Nick Campbell is on the cusp of his tenth year as one of the city’s top regarded art advisers. But as he sits across from me in a charcoal suit and sipping a glass of sparkling water, it’s hard to believe that he’s anywhere near old enough to have reached such a milestone already. In fact, he was just 19 when he bought (and later sold for three times what he’d spent) his first piece — a sleeping lot by Andy Warhol of Jean Cocteau.
“It was in this big house sale in Surrey and I saw it bundled under a staircase, and I fell in love with it,” he remembers. He remains determined to buy it back one day. It’s this penchant for sniffing out what others might have missed, alongside a genuine enthusiasm for the art he sources, which has taken Campbell’s career from strength to strength while many of his contemporaries have struggled.
“There’s way too much emphasis in the discussion of art on the top 5%..."
“A lot of people sink quite quickly, because they’ll say ‘well, I have a couple of rich friends and I know of a Picasso’”. Suffice to say, knowing of a Picasso is one thing; the art of the deal, Campbell can attest, is quite another. Before founding his consultancy, Campbell studied Art History and Art Management, and worked in a handful of galleries where he learned the basics. “I had never really come across the idea of being an art adviser, but I started to watch these guys coming in, and saw the freedom they had when they were buying pieces that would be the most important to their clients.” A spark was ignited, and Campbell set out to make his own ripples in a notoriously overcrowded pond.
“As I became more involved, I gained access to exhibitions at smaller galleries and realised there were amazing pieces that didn’t cost the earth. I figured I should do a little homework, and realised that there was nobody offering advice for the little guys with smaller budgets. There was too much emphasis on big money.” Campbell had found his market, and quickly set about creating Narcissus Arts, a consultancy which sources pieces for under £10,000. “There’s way too much emphasis in the discussion of art on the top 5%,” he says, “when there’s so many interesting, promising artists out there.”
“A lot of people sink quite quickly, because they’ll say ‘well, I have a couple of rich friends and I know of a Picasso’..."
His quest to seek out the Next Big Thing for discerning clients sees Campbell “looking behind all the noise around the big art fairs and big ticket items,” travelling to attend all the graduate shows he can, and keeping an ear to the ground for under-represented artists doing underground pop-ups. It’s a quest he’s still excited about after a decade. “I want to be doing this forever,” he enthuses. “I realise every day I’m so lucky to be doing something that I love so much.”
This Tastemakers interview was published in the June/July issue of Gentleman’s Journal. Get your copy here…