BY ARIANNA LIM
ART BY JOHN PATRICK MENESES
The local art market has been enjoying a generous upturn, in large part a response to the recent rise of art fairs, auction houses, and galleries. Its historians, however, have been somewhat slower on the uptake.
The number of new players in the arena of private collecting is growing every year, but this has yet to translate to the practice of keeping close tabs on the art itself. Until now, there’s been little to no effort to keep track of artists’ full bodies of work, let alone the provenance of their pieces once they make their way into the market.
Enter Archivist, a fine art collections management company looking to bring order to the chaos. Founded by the trio of Reggie Aquino Diano, Kristoffer del Villar, and Danielle Ongsiako Isabela, the company launched in April as an answer to the largely unheeded need for the cataloguing, appraisal, and care of private art collections—in simple terms, for the advancement of art history.
“A database of people’s private collections is not just important to the individuals who have all these assets. The act of documenting, the act of archiving, contributes so much to the art industry,” explains Diano, Archivist’s managing director. “The history of a particular painting isn’t just the decade it was made in, or just the artist who made it. It’s also who owned it and how that person acquired it. Those things add value and history to pieces.”
“There are people who play this industry like it’s a game, and not always because they care about the story of the pieces on auction,” adds associate director del Villar. “Cataloguing helps show owners how important these pieces are. It’s not just about the worth, it’s not just about the buying. Documenting art and artists is about documenting for the future, so next generations know the story of the art, or why an artist is important.”
Archivist’s services focus first and foremost on creating inventories of clients’ collections, some of which are so vast that it’s not unheard of for highly valuable pieces to be misplaced. To complement this, they also offer appraisals, condition reports, and recommendations for proper maintenance. The latter is a significant aspect of collecting that’s often, but mistakenly, allotted less attention than the purchase itself. “When you buy a painting, sometimes it’s an important piece of history, there’s a whole lot behind it—but you have to make the effort to care for it because it’s not going to be with you forever, it goes down to different generations, different collectors,” says Isabela, associate director. “We want to elevate that standard.”
Apart from this, they also offer advisory services, providing counsel on matters of acquisition, deaccession, insurance, and the like. Their logistics arm completes their roster, offering framing, restoration, conservation, expert authentication, and proper installation.
Still, the founding partners are aware that there remains much work to be done as far as creating demand for their services goes. Much of this lies in developing the market’s awareness of the inherent connection between the act of buying and the responsibility to art history. “Our challenge is really to educate people about the need for archiving. The only way we will be able to convince them is if they link value to their pieces. This kind of niche model is not going to work for those who only see these things as objects,” says Diano. “It’s about tapping into an almost emotional connection.”