The Why of the Buy — 5 Questions for "Billionaire Row" Art Advisor Sarah Stein-Sapir

Emilie Trice | January 5, 2022 (Updated September 20, 2022)

Sarah Stein-Sapir of Stein-Sapir Art. Photo by Lucas Hoeffel.

Sarah Stein-Sapir’s art world pedigree can be summed up in one word: sterling. 

Sarah advises private individuals and developers through her company Stein-Sapir Art, which she founded in 2013. Her major development projects currently include Extell Development's ONE57 and the Central Park Tower in Manhattan, the “tallest residential tower in the world” and part of a series of ultra-lux NYC developments commonly referred to as “billionaire's row.” 

Sarah is also the founder and chair of the Madison Square Park Art Council, which is affiliated with the Madison Square Park Conservancy. She sits on the acquisition committee for the Young Collectors Council at the Guggenheim, and thereby votes on new additions to the museum’s permanent contemporary art collection.

In terms of her personal collection, Sarah owns works by contemporary artists including Rita Ackermann, Diana Al-Hadid, Miya Ando, Jaclyn ConleyLucy Dodd, Mark Hagen, Tony LewisAntonio Santín, and Erin Shirreff.

Sarah’s career began at Gagosian Gallery’s flagship space on West 24th Street, after studying art history at Columbia University and receiving a Masters in Contemporary Art from the Sotheby’s Institute in New York. Following Gagosian, Sarah worked with the World Wide Head of Contemporary Art at the auction house Phillips de Pury (now Phillips). She then joined Philippe Segalot at the esteemed art advisory firm Giraud Pissarro Segalot, which dealt primarily with late 19th, 20th & 21st century art. She also worked with former Christie’s rainmaker Guy Bennett while starting her own advisory firm.

In addition to her work on “billionaire’s row,” Sarah is active in a number of philanthropic causes. She’s on the art advisory board for the Coalition for the Homeless, a friend of RX Art, a volunteer for Free Arts NYC, and a trustee of the Ruth Stanton Foundation. 

While all of this sounds, frankly, exhausting, Sarah never seems to slow down. “My day-to-day differs depending on the season and which clients/projects are active,” she explains. “Some days I’m going to gallery shows, museum exhibitions or visiting artist studios and other days I’m going to auction previews, hosting clients lunches, or attending evening sales.” 

However, Sarah also stresses that, “A lot of my days are a lot less glamorous—they consist of me sitting at my computer doing research, looking at floor plans, preparing proposals, or dealing with shipments and paperwork. My client base varies just as much—I work with clients ranging from young individuals to established collectors to designers and developers.”

We asked Sarah five questions about her own art collection and the works she acquires on behalf of her clients. 

Sarah Stein-Sapir of Stein-Sapir Art. Photo by Lucas Hoeffel.

AA: Can you tell us about one favorite artwork you own and why you fell in love with it?

Stein-Sapir: One of my favorite artworks that I own is a painting on paper by Lucy Dodd. We were working together on a major commission and this was a study she did for the proposal. Not only do I think it’s a beautiful work but it represents a very important project and achievement for me.  

AA: Do the collections you're building with your clients have any overarching themes or particular styles? 

Stein-Sapir: Often when starting out with a new collector, there is no overarching theme involved other than “buy what you love.” That said, particular styles and themes start to emerge, which then tend to guide the rest of the collection moving forward.

I think it’s important for a collection to feel cohesive but that doesn’t mean there needs to be one single theme. I think when works are in dialogue with one another – formally, figuratively, historically, etc. — it enhances them individually and strengthens the collection as a whole.

AA: Where—or from whom—do you prefer to buy art and why?

Stein-Sapir: I buy from galleries, at fairs and at auction, primary and secondary market, it really depends on the client and what they’re looking for.

My preference is to buy from galleries because it tends to be a more patient process than at auction or at a fair. You have the opportunity to consider the breadth of an artist’s oeuvre and understand their work and market more in depth.

Sarah's project ONE57 in midtown Manhattan.

AA: Any horror stories that other collectors could learn from? 

Stein-Sapir: Luckily I haven’t had too many horror stories but things do happen, often out of your control. The important thing is to never go to your client with the problem, only the solution — handle the situation, learn from it and don’t let it happen again.

Some challenging situations have included:  a work getting destroyed during transport, installing a large painting on a wall that couldn’t support any hardware, and needing to refabricate a sculpture that decayed for no apparent reason.

AA: What’s your advice for new collectors just starting to develop their collection?

Stein-Sapir: Don’t let too many voices get inside your head about why you should or shouldn’t buy something. Feel secure in your taste, work with people that you trust, and educate yourself as much as possible.

Learn more about Sarah by visiting her website and following her on Instagram

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