Oct 15, 2013
08:46 AMStyle & Shopping
A Connecticut Art Advisor; Not a Decorator, She Doesn't Match Paintings With Pillows
A cityscape painting in the "Painted Landscapes" book created by art advisor Lauren Della Monica of Litchfield.
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On a quintessential summer day in Litchfield, Conn., the ideal place to be having lunch is on Lauren Della Monica’s porch. The table is set with blue and white cloth and napkins, white plates piled with a seasonal salad; the hostess is also dressed in crisp blue and white, her only accessory: her amazing red hair.
Besides having a delicious lunch, I am ready to find out something about Ms. Della Monica that I don’t already know. (Full disclosure: She and I have been friends since the day I laid eyes on her.)
The Della Monicas moved to Litchfield four years ago and bought one of the centuries-old houses that line the main streets of town. (Below, Lauren Della Monica in a Passport magazine photo by Walter Kidd.)
“I grew up on the Cape and like most young people couldn’t wait to get away and so I moved to the noisiest city I could find–New York–to begin my career,” said Ms. Della Monica. “I think when my husband and I realized that we could never leave the city because of our professional lives, we decided we needed a place to relax and cool down. I had never been to Litchfield County, but I had a vision of a perfect New England town and Litchfield filled that for me. People are welcoming and friendly and they care about where they live. It’s the perfect antidote to being in New York.”
Ms. Della Monica attended Vanderbilt University, got her degree in fine arts and went on to Christie’s and earned a master’s degree of connoisseurship. The challenge then was to turn her knowledge into a viable business.
“I was still too young and didn’t have the financial capabilities to strike out on my own. I met several women who were attorneys at auction houses and museums; the idea of combining art and law appealed to me, so I decided the next step had to be law school.”
So Ms. Della Monica went off to Brooklyn Law School, where she took an art law seminar. There she met a professor and a partner in a law firm practicing art law who offered her a job. She got her one-in-a-million chance to practice law representing artists and museums.
“Our art law division was within a litigation department,” Ms. Della Monica explained. “If there was a discrepancy as to the authenticity of a painting there would be a lawsuit between the seller and the purchaser. The auction house, which was usually in the middle of the dispute, would be our client. It was a big change for me, going from a degree in art history to being a lawyer. I did it for two years and realized I needed to really get back into the art world itself.”
After her last job with Citibank Art Advisory Service, advising private banking clients on art acquisitions, she began to plan her way to her own business.
“I put out feelers letting everyone know I was back in the art business in an advisory capacity. I built a website explaining my background and what I could offer. It was terrifying to start a new venture but I’m glad I did.”
Much of Ms. Della Monica’s business comes from referrals and from Internet searches that bring up articles she has written. Still, there are people who wonder exactly what an art consultant does and why they need one.
“I’m not a decorator,” she explained. “I don’t come in and match a piece of art to a throw pillow. My clients tend to fall in several categories. There are those who understand the concept of collection building. They may already have started one and want to best know what to add that will enhance what they already own. They want to understand the art they are going to live with.
“Others are in it purely for the investment, and while they know what they like, it is likely that they will not hold onto the pieces forever. In those cases, I try to find art or an artist that is undervalued but will mature in value over time. And, yes, then there are those who really just want a fabulous piece to fill that space on the living room wall. Obviously I prefer those who want to build an ongoing collection, to teach them about art and develop their passion.”