Established in 1996, Heather James Fine Art is comprised of a global network of consultancies—including in San Francisco, New York, Basel, and more—as well as gallery locations in Palm Desert, California, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Working across time periods and movements, ranging from Old Masters and Impressionist to Modern and Contemporary, Heather James Fine Art is internationally renown for working with exceptional art and offering a bespoke collecting experience.
Heather James Fine Art is also esteemed for its museum-quality exhibitions, which see some of the biggest names in art history, ranging from Andy Warhol to Pablo Picasso, together in one place. In conjunction with the diverse range of art specializations offered, the firm is uniquely situated to work with collectors of all stages of their collecting journey.
Recently, we reached out to Owner Jim Carona and Global Director Montana Alexander to learn more about what sets Heather James Fine Art apart, and what new developments are on the horizon.
In addition to the numerous consultancies Heather James Fine Art has around the world, the two galleries—in Palm Desert and Jackson Hole—maintain rigorous exhibition programs. What goes into what you show at these locations?
Quality. There is nowhere else in either town you could go to see, say, a Monet painting for sale, a Georgia O’Keeffe painting for sale, a Picasso. Since we are eclectic, the exhibitions are always thoughtful reviews of art historical contexts across genres and timelines which in its own way, surprises the local audience whilst also giving us a marketing opportunity to those outside the region via digital outreach.
How would describe the core ethos of Heather James Fine Art?
We have great clients, who come from long-term relationship development by doing trustworthy business over the past three decades. We do our best to remain open to everyone, new or seasoned, and make the experience of collecting less snobby and less scary. I would say we are disruptive to the older way of doing business in the art world since we get excited about sharing artwork with a group of people via technology who will never see it any other way.
What are some of the ways you’ve observed the role of art galleries evolving or changing over the decades?
Dealers have become closer to financial advisors in many ways that we weren’t in the past when: a. artwork cost a whole lot less and b. there was far less speculative buying. Some think this is a cheapening of true connoisseurship but really, on the blue-chip level, collectors have always been market savvy and looked at these things as an investment—now dealers are just more a part of that transactionally. Recent decades have seen unprecedented wealth growth, with that art collecting has become a hobby for many more and opened it up to commoditization. Connoisseurship comes first, but investment is always a factor.
Do you see these changes affecting the role or perception of art consultants and consultancies?
Yes, I think with the expansion of collecting has come the expansion of “dealing” or “advising,” which has sometimes negative connotations since not everyone doing this is entirely scrupulous. There is a healthy amount of distrust, but for us given our track record and brick and mortar this is not so much a stumbling block as it may be for an independent person.
Are there any current trends or developments that you’ve noticed in the art market today that you are particularly excited or optimistic about?
Younger and younger clients getting interested in “older” art!
Do you have any perennial advice you give to art collectors?
Research before you buy, and only buy it if you love looking at it.
What’s on the horizon for Heather James Fine Art? Are there any forthcoming plans or aims that you can tell us about?
One of the most exciting things coming for us is the launch of our new advisory division. While we have always been invested in providing dedicated service and building strong relationships, this division will allow us to focus our expertise to help clients looking for that adviser relationship to strategically navigate the art world with knowledge and transparency. Heather James Art Advisory will be providing fiduciary duties and white-glove services to clients at all stages of their collecting journey including, but not limited to connoisseurship, valuation, authenticity, curation, financial services, museum loans, logistics, curation, education, and more.
Tom Venditti and Sarah Fischel will lead the new division. Tom came to Heather James after working for Paul Allen whose recent sale at Christie’s amounted to over $1.5 billion. These were only a portion of artworks Tom helped Paul acquire. Sarah grew up in a collecting family and carried that passion into her experiences at galleries eventually running one of our commercial spaces and focusing on the white-glove services we offer. Chip Tom, our Senior Curator, brings over four decades of experience curating over 100 exhibitions and bringing his expertise to corporate collections including luxury hotels and most recently the worldwide offices of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher. They all bring these experiences and their expertise to this exciting new venture.