Phillips Is Opening a New Business Division for Wealthy Art Collectors in Need of Legal and Financial Advice

The new department reflects the increasing sophistication of the booming global art trade.

Phillips offices in Berkley Square, London. Image courtesy Phillips.

Phillips auction house announced today, January 18, a new fiduciary services division today that reflects the increasingly specialized needs of wealthy art buyers, trusts, and estates in today’s increasingly complex art market.

The new three-person team will work with attorneys, trustees, and fiduciaries, to manage high-value artworks and collections and provide combined legal and financial support with art market expertise, according to the auction house.

“Even for those well-versed in the art market, this landscape can sometimes feel complicated and unfamiliar,” said Martin Wilson, Phillips’s chief legal counsel and head of fiduciary services, which he will lead alongside Hartley Waltman and Mathilde Heaton, who also serve as general counsel for the auction house.

“We found that lawyers and trustees called on us for our thoughts on a variety of issues,” he added. “It’s fair to say we’ve seen it all and, not only have we come across problems that people can expect to encounter, but more importantly, we’ve seen how they’re best resolved.” 

© Haydon Perrior: Thomas De Cruz Media

© Haydon Perrior: Thomas De Cruz Media

Asked whether the auction house was taking a cue from competitors like Sotheby’s, which acquired former high-profile agency Art Agency, Partners for more than $50 million in 2016, Wilson said the new Phillips branch “is really about legal and practical problem solving, rather than advising from an art historical perspective.”

Wilson said clients can reach out with questions about ownership and authenticity, import and export problems, concerns over copyright, and CITES regulations, which govern the trade of endangered species.

“What we are offering is the legal expertise of those who are still very active and prominent in the industry after decades of experience,” Wilson said.

The auction house plans to pull from its staff to advise on various situations on a case-by-case basis. From the trusts and estates team to specialists around the world, Wilson said they are confident they have the expertise needed to handle whatever questions may arise.

Phillips auction house had a banner year in 2021, reporting sales of $1.2 billion worth of luxury goods worldwide—up 32 percent from 2019, and hitting the billion-dollar mark for the first time ever.

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