It’s not just oligarchs and multi-millionaires who want art that interests them (or makes money for them). It may come as a shock, but some people love art for art’s sake. Roz Hanna interviews Nicholas Campbell of Narcissus Arts, who has carved out a niche sourcing artworks for under £10K for genuine art lovers.
When the French Romantics declared that art should be judged on its own value, not on any themes which the art itself might touch on, they had no idea that by the 21st century it would also be seen as one of the best investments in times of recession.
Art collecting has become big business, but at Narcissus Arts, Nicholas Campbell specialises in sourcing artworks for under £10,000. It really is not just millionaires who want interesting art. Art sourced by Nicholas may end up being a good investment, but his priority is for clients to love the piece they are buying. It’s not quite the original meaning of ‘art for art’s sake’ but certainly a variation on that theme.
From small beginnings in 2010, helping contemporaries to spend their first bonus and first time buyers to fill their wall space, Narcissus Arts now operates on an international level assisting both private and corporate clients to find the best art for under £10,000.
Five years on, and winner of the 2014 Spears’ Young Turk Award for under 35’s, Nicholas recalls his first deal: “After sending out a very primitive looking ‘Narcissus Arts List’, which included works by Hugo Wilson, Jittish Kallat, Elizabeth Frink, to name but a few, my client decided to buy the Frink and I have been advising clients ever since.”
Art ‘without breaking the bank’
Nicholas had spotted a gap in the market for individual collectors and corporate clients wanting to buy interesting art without breaking the bank. “We are here to help people who have a desire to own great art, but who are not prepared or able to spend vast sums on acquiring it,” he says. “Clients tend not to have time to look and research work and the fast paced enormity of the art world is overwhelming. We can identify what is right for the client, regardless of trends and hype, and help them to own a work which they appreciate and, most of all, love.
Nicholas had always been interested in art. He studied Art History at Oxford Brookes University and during vacations he worked at such illustrious establishments as the White Cube Gallery in London and Christie’s in New York, where he also acquired a job on graduation in 2009.
“At that time in New York, after the 2008 banking crisis, everyone was firing everyone and there was an instant recession,’ Nicholas recalls. ‘But I had friends who were looking to spend smallish sums of around £3,000 to £5,000 on art, so I would use my spare time to help them source it.”
Through doing this he built up good relationships with the auction houses and he realised there was a gap in the consultancy market as the big boys would not look at anything for under £10K.
After two years heading up the contemporary/London office for a Scottish auction house and continuing to advise friends on the side in this niche area, Nicholas took the plunge and set up his own consultancy, Narcissus Arts. “There is a saying: when times are tough, art is the last market to be affected and the first to recover,” he says. It has clearly gone well for him. Narcissus Arts has just celebrated its fifth birthday and the business is now completely international, with both private and corporate clients.
“As well as helping individuals, we found many businesses also wanted artworks for their walls,’” he explains. ‘Some of the most significant contemporary art collections now belong to corporations. In turn, companies have the reflected glory of patronising upcoming artists and selecting works which complement their image.
“With our philosophy that no budget is too small we have been able to demonstrate that a modest outlay is no barrier to building an outstanding art collection for our corporate clients.”
Narcissus Arts sources and acquires works to suit the budget and corporate identity as well as handling issues such as framing, conservation and cataloguing, all of which are key to maintaining a significant art collection.
Smith & Wollensky, London
The flagship restaurant for Smith & Wollensky in London, their first outside the US, was designed by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio. Situated within the Adelphi building, one of London’s most iconic art deco landmarks, Narcissus Arts acted as consultants on the array of contemporary abstract artwork curated to work within the space which covers two floors and three private dining rooms. For Smith and Wollensky on the whole I commissioned around five different artists to do a various array of artworks, some of which can be seen here (click any image for gallery):
Corporate and Private
A private client asked Nicholas to source all the art for a house on Wilton Crescent, including paintings, sculptures and tapestries and this inspired his latest enterprise. Narcissus Interiors was launched in June to enable Nicholas to work with clients to create a cohesive collection of art in all its forms and present it in an appropriate way.
Whether the client is corporate or private, Nicholas advises them first and foremost to LOVE the art they are buying. “A client has to buy something they love as there is no guarantee that it will go up in value,’ he insists. ‘If they make money, that’s a bonus.”
However, Nicholas does have a good eye and has form for selecting young artists while their work is still under £10K which then go up in value as they become established.
“Three years ago I took a client to a London art fair and picked out a new work by Kadar Brock, whose work has gone up in value considerably over that time. In my own collection I have a photograph by Pieter Hugo, a South African photographer. He created a series called ‘The Hyena Man’ four years ago and I recommended a client to buy the series for £12K. Three weeks ago the collection was valued at £47K.”
Another female artist Nicholas first sent out to clients was Amalia Saban. ‘She had amazingly affordable pictures then and now her stock has risen and she is represented by the internationally acclaimed gallery, Spruth Magers, which has galleries in Berlin and London.
What to consider when buying a work of art?
Nicholas recently gave a talk at Art 15 on Building and Managing a Collection and advises the following key things are to consider when buying a work of art:
• You must LOVE it
• Ask ‘what has the artist done in the past and what is he doing in the future?’
• Ask ‘where did the artist go to school?’
• Ask ‘what awards has the artist won?’
• Ask ‘what exhibitions has the artist taken part in?’
• Ask ‘what collections are the artist’s works featured in?’
What next for Nicholas Campbell?
As well as continuing to build on the success of Narcissus Arts and launching Narcissus Interiors, Nicholas is working with developers and has some interesting private clients who are his immediate priority. “I’m helping a client with a big house in Fulham who wants around 8 art works for £5-10K per painting. I visit the client and get to know them so that I can get a feel for their taste, before I start the search. I am also currently sourcing 10 art works for a client in Holland Park.”
Art Tours at Frieze
Nicholas will be giving tours at Frieze London which runs from 14-17 October. “I give non existing clients an opportunity to walk around with me and I will give them an insightful, lighthearted tour for 2 hours. For two people I charge £250 and will do it with a maximum of 4 people.”
Nicholas’s passion for art has helped him succeed in a way of which most 28-year-olds could only dream. He genuinely wants to help the uninitiated to enjoy art as much as he does.
Narcissus Arts: http://narcissusarts.com/
Frieze London: http://friezelondon.com/
Smith & Wollensky, London: http://www.smithandwollensky.co.uk/
Narcissus Arts Gallery – http://dbpr.info/narcissus-arts-gallery/