September 16, 2017

A Collector's Collector

Donald Christiansen's Chelsea Art Group is blazing its own path in the mad, mad world of art.

by Nicole Haddad

Chelsea Art Group
Christiansen acquired Back of the Neck for a client determined to own a work by Basquiat just before it was sent to become part of a museum collection in Japan. Basquiat’s Untitled recently sold for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s—rendering it the sixth most expensive work ever sold at auction.

WHEN IT COMES TO ART, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But behind the glamorous façade, the art world's power players and top galleries have forged a distinctly commercial and highly competitive path
open to only a select—and privileged—few.

Enter Donald Christiansen, an intensely vocal and knowledgeable art consultant with an eye for investment pieces for the serious collector. Christiansen decided 22 years ago he was going to forge his own path, and today his team at Chelsea Art Group collects and purchases hard to-get pieces through their exclusive network of contacts to help art lovers and collectors alike diversify their portfolios. While Christiansen advises on and sells mostly modern (1900–1950s) and contemporary masters (starting with abstract expressionists in the late 1940s through the present), he also deals with mid-career artists, and he works with interior designers to help facilitate purchases of off-market artworks they would not have access to otherwise. He once purchased a Rothko for a client for over 80 million dollars.

Chelsea Art Group
On Christiansen’s recommendation, a couple purchased Predestination by
Minjung Kim at Art Basel in Miami. The British Museum recently picked up
three of the artist’s works for their Asian wing.

Christiansen can often be found jetting from one art fair to another. Whether it is TEFAF in Maastricht, Art Basel in Switzerland or Miami, ARCO in Madrid, or Zona Maco in Mexico, he is constantly sourcing for his clients. Although, says Christiansen, "my greatest interest is to expose people to the fascinating world of beauty, history, and the value of buying and living with artwork." Artists like Rauschenberg—an artist he says is highly undervalued—and Oldenburg join a list of works Christiansen says he himself will never part with. A large-scale work by Jose Lerma is prominently featured on his wall. Sometimes parting is more sorrowful than sweet.

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