calibre? Our art consultant agrees on one thing, “A good work of art will keep you intrigued for years 
to come,” declares Raikhel-Bolot.