The Art of Selling Botero
By Jill Patterson
Felipe Grimberg’s success as a private art dealer spans nearly three decades. Often he has operated under the radar without others knowing what he does. He guards his connections closely and grants interviews with press selectively. For these reasons, his recent book, Selling Botero, proves a fascinating read, with a glimpse into the world of a fine art dealer. Fernando Botero himself showed surprise to discover Grimberg had sold more of his works than any other art dealer worldwide. In interviews, Botero refers to Felipe as a man of deep connoisseurship, he has become an expert in my work, a curator with an unerring eye for its history and provenance.
He can spot a fake at a glance. He has also become a friend. In Grimberg’s book, he reveals his journey from nearly invisible admirer to Botero’s trusted dealer. Peppered with engaging anecdotes about his life, he talks about how he can see and feel the energy of a great work of art as it passes through his hands, and he describes his job as a “transferor of beauty.”
JP: Can you talk about why the art world considers Botero the most important living Latin-American artist today? Does it have to do with the number of works in museums or the number of commissions?
FG: The international art community considers Botero one of the most important living Latin-American artists because in his 70-year career he has had exhibitions in the most important museums worldwide, his works are in the most prestigious art collections, and have achieved a record volume of sales at auction.
In regard to commissions Botero never takes a commission to produce artwork. He paints what he likes and the market buys whatever works he has to offer.
JP: Can you expand on what it is about Botero’s art that you and the public find so captivating?
FG: First of all, I was captivated by him being a Colombian artist (I am also from Colombia), and when I grew up, he was already the most famous and important artist initially in Colombia, then one of the 10 top leading Latin-American artists. His style, the volume, the colors and the way he translates to the public the real Colombian landscape – and the life figures in a very joyful way – all contribute to my passion for his art. I studied his work and it was like love at first sight. He was not painting exactly the volume of the people, or as people would say, fat people. He never painted fat people. It was always volume, which is what he discovered in the late 50s. Once when he was painting a mandolin, he made the center hole very small and expanded the rest of the instrument dramatically – and that’s when he started analyzing these kinds of transformations, arriving at a point of increasing the volume [as his signature style]. That’s one of the things that I like, that he is still able to play in a joyful way with this transformation of the human figure.
FG: I have always been mindful of protecting and maintaining the value of Botero’s work for both the artist and the collector. During this 30 years selling his work, the value of his art, of course, has increased very steadily. He is an artist whose prices deserve to be high because of his career, life and success. But reality is what it is. If he was born in the northern hemisphere, his prices would have been much higher. There is always the stigma for artists coming from Latin America, that they can’t surpass the American or European artist, but it is a myth. Botero is the driving force in the Latin-American auction sales in New York. Without his works these sales will not take place. My first sale of a Botero sculpture 25 years ago was for $32,000. The same piece sells today for $380,000.
JP: What is your advice for young collectors or people new to collecting? How do you pick a winner?
FG: Since a lot of people are just buying because it’s fashionable today to buy art, it’s definitely important for young collectors to get proper advice and focus on the art they like, understand, and makes them feel happy and comfortable. Collecting art is not merely buying art, it is more of a process that requires researching, evaluating, visiting museums, galleries and looking in the right places. There are experienced gallerists and art dealers like me that have a proven track record in the art field and we as professionals, guide, find, sell and assist our clients and collectors in either acquiring single pieces or in building or complementing their collections.
To pick a winner artwork for me is to choose the one that won your attention, that you liked the most, that you can afford, that you can live with hanging in your home, and makes you happy.
JP: Is there any rule of thumb about how much of a high-net-worth portfolio should be fine art, as compared to stocks, real estate, precious metals, etc.?
FG: At this time, banks and financial institutions are advising their customers that a certain amount of their portfolio should be invested in art. No specific amount is stipulated.
JP: In your book, you say that Botero believes art should produce happiness. Could you comment?
FG: I have sold many other artists besides Botero. Botero is one of the most important ones in my career because I have dedicated a lot of my time to his work and I think I understand it very well. It became a passion. But when I buy something, an artwork, for me or for a client, or collector, I have to have a good feeling about it because I cannot sell something that is not nice according to my taste. I have to like it. So that’s when I say that art that comes to my hands and I transfer then to whoever will buy it from me, it’s like I’m passing the beauty that specific artwork is carrying.
Felipe Grimberg Fine Art is located at 4770 Biscayne Blvd. Ste 840 in Miami, Florida. Selling Botero is now available on Amazon. Find more information at www.fgfa.com.