6 Questions for Los Angeles Art Advisor Robert Galstian on Collecting Emerging Art and Why Buyers Should Take Their Time
The energetic art advisor is also a patron of the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Art and Design.
Los Angeles-based art advisor Robert Galstian was born to a family of art collectors in New York. His immersion in the world of art came so young, in fact, he can’t remember a time before it.
After starting out in a corporate career, Galstian eventually made his passion for art and collecting his full-time job. Now in Los Angeles, the energetic art advisor is an out-and-about arts patron, with ties to the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Art and Design, along with a number of other institutions.
We recently chatted with Galstian, about his work with Galstian Advisory, the exhibitions he’s organizing now, and why he encourages collectors to take their time.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you became an advisor? Were you always interested in art?
I am born and raised in New York and come from a family of collectors. I am hard-pressed to remember a time growing up when we didn’t discuss art or visiting a gallery or museum or having artists at our home. I started my career on Wall Street and spent most of it in corporate positions all the while attending exhibitions and opening in New York and now Los Angeles. Whenever I would go to a gallery or museum with friends, they would ask me for my thoughts on the exhibition; what to buy, or help with the gallery if they were making a purchase. I realized that this would be a good segue to a new career path, and it’s been fantastic ever since.
With your clients, do you focus on a style or era of art? When does your personal taste play a role in your selection?
This is a great question. My clients are focused squarely on established contemporary artists with healthy auction records. Having said that, they always ask me for my thoughts. I present the facts and let my clients make the final decision.
What do you think are the biggest pitfalls collectors face when building a collection?
I always advise friends and collectors to take time to develop their eye. This can easily be done by going to see as many exhibitions as possible at museums, galleries, and nonprofits. Many of these offer walk-throughs, artist discussions, and curator talks that are open to the public. I have found these events to be very instrumental in learning more about the artist, their practice, and process, plus it’s a great way to meet other collectors.
One of my clients introduced me to their friends who wanted to start a collection. He and his wife had flown to an art fair and started buying up everything they liked that was still available. After a couple of months, they felt they made a mistake and were embarrassed by the time we met. None of those works were on display at their home then. Since that initial meeting, we have been taking a slow and steady approach. They have enjoyed going to galleries and museums; they don’t feel the need to make a rash or impulse purchase, and are more focused and making informed decisions and, most importantly, having a lot of fun.
You’re very involved in the L.A. arts community. Can you tell me more about your work in that capacity?
I have headed up the MOCA Contemporaries and have been the auction chair at two of LA’s latest oldest arts nonprofits. I’ve been on host committees for several art fairs as well. Currently, I am on the boards of the USC Roski School of Art and Design and the FACE Foundation’s L.A. chapter. USC Roski has been on a roll with their new off-campus building in the Arts District. All their grad programs are now housed in a new state-of-the-art building, where they provide in-depth, intellectual exploration in a setting that encourages cross-program dialogue and collaboration. The school recently announced that its design program was nationally ranked no. 1 and no. 7 for art.
The FACE Foundation is a sponsor of Villa Albertine, a residency that links France and the U.S. in a shared exploration of arts and ideas. Villa Albertine will be celebrating its first anniversary later this year, but already it has achieved so much. Before it turns one, it will have included 60 customized residencies for artists, thinkers, and cultural professionals; a series of cultural and humanities initiatives and events; a magazine; and resources and gatherings for professionals in the cultural sphere.
Are you organizing any upcoming shows?
I organized a few exhibitions on the Artnet Gallery Network during the pandemic that were very well received. I am currently in the early stages of planning an exhibition for Juan Antonio Guirado. I have been enjoying working with his estate and his daughter, Catalina Guirado, for some time now. Sorting through the hundreds of paintings has been such a treat and I’m constantly amazed at how prophetic some of his work is. He was an artist’s artist who has recently been getting a lot of buzz and we have placed his paintings in several collections.
Speaking of collections, do you have one of your own?
I have been collecting art for more than a couple of decades now. My focus has primarily been on emerging artists but that doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t supplement it with more established or mid-career artists. I particularly enjoy discovering new artists and getting to know them as well as their practice. I also enjoy visiting the open studios at USC Roski and the other arts schools. An area of particular importance for me has been sharing works from my collection with institutions. It’s not uncommon that at any given time I have several works on loan with museums. It’s a win-win scenario since it not only supports the artist by getting their work seen, but it gets their name out there in discussions!
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