“I enjoy psychology and sociology, and I like to see how people respond to art,” answers Cheryl Ho, the head of her own art consultancy business, Articulate Consulting. “It’s a really big draw because everybody reacts so differently. They see what they want to see and that’s really interesting to me.”
Photos: Eddie Teo
It’s been more than 10 years since Ho first started working in the arts, cutting her teeth right from the bottom. “I took on as many roles as possible within auction houses, commercial galleries, museums and independent art projects – This proved to be immensely helpful in learning to understand how the industry works!” she explains.
Among her many roles, she recalls picking up valuable skills working with notable names in the art world, like Sotheby’s and Opera Gallery. “One of my very first jobs was as an auction assistant in Sotheby’s during my early school years, and I could not have asked for a better start. I spent several years with the auction team, and learnt the importance of what it meant to be professional, efficient and discrete. I also experienced first-hand how crucial it was to build long-lasting relationships with collectors, and this was a quality which I later continued to develop during the 6 years I spent in Opera Gallery,” she shares.
Tell us more about how your role as an art consultant?
I think of art consulting as being a form of facilitation. My primary role is to assist clients with collection management. This means that I help them to acquire and sell works based on their needs. For example, if a young collector is interested in building a portfolio consisting of emerging and investment-worthy artists, I would make suitable recommendations based on his/her preferences, and keep him/her updated about trends and movements within the industry. Many collectors I work with have a deep interest in art, but very simply do not have the time to navigate the art world. As a consultant, my role is to do all the due diligence and help them to source for works which would ultimately lead to a strong and coherent collection which increases in value over time. Very often, I will also have access to art which is only available in the private market, which is very exciting for collectors.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Helping a client build a collection that truly means something to them. Every art collection is a small reflection of someone’s personal journey, so it’s really lovely when they develop their own style and preferences.
Sometimes you never really know how the collector is going to react when you present something for consideration. It is truly a beautiful moment when you see a connection between the collector and the work, and for me, that’s always been really satisfying.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
I travel extensively, but it’s difficult to try and do everything and be everywhere all the time. Time is such a limited resource, and as much as I would like to attend every international art fair and exhibition, and meet every artist, it’s just not going to happen. I have to be very selective about how I spend my time.
How do you determine which work is good enough to recommend to clients?
A lot of it is based on instinct and experience. When you spend as much time as I do around art in every way, shape and form, you start to develop an “eye”. A lot of recommendations are also made based on how well you understand your client’s taste and preferences.
It’s important to develop a sense of what the collector might like, but it’s also just as crucial to them occasionally. Art is such a fluid subject, and by introducing selections which might not always be immediately obvious choices, it creates greater dialogue and conversation between the consultant and collector, ultimately leading to a better partnership.
What do you look out for when deciding which artists to work with?
Over the years, I have gravitated towards working with modern and contemporary art and this continues to be a key market for me. But one of the most exciting genres is undoubtedly the emerging market: there is so much energy and potential here which remains untapped.
I do not have a physical gallery space, so I don’t represent artists or work with them in a conventional way. I do however work with several galleries to help them to decide which artists to represent. I spend a lot of time sourcing for dynamic artists, so it’s always lovely to get to know them and start a conversation about how I could help to increase their visibility through a steady platform. Many artists have also approached me to help with managing their portfolios and to assist with organising exhibitions, and I hope that this will take place soon.
This article first appeared in Vol 4 of Gallery & Studio.