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Community Highlights: Meet Colleen Fanning of Fanning Art Advisory

Today we’d like to introduce you to Colleen Fanning.

Hi Colleen, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Thank you so much for inviting me to speak with you, I’m honored. Growing up in San Francisco I developed a voracious appetite for the arts.  Monthly visits to the de Young Museum and Legion of Honor certainly were early training to help me look at art. My grandmother taught me about the visual language which artists use to express ideas. She made me find the words to describe what an artist was saying which was not always easy, especially when she sat me in front of a Jackson Pollack painting and asked me to articulate the artists’ creative explorations. Today, as an art historian my academic and professional education is useful in exploring how artists express their ideas about the times from which they come. Their voice is our way of understanding history. In my opinion, we learn history from the poets, writers, visual artists, musicians, dancers, choreographers and architects.  Their output tells us about previous cultures, and about our culture today.

After graduating from the University of Colorado with a BFA in Art History in 1996, I began working in public art for mayors Wellington Webb, John Hickenlooper, and Michael Hancock. That led to managing and growing the collection at the Denver International Airport, the largest infrastructure project in US history at the time. There is not a more regulated nor complex environment to create art for than for an airport. Additionally, there is not a more broad-reaching environment to present art and artists. Art in airports reaches billions of passengers per year. Many opportunities exist for artists in these venues which is a valuable part of airport infrastructure projects around the world today.

Some of the artists I’ve been blessed to work with on site-specific commissions for public spaces are notable artists such as Jaune Quick-to-see Smith, Betty Woodman, Judith Baca, Patty Ortiz, Larry Kirkland, Bernar Venet, Ed Ruscha, Dennis Oppenheim, Donald Lipski, Luis Jimenez, Fernando Botero, Lawrence Argent, Jonathan Borofsky, Buster Simpson, Laura Haddad & Tom Drugan, Michele Gutlove, Michael Singer, Collin Parsons, Jodie Roth Cooper and many more. 

Since that initial work in the public sector, today the primary focus of Fanning Art Advisory’s services are building collections, fine art sales, and collections planning. Both visual art and NFT art are my focus today. I have had the great honor of placing important works from the estates of Elaine de Kooning, Pat Passlof, Louise Bourgeois, Pablo Picasso, Robert S. Duncanson, Sally Michel Avery, Gerard Dillon, Alexander Calder, Madison Fred Mitchell, as well as placing works by living Contemporary artists such as Catherine Opie, Marilyn Minter, Jordan Casteel, Ed Ruscha, Yoshitomo Nara, Takashi Murakami, Zhang Huan, Damien Hirst, as well as Old Masters and emerging artists from around the world. I help collectors identify the very best works from the artists they are interested in having in their collection. NFT’s are an extremely exciting area for collecting. I’m working for singer songwriter Macy Gray on a collection that will drop early 2022.  

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
This is a great question, and one I like very much. As they say, our mistakes make us stronger to which I can attest is true. The single most beneficial struggle in the early days of my business, which I started in 2007, was pushing through limiting beliefs about my value and having the courage to charge for my services and not give myself away for free. Some might say charging for ones services shouldn’t require courage, but I see people in the creative sectors, especially artists, who struggle with this. The economic crash of 2008-2012 primarily taught me that I needed to restructure my art business into a recession-proof model. I had a great mentor, a fabulous attorney in Chicago who established an art law practice, and it was he who gave me the greatest advice. His advice was to provide expertise that will brings lasting value to each client. He helped me define the three areas of my practice: building collections, fine art sales, and appraisals. These three areas of my practice flow beautifully between the needs of both public and private collectors.  They are the same services, though public art requires more contracts expertise for commissioning artists for site-specific work. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Fanning Art Advisory?
As an art adviser, I see many scenarios.  Most often it’s a collector who would have benefited from having an ally on their side at the time of buying or selling.  For example, recently one work of art that a client desired was found to have been cut in half likely as a result of a framer cutting off a damaged section of the canvas.  It was hours of detective work to ultimately find from the artists grandson that his famous grandmother never painted square canvases, which this painting was.  He ensured me that the painting wasn’t right which I shared with my client, and we passed on the work saving tens of thousands of dollars.   

Stewardship is another educational area that Fanning Art Advisory helps collectors understand. It can be a great responsibility to be the steward of an artist’s output. Stewardship can enhance the store of value of the objects in the collector’s holdings. By going deep on provenance research or ensuring a work has been certified by the Art Loss Register, or ensuring a work has clear title with no fractional ownership, I help my clients avoid potentially expensive headaches. It’s massive amounts of due diligence to protect collectors from the little things that can fall through the cracks on transactions. As an art adviser, I provide an impartial voice, and at the same time like advice from any professional advisor, the client doesn’t have to act on my advice, but at least they are armed with a level of detail that allows them to make informed decisions. I’ve been in the trenches since 1996 and there is not much that surprises me anymore.  

Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
I have had many mentors, cheerleaders, and clients to whom I owe everything. In public art, John Grant, Fabby Hillyard, Mimi Moore, Tina Poe and Vicki Braunagel helped me cut my teeth. Fabby gave me the greatest advice in the early days, “fake it till you make it,” which was especially meaningful at the time. In my private practice, I’m especially blessed to work with collectors who trust me with their collections.  Most are interested in the journey of learning as we uncover the history of artists, as well as play detective. Artist and collector Sarah Anderson is a wonderful ally who I am grateful to have in my life, someone who is on her own artistic journey learning both art history as well as developing of her own art practice as a painter.  Rebecca Martin, an esteemed commercial realtor in Denver allowed me to interrupt her on a regular basis in the early years to ask the re-occurring question; “what is my value, I’m just not sure?”  She has become a friend, and trusted colleague who pushed me through a limiting belief that I struggled with in those early years.  Both collectors Bruce Alexander and Judy Pietlock trusted me with their extensive collections for which I am eternally grateful for their trust to help them divest their collections.  

Thanks to Voyage Magazine for proving the space for each of your interviewees to acknowledge those people who have been instrumental in our lives.  It’s a beautiful tradition for your magazine and one I’m grateful for here.  

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

Colleen Fanning
Pat Passlof, “Lookout”, 1959, © The Resnick Passlof Foundation

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