Time is tough. The world has changed dramatically by COVID-19. J. Yuan & Associates LLC, a New York-based art consulting firm recently expanded its lineup from one person to a team to explore new business models for young art consultants to work in the U.S. in the post-pandemic future. How to re-establish mutual trust between people? How to reconstruct our daily life? How shall we interact and coexist with others? How can we overcome the financial difficulties while still holding on to our dreams and careers? Facing the severe economic depression and political uncertainty in the rest of 2020 and probably the entire year of 2021, five young art professionals joined JY&A to form a team alongside the founder, helping her to enhance the firm's consulting services and art salon program. JY&A specializes in post-war and contemporary art, with a special interest in art and technology. The current team members are all young and female professionals and entrepreneurs living in the U.S. Some of them have backgrounds in nonprofit sectors while others have spent years pursuing passions beyond the art world.
On the Profession Of Art Consultant in the Post-COVID Time
Xiaoying Juliette Yuan
Founder / Director of JY&A
I believe in the collective intelligence and corporate management model in running a business. Art consulting firms are no exception.
In New York, when you tell others you are an art consultant, mostly you will be taken as an art salesperson. The primary clients you attract are artists and galleries who propose to show you their studios and checklists. Galleries usually propose a calculated percentage as commission, while artists need your support, whether it is your resources, funds, or network - anything you have in hand to foster their careers, as well as yours.
I question the working model mentioned above for art consultants. It diminishes them to a salesperson, downplaying their expertise in educating and mentoring clients in the process of learning and buying art. Many young art consultants confine themselves to the role of a salesperson, working alone and hustling constantly for new clients and income. Sales are slow, income is unstable. When the number of consultants surpasses the collectors they target several times, the consultants have to compete with each other fiercely to make a sale happen. Meanwhile, collectors feel annoyed by the email bombardment from unknown people and the time they have to waste to clear up the PDFs that keep filling their storage space.
This is a vicious circle for everyone.
The COVID-19 outbreak gave me a lot of time to think about my own business, from its operational model to the type of clients I want to attract, as well as the services I should offer to bring added values to their lives.
I designed the current JY&A services and programs based on my knowledge, ability, experiences, and interests. They are the result of my months of research, self-education, and reflection. During a couple of weeks after I published them online, I woke up every morning to reread what I wrote, and kept asking myself whether or not I would get bored in the next decade or two doing all these things. The answer was always “No.” In the meantime, I realized that they were too ambitious for one person to accomplish. I needed a team to work with me.
The idea of expanding my one-person business to a small corporate based on the alliance of a group of associates originated from there. I decided to apply the associates model of a law firm to my art consulting business. Every team member is encouraged to contribute ideas and resources to support a business that belongs to all of us. In an ideal future, the team members are shareholders of the company.
If other businesses can thrive with the associates model, why not an art business? After all, how much longer can art business be still secretively veiled, especially when everything is digitized and accessible online?
What is an art consulting firm?
How shall we define the profession of art consulting?
Who are our target clients?
How can we understand and meet our clients' needs, bring added values to their lives, and solve their problems?
How can we use the corporate model to support an art consulting business, to make it functional, credible, and profitable?
How can we go beyond the old way of finding clients from referrals? How to introduce JY&A to the broader world and bring values and fulfillment into more and more people's lives?
JY&A's current structure and team were formed on questions listed above, which should cover the tasks of a well-functioning corporation. Management | PR, Curatorial | Research, Business Development, Branding | Content Management, and Editorial are the five positions that construct the current daily operation of our firm. It’s been three weeks since I worked together with my new colleagues who took on these responsibilities. Whenever we invited a new member to our team, we made sure that we respected her real passion and interests, and the position we offered fit with her ideal career plan. Right before the publication of this newsletter, we also welcomed Zoe Zhang who would be the first business partner of our firm on the West Coast as well as for mainland China.
COVID-19 challenged the traditional model of art galleries and museums in Western culture. The same goes for the profession of the art consultant. What are the models for new generations of art professionals - the global citizens- to distinguish themselves in today’s vast and wild art world? In our case, we promote our firm, our team, and our artists to English, French, and Mandarin-speaking audiences. In response to the increasing demand of online space - which is an unfortunate situation at least for now - a new art exhibition model with effective management and promotional strategies will play an essential role.