BRIAN BOUCHER You point out that the profession of art dealer has only come into existence in the last 150 years. Do you ever stop yourself and remember that you’re in a job your great-grandfather maybe couldn’t have conceived of?
MICHAEL FINDLAY It’s really only so new in its present form. But there have always been people who have brokered deals for artists. Presumably Michelangelo had some form of agent.
More striking than that, to me, is how very different being an art dealer is today from what it was when I entered the business. Dealers are more to the fore, although they were always a colorful part of the art world, if you think about people like Betty Parsons. But they were characters in an Off-Off-Broadway production rather than players on the world cultural stage.
BOUCHER You point out possible future global shifts in the art market, led by the great growth in numbers of “high net worth individuals” in Asia, and the need for masterpieces to hang in the new art museums of the Middle East. What changes does that bring to the art trade?
FINDLAY The volume of funds available is staggering, as well as the global nature of the art market. While there were for instance German manufacturing tycoons buying contemporary American art in the ‘60s, that was about as global as you got. Occasionally one or two prescient Japanese collectors were buying in Paris and New York.
BOUCHER How is art collecting viewed differently today?
FINDLAY It seems to me that the notion of collecting art as part of a lifestyle is new. It’s integrated into a platform of multiple homes and a type of glamorized life. Whereas I think the collectors I became aware of when I entered this business led quite quiet lives, Bob and Ethel Scull notwithstanding. Not because of secrecy but because people weren’t interested.
Michael Findlay on the Value of Looking (Art in America)