Insider Christoph Noe’s tips for navigating the contemporary art world

“How to Not Fuck Up Your Art-World Happiness”. This is the title of the unconventional book by Christoph Noe, co-founder of Larry’s List, one of the leading consulting companies for contemporary art collectors.

However, according to Christoph Noe’s philosophy, no saccharine gurus looking at a work of art with an enigmatic gaze and the buyer from top to toe. The art market can, and should, also be fun. On the surface, “How to Not Fuck Up Your Art-World Happiness” looks like one of those curious oracular books to be asked questions by randomly opening to read the answer. Scrolling through it, you realize that you have in your hands an amusing vademecum for moving happily in the art market.
If Einstein said that you understand something if you can explain it to your grandmother, then the paperback by Christoph Noe is the book you can also give to your grandmother. Gallerists, auction house directors, art dealers, neophytes: art can be for everyone.

Christoph Noe art
Christoph Noe

What’s the difference between an art consultant, or art advisor, and a gallery owner or director?

Well, you already touched on a very interesting point of our beloved art scene. We often enjoy it because often lines are blurry, but it can also be utterly confusing and unprofessional. To give you an example: you are selling one artwork from Etsy to a friend in Uptown Manhattan (replaced by any other art hub) and you directly add “Art Advisor” to the title on your business card.

“I guess there are as many arguments for and against choosing an art consultant”

Why choose an art consultant?

It comes down to the definition of what an art advisor is. In our case, we often work with corporates or brands on their corporate art engagement. This is a field totally different to advising someone on buying artworks.
If you refer to an art consultant as someone who advises on art purchases. Yes, why should you? The pleasure of collecting can be often very indirect if filtered via an art advisor. I guess there are as many arguments for and against choosing one.

What is your typical customer?

We are very excited that there is no typical client. We work with e.g. corporates, auction houses, art shippers, private museums and private collectors. They all have in common that they strive to gain visibility in the art scene and beyond by creating sharing their meaningful content and ideas.

What are the emerging markets? What are the most vibrant markets and most open to new things?

I am restraining myself from using superlatives. The most vibrating, the hottest artist etc. If you have been working for a number of years in the scene you will see that it was hot today and it is very unlikely tomorrow. Berlin and East-German were the hottest stuff in the mid-Nineties, Zombie Formalist in the 2010… I am sure most of the readers never heard of that term Zombie Formalism.
Also, the digital, global networks and exchanges making regional definitions very blurry. But I guess you won’t give up and want to nail me down on a place: it seems that Los Angeles has a high density of artists, art spaces and private collections these days that are considered hot.

“The digital, global networks and exchanges making regional definitions very blurry”

Christoph Noe book
“How to Not Fuck Up Your Art-World Happiness”

What are the most requested works on the market? Paintings, statues, photos…

Simple answer: paintings.

What is the art sector with the highest expected growth rate right now? Many think, for example, of the NFT art market…

There are some researchers that could answer it better. UBS publishes an annual report on the general art market.
There have been ongoing discussions on the role of NFTs in the market. Someone tends to argue that NFTs are closer to trading cards, rather than fine art. It is a market in the making. We often suggest waiting a bit and seeing what remains after a while. However, this advice is very hard to follow. FOMO!

How is the market changing after the pandemic, with the war in Ukraine shutting down the Russian market, the economic recession in the Eurozone and in some eastern markets due to inflation?

If you like it or not, art and art collecting is often connected to a very wealthy group of the society. They are eventually less affected by those happenings.
What we witness at the moment is somehow confusing: even so, there were many crises in 2022, we did see a number of records for art. However, we also agree that the market is very concentrated. Auction records does not necessarily mean that a wide group of artists is benefiting equally.

“Art offers a beautiful platform for exchange and discussion, for creating curiosity and mutual respect”

In Italy Chinese is often synonymous with low quality. What do we have to learn in art? everyone knows what a Ming vase is, but what does the Chinese (or Far East) market offer today?

Let’s not think in clichés. Art offers a beautiful platform for exchange and discussion, for creating curiosity and mutual respect. We strongly believe that this is more important than ever.

Christoph Noe How to Not Fuck Up
“How to Not Fuck Up Your Art-World Happiness” launch in Singapore

How to Not Fuck Up Your Art-World. 60 tips and tricks on how to stay relaxed and mentally sane in the art industry”. The book seems to go against all the rules that have so far governed the art world. Why? What is your experience?

I don’t know. One of the “rules” is “being humble”.  If this is against all rules, then I think your question implies that you have accepted a reality that is very saddening. But also, it is a bit surprising that those things have to be written down in the first place. My experience is that the art world is not such a friendly, welcoming and idealistic place as we tend to believe. Art is about culture, aesthetics, beauty but we don’t often live up to those values ourselves.
The book started off as a reminder to me and it seems that it resonates with a larger audience.

“If art collecting for a financial gain is all that matters, then it is the end of the relevance of contemporary art anyway”

The book contains 60 tips. Nr. 35: “collect works that lose value”. It sounds like a joke.

That’s the problem if you quote only headlines. I will give some explanations and examples for my thought. And, I am only taking out the “financial component” of the equation. If art collecting for a financial gain is all that matters, then it is the end of the relevance of contemporary art anyway.
Also, let’s look into other industries and other purchase behavior where losing value seems to be fully accepted. Take ordering a new car for example. The moment you drive it from the dealer you lose money. But people seem not to worry because the joy comes from other aeras rather than making money.

Nr. 20: “say no to great chances”. Any art dealer would try to convince you otherwise.

I am not talking about art dealing particularly. I am referring to people “selling you great chances.” I am idealistic myself and like to preserve that. But: in the art world -as anywhere else- there is no free lunch.

“I don’t want to demotivate people to start collecting but I recommend believing more in one’s own judgment”

Nr. 30: “find a mentor”. An art consultant is a mentor?

Could be. However, a mentor as I see it, is someone that goes beyond someone who teaches you technical expertise. It is someone who inspires you, someone who is interested in your overall development of your personality, someone who understands your strengths and weaknesses. Maybe someone will tell you “you should maybe not be an art dealer.” It’s not easy to find those people. Also, because people are often very much focused on themselves.

Nr. 21 “When there are 200 people on a waiting list to buy the same artist, why would you want to be the nr. 201?”. It is an attitude that gives security. The risk is thought to be lower. It’s not like that?

Tell me one truly inspiring and great collection that was built by someone who did not take a risk? Great collectors and playing safe does not work in one sentence. Of course, there are also so few of those and I don’t want to demotivate people to start collecting but I recommend believing more in one’s own judgment.

Christoph Noe art world
“How to Not Fuck Up Your Art-World Happiness” launch in Singapore

“For a long-lasting career I believe it is not sufficient to base on one influencer”

Nr. 29: You write about “treasure privacy” and you say that “all intimacy is killed”, talking about the ban on photographing a work of art. The director of the Egyptian museum of Turin invited Chiara Ferragni to make her museum as famous as the Uffizi. Advertising is the soul of commerce and today advertising travels on IG. Wouldn’t you hire an influencer to drive up an artist’s market price?

I respect social media a lot and our business is also largely based on it. Also, the fact that mainstream enters into the art world is something I am excited about. If influencers are a way to access a new audience, to get people interested in visiting a museum, there is not much to critic about.
For driving up an artist’s market: There are many ways to do it. As you mentioned, a celebrity or art influencer endorsement could be one. There are also the “classic” ones like “creating” auction records which still happens too. We are wondering how sustainable those methods are. Do “develop” an artist market you need to build it on different pillars including visibility, institutional and private collections, art critics, gallery representation, publication and so on. This sounds very old-school, and there are always exceptions and we all know Instagram star artists, but for a long-lasting career I believe it is not sufficient to base on one influencer. But to answer your question: I would NOT hire an influencer. It is part of our job to make the right people like art collectors excited about an artist but if they are not excited themselves, it does not make sense. The audience has fine senses for authenticity.

“One of the risks, on social media, is that artworks that are not bright enough fall through the algorithm”

What is actually the risk of art on Instagram?

There are a number of risks. Let me mention two:  1. The risk is that artworks, that are not bright enough, fall through the algorithm. Colors compositions that show more contrasts tend to perform better. But sometimes less colorful, more “quiet” artworks can be amazing, but this does not translate well on a digital image. 2. More well-known artists are usually performing better. You have only so little time to get the attention of your audience and if people have a reference it is easier.

Opening image: a portrait of Christoph Noe


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