An art advisor’s journey to Monaco wasn’t straightforward but after acquiring the necessary skillset on her way from Poland via Germany, USA and France, this was it. “I’ve always believed that Monaco has such a tremendous cultural and patrimonial heritage, it is not always very visible. Art and culture are intertwined with what vibrates in Monaco: the opera, the ballet, secure and robust financial infrastructure and philanthropy.”
I am sharing lunch in Karolina’s apartment on blvd de Suisse, literally basking in the early spring light. “It’s this luminosity of the Riviera that attracted the artists here in the first place,” says Karolina,: “Cézanne, Matisse, impressionists. This quality of light was something that attracted them most. Even Churchill came here to paint. He came to the Hotel de Paris, with a parrot that escaped and the entire Principality was looking for Churchill’s parrot, Carabinieri involved. They named the suite after Churchill after that incident because they wanted him to return. Sadly the parrot was never found.”
Karolina arrived to Monaco for good four years ago with the mission to find support for her project: art as an investment. “I was talking to private banks, to family offices – Barclays interviewed me and they were really close to opening an art desk – but they weren’t ready at that time.”
She eventually signed a contract with the multi-family office Rosemont International. “I started developing their art advisory department, art as an investment for their corporate clients as an added value to their existing services. For me it was an opportunity to holistically embrace all the players here and explain to people why you collect and how you should collect, how you should look at art. My objective was never portraying myself or giving the impression that I am here to sell something. I am not a merchant, I am not a gallerist – I am an advisor who really takes the client by their hand and works in a very bespoke manner.”
“Not everybody is flexible to understand certain laws of the art market in order to build a sustainable collection because people come with their preconceived ideas. Sometimes they are open, often they are very rigid and I respect that but I say, well, my role is to help you to build you an art collection that can stand the test of time. I am not here to sell you art, I am here to place art in your home, in your portfolio or in your investment vehicle… with responsibilities and commitment towards the regulatory and legal aspects as well.”
The experience was and is immense. “One of the lessons I took was the humility to interact with every client. I created Rosemont Art Club for clients and I was traveling with them, it was like an art travel experience. This was pre-Covid time, we had privileged access to world art fairs, guided tours. I was showing people beautiful pieces and showing them why this is a good buy but at the same time I was giving people the first experience of interacting with the galleries, merchants and other collectors. It was a lifestyle.”
Karolina has also initiated and invited the Deloitte Art & Finance Conference to the Fairmont Hotel in Monaco for the first time. Four hundred people attended it from all around the globe. “For the first time ever we spoke about the ecosystem and the correlation between art, finance, fine arts and culture. They should never be disconnected. The mistake that many people make is that they put art investment at the very last end of their investment chain. Even bankers look at art very sceptically because it’s a taboo for them, the risk, a lot of money going out of the account.”
“My profound desire and objective is to open up a dialogue with wealth managers family offices and give them tools to understand it’s actually very good for your client to buy art – don’t look at it as the money going out of the account – with negative interest rates nothing can beat, nothing can protect someone’s investment portfolio from financial erosion better than art and at the same time give a unique emotional and cultural experience.”
For many the Covid pandemic put the business on hold, but Karolina saw it as an opportunity. “The Art world handled the entire pandemic very well. Everything switched to digital. Galleries were selling through online communication or online viewing rooms and somehow art kept selling, but what was crucial was the ongoing interactions with collectors. You can’t let the client remain still. You need to keep up the momentum.”
Karolina says it is an adventure and an immense privilege to own your company in Monaco. Hers was established in December 2021. “I am doing really well. My message is to create a bespoke, trustworthy and transparent service from Monaco to the world. In a way with my activity I also tell the story of Monaco, which is going through immense digital transformation, from 5G to the Extended Monaco project, the Principality now has its eye on blockchain and is the only country in Europe using sovereign cloud.”
So-called NFTs, the ‘non fungible token” or a unique unit data that are logged and authenticated on blockchains, also apply to the 21st century art world.
When the wave of NFTs started Karolina was very sceptical, “until I said to myself I need to take a dip with my toes and the best thing was to open my digital wallet on blockchain and start with minimal purchases. The blockchain gives you an opportunity to browse and to see where your financial capacities are and the best thing is to really do it on your own and have fun with it… If I was to take you to see my art collection now it wouldn’t be to my home, we wouldn’t be going to my art gallery – we would just look at my phone through the digital gallery of the NFTs that one can purchase. The world is going digital. That is the future but having said that I am a true devotee of physical art. I will never replace the physical art with the NFTs. I think it’s a nice balance.”
To make NFTs more accessible, let’s take a look at how the Belvedere Museum in Vienna took its first steps into the metaverse. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Gustav’s Klimt iconic painting “The Kiss” was turned into a unique NFT project. A high-resolution digital copy was divided into a 100 x 100 grid resulting in 10,000 inimitable individual pieces that were offered as NFTs. One NFT was sold for €1,850 and as of now, 1,730 pieces have already been sold, already generating a revenue of 3.2 million euros of the possible 18.5 million euros.
“It’s also about expanding the canvas of audiences worldwide. Technology is about to create a scenario for artists that we haven’t seen in the history of mankind. The current state of the internet creates scenarios of opportunities for individuals that didn’t see them coming.”
For Karolina’s advisory firm, the art world is becoming even more exciting. “It is an unprecedented opportunity, and also a democratised experience – it’s open to everybody. Young adults are more savvy and work in that space confidently. It is ultra important to keep bringing in top talent and top advice in order to navigate the increasingly competitive market for crypto investing and art-tech ventures. China made waves by banning cryptocurrencies and other countries have restricted their use over fear that they would disrupt national controls of existing monetary systems. Lichtenstein, on the other hand, is the first country in the world which passed the Token & Trusted Technology Service Provider Act, which means they have comprehensive regulation of the token economy.”
“I am not giving up on physical art and visiting galleries and museums anytime soon but I am constantly dipping my toe into this brave new world. It’s important to look ahead for new opportunities with courage and tenacity and be surprised in joyful ways.”