Though it is a cliché, there is truth to the idea that opposites attract. By their own admission, the art advisors Allan Schwartzman and Philip Hoffman are odd bedfellows. But their newly announced partnership makes sense in the way only true relationships can.
With their new venture they are forming what might be best described as an art world version of Nato. While they reject the idea of a traditional merger of their respective firms, London-headquartered The Fine Art Group and New York-based Schwartzman&, both advisors will collaborate with each other when it is beneficial to do so.
“As a curator and thought leader, Allan has built a unique space and reputation in the art world,” says Hoffman. “His strategic vision is sought after by some of the most esteemed collectors, artists and institutions in the world. Adding his expertise and experience to even a handful of opportunities, while we each maintain our independence and separate businesses, allows us to do something truly unique in the marketplace.
The collaboration makes sense, though the lack of a traditional “joining of forces” brings in to focus one question—how will two successful firms, through each of which millions of dollars regularly pass, handle the brass tacks of collaboration with no agreement in writing. How does a loose collaboration work when it is at the highest levels of where art and finance meet? This sticky point is exactly where Schwartzman and Hoffman come to terms. While their respective advisories are in the heavyweight class, both say they can see where they are lacking, and where the other can fill that void.
“I don’t approach the art world the way a traditional business-person would,” says Schwartzman, who was "restructured" out of his role as chairman of fine art at Sotheby's in 2020 after the house went private. “What [Schwartzman&] are doing as an advisory is much broader, much more elastic than how it usually exists. What makes Phillip and I different from one another is part of the strength of this collaboration. Even though our client relationships are very different our values and our way of approaching a project are very similar. That will result in a very additive partnership.”
As for those sharp brass tacks, each collaborative project will be weighed on its own merits. Both Schwartzman and Hoffman say the basic principle is a 50-50 split in profit when they work together. They both attest to the principle that their respective firms have only become successful because profits are second to the work.
“Rather than exist as competitors, Philip and I recognise the unique opportunity that we can create for our clients and the broader market,” Schwartzman says. “Philip has spent decades building a specific set of skills and experience that I don’t currently offer in-house. Additionally, given the size and scope of his firm, he engages with a pool of clients that I may not necessarily encounter. Together, we can be a more meaningful resource for our respective clients.”