If there’s one mileu that hasn’t slowed down at all during the pandemic, it’s that of art. We talk to industry veteran Yuki Terase about her new advisory firm and the Asian art market.
There’s a new player in the art-advisory scene and it’s helmed by some of the best in the business. Heading up its Asian arm is Yuki Terase, a Prestige Women of Power honouree, while co-founders Amy Cappellazzo and Adam Chinn hold down the fort in the West.
“We were all colleagues in Sotheby’s,” says Terase, a former head of the auction house’s contemporary art division in Asia. “Amy, as head of the company’s global fine art division, was technically my boss. I was impressed from the start by her charisma, energy and open-minded entrepreneurial spirit, which is something very refreshing in such a conventional industry. She brings with her 30 years of experience and expertise at the highest tiers of the Western contemporary art world.
“Adam, on the other hand, is someone who speaks the languages of both Wall Street and art, and was critical in evolving the understanding of art as an asset class. Previously the COO of Sotheby’s, he oversaw the structuring of high-value deals. As for myself, being based in Asia, I played a role in growing and nurturing the new and swiftly burgeoning art market in the region over the past few years. So, in that sense, we’re very used to working with each other.”
Their new venture, Art Intelligence Global, will be headquartered in both Hong Kong and New York, with the Hong Kong space set to open end of May. “We’re really excited about the space. As an up-and-coming arts district, Wong Chuk Hang is a fascinating and evolving neighbourhood with an increasing number of new creative businesses. It’s a unique district in Hong Kong that falls perfectly in line with our company spirit.”
The role of an art advisor is to provide expert consultation to private buyers, foundations and estates to curate and manage their collections. Not limited merely to choosing pieces for investment purposes, advisors are key to bridging the gap for consumers in an extremely fast-paced and booming industry.
“Over the past 18 months we saw tremendous change in the industry and felt a need for a nimbler and more flexible vehicle through which to better serve clients and stakeholders – to address ongoing disruptions and make positive changes where necessary,” Terase explains. “A key factor was the rise of Asia vis-à-vis the overall trajectory of the global market. We observed the need for a company with global expertise with equal footing in Asia and the established Western scene. We’re extremely excited to be pioneering a fresh hybrid style of advisory that’s multicultural, fast-paced and nimble.”
Asked whether the pandemic affected any of their plans, she replies, “To be honest, not much was affected. The art world has proven itself to be business as usual. Perhaps one difference is how some of our colleagues still haven’t met face to face, despite working together day-and-night in different time zones. Luckily, I was able to travel to New York in November for the launch. With the decrease of international travel, everything is virtual now – Amy, Adam and I wake up to each other’s texts and go to sleep after phone calls with each other.”
As to how the Asian buyers’ market compares to the West, Terase says the momentum and potential are enormous. “There’s a lot of passion and a huge desire to learn [in Asia]. There are a lot of new entrants, many of whom are very young – much younger than the average collector in the West. A lot of the energy is online and – especially due to the pandemic – Asian collectors have become used to buying art without seeing the works in real life. Their tastes are also more personal and eclectic than the traditional Western collector. Young Asian collectors tend to curate their collection according to their personal aesthetic, rather than strictly adhering to traditional classifications of genres or categories.”
Terase is no stranger to this world. Despite starting off her career as an investment banker in Morgan Stanley, she views stepping back into the art field as a “homecoming”.
“I loved art as a child and aspired to be an artist, because I had always had such a deep passion for it. A key moment that made me realise I’d have to go back to art was getting the chance to experience the exhibition Sensation at London’s Royal Academy of Arts in 1997, which showed contemporary works from the private collection of Charles Saatchi – including many works by the YBAs. I was a high-school student at the time, and the London scene was pre-Tate Modern and not known for being avant-garde. I was inspired and in awe of the exciting and daring works, and by the freshness of the entire exhibition – that was the moment when it all changed for London. It was also amazing that such provocative works were showing in a city filled to the brim with great classical works in historical institutions such as the National Gallery and Tate Britain.”
Terase admits that her years of training and experience in finance proved a great preparation for navigating the art world. “Attention to detail, client-oriented skills and the drive to execute at high levels of professionalism – all these are universal across finance and art. These standards continue to influence my everyday work.”
Her love for the industry spills out with heartfelt ardency. “I’ve genuinely enjoyed the entire 10 years of my art career so far. I feel extremely privileged to have had the pleasure of coming across great art every day – not just selling and dealing art, but seeing art, researching art and having inspiring conversations with people who are extremely passionate and knowledgeable about art.
“I love getting to know collectors and their stories, as well as artists and their stories. For me it’s not about the absolute value of the paintings I handle, but the tales behind each work, each collection, and each sale. Every auction I put together was meaningful to me, whether they grabbed world headlines and public attention, like the collaborations with NIGO®, T.O.P [this month’s cover star] and Jay Chou, or whether they were geared towards more niche audiences and collectors, like the single-artist auctions for the post-war Japanese artist Takeo Yamaguchi, for example.
“All the great role models I encountered in my life, regardless of their age, have young, passionate, and curious minds,” says Terase. “The art world is a glorious universe filled with infinite opportunities – to learn, to explore, and to create your own unique slice of the world.”