With offices located in London, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Edinburgh, New York, Philadelphia and Amsterdam, PALL MALL ART ADVISORS is an established art advisory firm that works with major insurance brokers, law firms, banks, accountants, wealth managers, institutions and private consumers. Their experienced team of specialists provides tangible asset management and appraisals for personal, corporate and institutional collections in addition to advising on the acquisition and deaccession of individual works.The Reserve caught up with the company’s CEO, Anita Heriot, to discuss the art of buying and selling in a market that’s rife with misconceptions and miseducation.

How important is it for tangible assets to be managed by professionals like Pall Mall?

It is beyond essential. For many collectors, acquiring these incredibly expensive assets is an emotional transaction, and many people take advantage of that notion. Having a third party represent you takes the emotion out of it and doing all of the due diligence is absolutely crucial in today’s marketplace whether you’re buying or selling. Many of our clients will buy and sell at major auction houses and they believe that their relationship with these houses is intimate. When it comes down to it, though, auction houses need to buy and sell. Our relationship with the client is to protect them. Using that baseline shapes how we strategise building and selling a collection.

How does the market look currently for art sales?

We are recommending to our clients who own blue chip contemporary or Impressionist art that this is a good time to monetise because the market is hot. The contemporary sales at Christie’s made world records as did the Impressionist sales at Sotheby’s. We saw the highest price ever paid for a Picasso that wasn’t even from an iconic period. The Asian market has seen some slowdown in the market because buyers there are less interested in mid-level pieces, but the very top level works are selling for astronomical prices. We are contacting our clients with very important pieces and recommending that it is the right time to monetise portions of their collection. I can’t promise the situation will be the same in 12 months but I do think the autumn auctions will achieve new records. Many collectors came to auction this past spring prepared to spend a lot of money and they were outbid. Now they have money in their pockets and are ready to buy.

And what about the market for acquisition?

It’s a good time to buy but very carefully, making sure all the due diligence has been done. The market has become so hot and there are a lot of charlatans in the business who have not fully researched the works they are sellingf. We are also seeing opportunities for acquisition in less mainstream areas. Old Masters paintings once had a flat market but there has been a quick rise. Many international clients want to buy them as they are a foundation of art history.

Hong Kong is a huge auction market. What are some of the pitfalls to avoid when buying and selling art at auction?

There are several reasons for the robust art auction market in Asia. The most important ingredient for a successful auction is for there to be at least two people bidding on the same object. If they don’t have that, they can’t work on the emotional movement upwards. We represent lots of clients when they buy at auction. We do the market analysis, trace the history of the piece, look at other similar objects that have been sold in the past – this allows them to understand the true accurate value of what the piece is worth. That way they know how long their hand should be in the air. In terms of selling at auction, it is important to do the research into the auction house that is conducting the sale. When we represent a client, we let capitalism do its job. We make the auctions houses compete for the objects. It is not our concern whether the auction house is disappointed that they did not get any particular deal. Our job is to always serve as an independent broker and to protect the client’s interests, assuring the highest sale revenue on their behalf.

What is a sensible way to have art valued?

The foundation of understanding a client’s needs is valuation. This is the way to start a conversation about whether or not monetisation makes sense, whether it’s a good time to build an existing collection and everything else in between. There are two kinds of valuation – one is where you have a willing buyer and a willing seller – that’s usually auction value. Secondly, there is insurance value which looks at how easy it would be to replace the object. This is usually the dealer price. What you pay for an object with a dealer is usually 30-50% above what you would pay at auction – with some exceptions.

What can you tell us about authenticity and how to avoid buying a fake?

In the Asian tradition, replicating the “Masters” is revered and this poses a serious problem for the authentification of Asian paintings and decortive arts. With Asian material the most important thing is tracing the line of ownership because there are so many copies. This today is the most difficult area of our business. We have a Jean-Michel Basquiat right now and a client with the purchase agreement, shipping invoice and cheque – but it is still not enough to sell the work. What we do is make sure that in ten years when they sell it, it won’t come back to haunt them and nobody will sue them. It is our responsibility to make sure both the buyer and the seller are protected.  

Anita Heriot and her team of experts are available for personal consultations with members of The Reserve. To find out more or to request an introduction, contact us at

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16/F Chao’s Building | 143-145 Bonham Strand | Sheung Wan | Hong Kong
T: +852 3620 3157 | F: +852 3753 1811

16/F Chao's Building  |  143-145 Bonham Strand  |  Sheung Wan  |  Hong Kong
T: +852 33620 3157  |  F: +852 3753 1811  |  |  Data Policy  

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