Miami Art Dealer Turns Art World on its Ear by Selling High-End Works Online
The typical morning starts at 6am. Miami art dealer and curator Reed V. Horth wakes up before sunrise and checks his Blackberry for the most urgent international clients who have emailed during the night seeking investment artworks. He virtually hop scotches from Hong Kong to Dublin, London, Toulouse, Dubai and finally Hanover. After quickly prioritizing his emails into incoming dealer inquiries and outgoing client inquiries, he sets to work on locating precisely the correct sculpture or painting for the given client, whether corporate or private, investment or decorative, figurative or abstract. Obviously, the biggest names carry the most weight and receive the biggest priority. As the day progresses he works his way from time-zone to time zone locating art and placing the art in the hands of clients and partners who are best suited to benefit from the connection.
Horth is part of a growing number of business-owners working from home as the market for traditional brick-and-mortar businesses is tightening and most are turning to alternate modes of commerce. His internet-centric company, ROBIN RILE FINE ART (www.robinrile.com) specializes in the location and procurement of investment-level paintings and sculpture with prices starting at $5,000 and working their way to over $20 Million. Many of the world’s most important masters have had works come through Horth’s hands in the past 13 years, including works from Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana, Arman, Marc Chagall, Rembrandt van Rijn, Julian Schnabel, Fernando Botero, Frederick Hart, Richard MacDonald and others. He also has a growing contingent of emerging talent in figurative and contemporary paintings and sculpture. RRFA conducts exhibits, such as the highly successful SATELLITE Art & Design show during Art Basel Miami Beach 2009, and other Art openings throughout Miami and South Florida. This allows both established clients to edify themselves as to the physicality of ROBIN RILE FINE ART, as well as exposing new collectors to both Mr. Horth and his stable of artists. Future plans include international traveling exhibitions with a combination of both emerging talent and established masters.
“It is the blue-chip names that get your foot in the door”, says Horth, dressed in his customary work pajamas. “You know, [Andy] Warhol, [Pablo] Picasso, [Marc] Chagall, [Salvador Dali]. But, once you are chatting with clients, they tend to throw out some other, often obscure, names that they really want to collect. What is nice is that they also tend to “discover” my emerging artists and are surprised by the level of talent we have located. One of the luxuries I have is that I am not bound by space, time, geography or budget in my searches. If a client is serious about locating a major work, I go out and find it. If a client wants a particular emerging artist… I go out and locate them. If I know a client is serious, it may take me months, but I will find what they want at a price which is fair to both buyer and seller.”
After having been in the gallery business throughout Florida since 1996, Reed has mastered the art of sales-floor selling. But, in 2003 he developed a nearly complete virtual model for perpetuating online sales. “While I still enjoy doing exhibits and meeting clients face-to-face,” notes Horth, “the online model is a way many high-end clients are developing relationships with a dealer they trust to give them objective advice before actually committing to purchase. The world is a much smaller place now and clients want a small group of trusted people to weed the wheat from the chaff.” Obviously, he notes, reputation is key to success with this model. After a successful transaction, he asks each client to give him one referral of a friend or associate that might benefit from his expertise and inventory. “After all, their friends are generally in the same tax bracket”. Beyond this, he also must be extremely selective about what to present and what not to present. “There are a lot of Charlatans out there who want you to move works without proper documentation,” Reed warns. “You only get one chance with a client at this level. If the paperwork is wrong, the best thing that can happen is that the client never speaks to you again. The worst is that you end up in court. Why would anyone take a chance like that with their clients? So I reject about 90% of the art I am presented with.”
In this economic climate you might expect fewer people buying art as it is traditionally seen as a luxury expense. Horth finds that most of his collectors are active simply because their financial position allows them more leverage in this market than others. “Not having to pay for a second rent, power, phone, light bulbs and everything else that goes into a galleries allows me to give my clients the great deals they are looking for right now. While not a miracle worker, this flexibility keeps my inventories from going static. I was completely set up with this business model at just the right time. The market slumped and I hit my stride all at the same time.”
Under his watchful eye, museums, private and institutional investors, collectors and designers have sought his advice on projects and curation. While not exactly Hugh Hefner, the pajamas are certainly one distinguishing characteristic this high-end dealer has found that set him above from the rest in a tough economy.
More can be seen at www.robinrile.com and www.robinrile.com/blog.
Reed V. Horth or Kat Barrow
ROBIN RILE FINE ART