Webinar Interview with Julie Gustafson, President of Heirlooms on Video

This webinar interview series with art world industry experts, recorded exclusively for Sotheby’s Institute of Art, reveals the stories behind decades of experience in collecting, managing and curating collections.

In this interview with Julie Gustafson of Heirlooms on Video, we hear of Julie’s experiences as a Senior Wealth Advisor for UHNW art collectors, both private and institutional.

Webinar Transcript

Thank you for joining us today on this ArtRatio Expert Interview, exclusively for Sotheby’s Institute of Art. I have the pleasure to introduce Julie Gustafson, who is President of Heirlooms On Video and specializes in video histories for private and institutional art collectors. Now, previously Julie spent 28 years in the wealth management sector, most recently as Senior Vice President of U.S. Trust in Chicago, coordinating the day-to-day needs for high net-worth families in investment management, philanthropy and trust services. Julie serves on several committees including the ‘School of the Art Institute of Chicago’ and the ‘Special Olympics of Illinois Foundation’. it’s great to have you with us today, Julie.

Welcome! Well good morning Manoj and thank you. It’s so wonderful to be with all of you here today. Thank you for having me. While the concept of emotional IQ is a buzzword and the subject of countless seminars in the corporate and business sectors, it also applies very much to the art market. To be self-aware, to engage in active listening and above all to demonstrate empathy and understanding. These are soft characteristics that are often neglected in prospect and client interactions.

Unlike the world of financial and investment management that I was a part of, the art market doesn’t enforce strict regulatory policies or adhere to defined fiduciary standards and while it has some structure, this is very much still a ‘people business’. As a former wealth advisor turned art professional, I continue to witness and to learn about the emotional and personal attachments that my clients have, not only for their collections but by extension to their families and to the legacy that they hope to leave behind. For many different reasons collectors keep these valuable assets to themselves, or share them only with those closest to them.

Quick story: some years ago I was asked to assume responsibility for a family relationship following the departure of their long time wealth advisor. To prepare for my first meeting with the family I reviewed the existing files and the most recent financial statement. I noticed that the insurance premium outlay was sky-high and it didn’t match up with the asset side. In my mind asset values were either missing, mis-stated, or they were paying far too much for their insurance. As a routine practice with new clients I always ask them to walk me through the financials. I found it an excellent way to plug in any gaps or to obtain further clarification from them. So I asked the patriarch abou these insurance expenses. Why were they so high? The answer: the art collection, worth an estimated 20 Million US Dollars at the time was not included as an asset. Why? and to quote him: “The bank doesn’t need to know about it, because I don’t need a loan. You’re not getting it!”.

So, in other words, he didn’t view it as a financial asset but as a highly personal one. But I wasn’t interested in pushing a loan. I was interested in fostering a relationship with them and over time it was a privilege for me to get to know them as people but also to view their collection, and over time other works that subsequently came into the collection family. Above all else, I learned a great deal from them and developed a trusted relationship that continues today.

Manoj, many thanks to you, and to all of the students, for allowing me to share my thoughts. And I wish all of you the very best of luck and success.

Julie, it was a real pleasure. Thank you for sharing these experiences with us and have a great day.

Julie: You too, thank you!