Interview with Aldis Browne (Art consultant)
1) What first made you fall in love with this particular field?
I first studied art history in high school. I went to Milton Academy which at the time was two schools, separating girls from boys. Art History was the only co-ed class in the school. Even though I initially studied art for all the wrong reasons, it hooked me for the rest of life.
2) What is the best collecting advice you've ever received?
From Kurt Valentin who once said "what you sell supports you, it's what you don't sell that enriches you."
3) How did you get started as a professional dealer?
I began collecting art in my early 20's. My first major purchase was a little Karel Appel painting; it was $50 in 1961. By 1964 I thought I had saved enough money to be able to able give up my $30,000 salary as a Chicago fundraiser and see if I could turn a hobby into a profession. I believed I would be able to afford to live in New York City for six months when I went to work for a small art gallery there at $75 per week.
Boy did I miscalculate! When I had run through my savings within a couple of months I tended bar on evenings and weekends - then I sold my car - then the Appel. After less than a year of apprenticeship I was hired at a "living wage" by a large gallery. I worked for Associated American Artists as the gallery's director for six years. I opened my own firm in New York in 1972.
4) What is your most treasured find?
The Edvard Munch Starry Night which now hangs at the Getty.
5) What makes your company different?
I have become an art consultant and no longer an active dealer. Though my office walls are hung with small works of art, none are for sale. This, like my website, serves as a visual catalog and gives potential clients an instant introduction to what I am about. If they don't like what they see they should never ask me to advise them.
6) What are your particular areas of expertise?
Post-impressionism through World War II in Europe, particularly Edvard Munch, 20th century California artists and original prints.
7) How has the industry changed since you started out?
Auctions and mega-dealers have come to more and more define the market. When I began my career auction houses didn't even publish estimates and small art galleries abounded. Then a London gallery named Marlborough merged with a New York gallery called Gerson, the Metropolitan Museum paid an astonishing two million dollars for a Rembrandt oil, and a new era of art dealing was born.
8) Where do you see the industry in five years’ time?
Even fewer and ever more powerful dealers will continue to focus on art as alternative investment. Small independent galleries will become an endangered species. Dealers working from alternative spaces will proliferate and art fairs will help them gain exposure.
9) If you could own any piece in the world, what would it be?
Matthias Grunewald's Isenheimn altarpiece.
10) Do you have any advice for budding young (or old) collectors out there?
Follow your heart, never your wallet. The most successful investors in art never invested, they collected. Only over time did their collections appreciate, often dramatically, because they had a great eye, good advice, or both. They might have overpaid to own the very greatest, but they never bargain hunted. If ever a dealer ever tells you that you should collect any works of art because they are an incredible "deal" — find another dealer.