Demystifying the Collector-Dealer Relationship

Key takeaways from the expert panel discussion unpacking the collector-dealer relationship, and how it will evolve
4 minutes to read

New York City, April 30th. On the morning of Frieze New York, Artlogic hosted an exclusive breakfast panel discussion that explored that most vital and mysterious of subjects: the collector-dealer relationship.  

The panel, moderated by Julia Halperin, CULTURED Editor at Large, brought together several leading collectors and dealers at New York City’s Fifth Avenue Hotel, including:

  • Carla Camacho, Collector & Partner at Lehmann Maupin, who has a 20-year career as both a dealer and a collector

  • Rodney Miller, Collector & Vice Chairman at J.P. Morgan, and one of ARTnews’ top 200 art collectors in the US

  • Christine Messineo, Director of Americas, Frieze, who has held important positions at galleries across the US before leading Frieze art fair in the US

  • Roselyn Mathews, Collector & VP Brand of Lucifer Lighting, her family’s luxury lighting company, which recently launched a showroom in Tribeca that collaborates with leading galleries

The lively conversation covered the unorthodox ways in which dealers and collectors connect to form meaningful relationships, the power dealers have to guide the tastes of their clients, the rules of engagement, preferred communication channels, and navigating difficult conversations. 

In attendance were 150+ gallery directors, dealers and collectors from across New York’s vibrant arts scene and beyond. 

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Image Credit: Rupert Ramsay/

The event was introduced by Joe Elliott, Artlogic’s President and Chief Commercial Officer, who set the tone by reminding the room that “trust and a shared love of art” were at the foundation of the collector-dealer relationship.

Then, Halperin kicked things off by asking about unusual ways collectors and dealers have met.

Messineo said that, even as a gallery director, she would always sit at the front desk to take advantage of that first crucial interaction: “I would talk to almost anyone who asked me a question, and that was how I built up a group of collectors who I continue to have a relationship with now.”

She used the example of one particular collector – formerly a hotel concierge, who had been treated dismissively by other galleries in the city – to illustrate an important point: dealers should be open to learning from their collectors: “He was one of the most curious collectors I’ve ever met, and he knew more about one of the artists we were exhibiting than I did. I love the idea that education goes both ways. You cultivate a relationship that’s as much about what’s happening in the gallery as it is outside of the gallery.”

Image Credit: Rupert Ramsay/

For Miller, dealer referrals from other collectors have proved invaluable over 25 years of building his collection: “Those referrals can actually start a friendship. You walk into that gallery and there’s this genuine understanding about why you’re there, but also that creativeness and open mindedness that accelerates you to that next level where the fun and the exploration begins. There’s nothing wrong with walking in cold, but introductions are better.”

Miller also urged collectors to go in with an open mind: “A really important part of collecting is just coming in with an open mind and taking advantage of all the work that the galleries have done. I bought my first video not because I had planned to, but because I was encouraged to look at it and be moved by it.”

Image Credit: Rupert Ramsay/

Next, a question around the rules of engagement between dealers and collectors proved particularly illuminating. 

Camacho said: “Relationships need to start as much as possible in face to face situations. I love to visit collector’s homes and get a sense of not just who they are but how they live. I think it’s important to tailor each relationship based on who they are fundamentally.” An important part of that process is asking biographical questions: “What I really want to understand is the integrity of the collector, because if they’re not committed to art and artists I’m generally not interested in working with them.”

From the collector perspective, Mathews laid out her own rules for engaging with dealers, especially when starting out: “Different dealers bring different value to you. It’s important to realise that dealers will push you in a direction, but you need to stay true to your north star, to what you love, what you’re interested in; what mediums captivate your attention? What's the storyline of a piece of art that mesmerises?"
Image Credit: Rupert Ramsay/

Halperin also asked about the inevitable difficult conversations that collectors and dealers sometimes have to have.

In response, Camacho urged dealers to be honest, especially when many buyers are vying for a limited supply of works by an in-demand artist: “I try to be as honest as possible because, at the end of the day, it’s my integrity. If there’s an opportunity in the future I can tell them that it’s coming up and that I’ll prioritise them for it, but it’s not always easy.”

Mathews said collectors shouldn’t be shy of asking for a more favourable deal: “I don’t think you should be afraid to ask for a discount or ask for extended payment terms. I think that when you show interest and your excitement and happiness about what you’re going to buy, you stay focused on what you want.”

However, Messineo reminded the room that paying in full can have a big impact on the artist: “If you are in a position to be supportive in that way, it helps the gallery. Find the right moments for the discount, but if you are in a position to pay outright, it makes a huge difference”, and can even lead to better opportunities for the collector, like the artist making exclusive works available to them.

Miller added: “Are you pleasant when you’re in the gallery? Are you asking for that discount? Are you paying on time? These are things that collectors sometimes forget.”

“If you take anything away from this, once you’ve started to establish a meaningful relationship between a dealer and a collector, pay on time”, concluded Halperin.

Head to the event recording

June 6, 2024