Art appraiser Massimiliano Fiorio: Returning to beauty to look beyond the crisis

Lopera darte as an emotional investment, capable of transcending the classic definition of a safe haven asset and proving to be a valuable ally in overcoming the crisis through the value of beauty. This is what Maximilian Fiorio, art and antiques appraiser, claims. Flanked in the business by Loredana Carena, his Turin-based showroom firm pays special attention to market transformations and online communication channels (the latest idea is geolocated video appraisals, to get a family property appraisal in Covid times). Fiorio explains the secrets of his profession.

Maximilian Fiorio
Maximilian Fiorio

Did your passion for artwork originate within your family or did it develop over time?
It is an activity that has been handed down in the family for three generations. Of course, I did specific studies and traveled a lot abroad: Switzerland, Germany, France. In Milan and Bologna, on the other hand, I took specialized courses on painting, antiques and decorative arts, and then in-depth seminars on deontological aspects and expert techniques. I worked for about ten years in an auction house where I learned a great deal, both from the commercial point of view and from the point of view of interacting with and welcoming the public: I remember it as an important stage from a formative point of view. Later I opened my own antique gallery in the capital, independently of the family galleries, then I decided more recently to start a studio with the idea of combining old-fashioned commerce with a new way of interacting with the antiques environment. So a way that is more and more focused now on the online aspects, which are faster and more immediate. As for the studio-showroom, already 10 to 15 years ago, in America and England this hybrid type of showroom and studio was going strong where the professional interacted with the clientele, but at the same time was free to make appraisals and site visits from their clients in total autonomy. I approached the world of appraisals around 2005, when the crisis was already being felt and I had the need to open the studio. Today I am a technical consultant for the Court of Turin as an appraiser darte. I also advise on inheritance and often work with figures related to movable and immovable property to estimate a family property in case of succession. I would like to take this opportunity to point out the following: it is essential that the work of analysis and valuation is carried out by an accredited appraiser who is registered in the appropriate Court Register. Often, in fact, considerable confusion arises, due to a large number of individuals who carry out activities in this field, proposing appraisals without being registered in the Roll and, therefore, producing documents that have no legal value, but only (possibly) cognitive.

However, at such an uncertain time, also from a financial point of view, it has been observed that the value of contemporary works of art is growing over the long term. There has also been an increase in participation in auctions and purchase requests, especially online. You yourself offer geolocated video appraisals to clients for those wishing to appraise their inherited darte and dantiques...
Smart working has boosted an important trend for auction houses and online sales, mainly related to a lower-middle and upper-middle clientele level, although the old-style part of the antiques business has suffered a bit. In any case, there has been a boom in the level of sales. In addition to all this, in such a fickle international financial market with almost or completely negative rates of return, the choice to diversify one’s investments with the purchase of works of art is proving to be the winning strategy, along with the pleasure of owning and enjoying a sometimes unique sculpture, majolica, contemporary painting, jewelry or art object. As for my figure, during the lockdown I interacted with clients through smart working. In particular, remote video surveying is a mode that makes it smooth and easy to view works inside homes. It is a method that works wonders for certain types of furniture and objects, while others require subsequent direct viewing. Such is the case with paintings: between restorations, refurbishments, and color falls, video surveying can prove a bit arduous and close viewing is necessary. But by and large it is a tool that has worked very well, and clientele continue to contact me to ask for video-experiences, especially the youth audience, who also need useful information on legal, inheritance, and insurance.

In these times of crisis, who are the main investors in artworks? Is there a renewed interest from young people as well?
Currently, the youth public, as is well known, is attracted to very different aspects of antiquarian culture. In some cases there is a tendency to buy houses around the world by furnishing them in a minimalist way, with the juxtaposition of generally sought-after and valuable antiques. We are often offered entire collections of heterogeneous objects, not always with purely collector’s scruples but sometimes as a serial accumulation, typical of an era in which an entire mechanism revolved around artwork: fashion, magazines, publications and monographs, interior designers, interior design architects. Indeed, collections emerge from the economic boom of the 1950s/70s, when there was a fervent and sometimes competent collecting interest. It is an era when the bourgeoisie, a new emerging class, sought to assert the power and wealth they had acquired, with furnishings, paintings, sculptures, porcelain, silverware, etc., that tangibly refer to the social status they had achieved. These thematic collections may be exclusively about paintings, but also about furnishings created by an interior designer or architect, which have a certain functional logic in the juxtaposition of materials; or they may belong to neophyte collectors who in the wake of the economic boom were compulsively buying anything and everything.

What are your thoughts about art as a way to overcome the crisis?
Emotional interest has been caught in a remarkable way in multiple collecting sectors, starting with the simplest: from limited edition pens to designer handbags to artworks of international interest. I also experienced this phase in my daily life: during the lockdown, I would be contacted by clients who had put their numismatic collection in order, or had found small objects (objets de vertu) heirlooms, paintings they didn’t think they had, etc. The abundance of time available during the quarantine triggered passionately conducted research through rediscovering the past, but it also increased long-distance purchases.

What advice would you give to a young person who wants to start his or her own business?
The main ingredient is undoubtedly great passion sometimes innate, then it takes focused training: study is essential, especially today that there are more opportunities to specialize in the field, such as master’s or bachelor’s degrees in restoration. Also basic is an internship in a daste house or a good art gallery, especially abroad. Finally, it is essential to have a good interpersonal and, especially, commercial spirit.

Art appraiser Massimiliano Fiorio: Returning to beauty to look beyond the crisis
Art appraiser Massimiliano Fiorio: Returning to beauty to look beyond the crisis

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