Building an art collection serves not only as an investment and overall asset diversification, but also as a way of creating and preserving a legacy. 

Although traditionally dominated by high-net-worth males, the art industry is now seeing an increasing number of female collectors who are responsible for a significant share of the market. In the past two years, 34 per cent of female collectors spent more than $1 million versus 25 per cent of male collectors. And in the first half of 2021, as the industry was bouncing back from the Covid-19 pandemic, spending by female collectors increased by over one-third compared with just 9 per cent for their male counterparts.

On this episode of Women in Family Business, Paola Matallana González  discusses the process of building an art collection and taking it from private to public, including some of the common challenges faced and how they are best overcome. She also outlines the importance of encouraging the next generation of art collectors to share their collections, and passes on her advice to those who are uncertain how to start building their collection and creating their legacy.

Paola Matallana Gonzalez
Paola Matallana Gonzalez courtesy of the guest


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Key takeaways:

  • “Art doesn’t belong to us; we are just custodians of it.” The next generation of art collectors should take time to understand who they are and the direction in which they want their collection to go. Pick a theme and be strict with it, so that all the pieces in the collection are in harmony and dialogue with one another.
  • Sustainability is a very important democratization of art.” Collecting art to make a profit can now be tied in with important issues such as sustainability. The focus is using education to start a shift to making the right profit, not just any profit.
  • The next generation of art collectors should listen to their heart and explore their passion. Mentoring is crucial – ensure these are people outside your immediate family that you trust and admire.


R: Welcome to the conversation on women and family business. We are WiFB, the global initiative that offers an opportunity to women all over the world to share their thoughts and experiences related to the family enterprise. On this episode, we spoke to Paola Matallana Gonzalez about the process of building an art collection and taking it from private to public, including some of the common challenges faced and how they are best.

Paula outlines the importance of encouraging the next generation of art collectors to share their collections with the world. And she passes on her advice to dos who are uncertain, where to start, enjoy this episode with Paula. So Paula, welcome to the conversation for women in family business. We’re super happy to have you on the podcast today.

P: Thank you very much for the invitation.

R: Today, we’re really here to talk about your very interesting career, which basically brings together the best of art and responsible wealth ownership and family dynamics, which I’m really looking forward to like three areas that we’re obviously super passionate about here in this podcast.

But let’s just maybe talk a little bit about where you started off.

P: Well, I grew up in Bogota, Colombia. In very difficult times, socially, politically, economically. And I grew up with a father that lost his dad when he was 18 years old. So for him, he always told us the only thing I can really give you and leave you is education.

So this is how I grew up in a family of five children – four women. We were raised as equals. So not only that, but I was also in a German school. I was playing professional golf to one day maybe join the PGA. So this is how you grew up. So when you grew up in a family like this, where, you know, there is always challenges in all fronts.

It made me think since I was very child that I needed to create a base, then, then one day I would, I could do what we do was my passion, which was history. So this is why I decided to study finance, because it’s just like a little, those houses that you see on the water that has like different pillars.

And it doesn’t matter that winds that come, if there’s strong, strong soil, there would not fly away. So, this is how in my head, this is what I was thinking always. And then I said, okay, maybe one day I will be able to really enjoy building that house, but I need to build this strong pillar. So that’s why I ended up going to finance and going to New York and doing all that, that I did.

R: Did it give you the sense of security that you expected from it? When it actually, you know, when you started working in finance, did it do what you expected it to do?

P: For me, they start on everything. The first two years of New York were very hard. I was one of the few, uh, Latin people in the team and, and women.

So for me, it was hard, but, but just when I get out and was able to walk and just become that person that I envisioned one day to be, you know, it was, I was so, so grateful every day. So, so it was a good balance. It was challenge, but it was, it was a dream come true. Um, my first job was in American Express. We were restructuring the company globally.

So they were doing a very, you know, they were analyzing all the company and trying to do instead of going from A, you have to go A, to B and then to C, they teach us to how to go from A to C without such. So there were a whole restructuring. So I was very, I was really learning to do things more efficiently, so it was a great challenge for me.

And then I went to Deutsche Bank to work in the private wealth management and private banking. So that was a totally different thing because it was the first thing was very pure finance, corporate finance, but the other one was more relationship building, you know, asset management. And that was where I was able to really enjoy a little bit more my personality, what I really had it, you know, uh, insight and continue working.

It was like an evolution.

R: And throughout this whole time, Did you always have the passion for art? Was that like your secret life happening in the background or did that sort of like come out of like something that you discovered about yourself much later in life?

P: Well, I always liked history and that was my favorite topic in school.

Growing up, I was passionate about trying to understand things, history. And we grew up in an old house and my parents, they were, um, collecting local artists, two of them. So I was walking around the house and looking at things and I was really getting close and see, wow.

It just happened when I moved to New York. When I was walking in the streets in New York and looking, and then there’s an art gallery. Oh, there is the museums. Of course we travel when we were little, to Europe and to museums and being in a German school, of course you studied. But for, I think for me that moment was those walks on Saturday morning.

Just putting my music and walking in Manhattan and just go with the flow and see what happens.

R: Talk to us about the breakaway moment, basically, where you decided to pursue a career in art and art education.

P: When it happened in Spain, the bank transfer me there. And I was in private wealth management too there. Um, there was one time that I had the opportunity to speak with one of the clients of the bank who was a passionate art lover and art collector who was from Germany.

Uh, so we started speaking German and then we started speaking about art. What are you doing here? You come from where? So I explain everything. And so he, you know, he said, I would love to do an art exhibition here in the bank Paola. Why don’t we do it? And I, and I said, why not? Let’s, I’m up for the challenge. Let’s do it.

So we did it. So it was a Flemish art exhibition. That exhibition has been traveling since, since then, has been in many countries. And now he recently passed away, but he gave that exhibition, that project, he gave away as a gift to the museum in Valencia, and it’s going to be inaugurated in December.

So happy to join me there because that was my breakaway moment. But I think what really resonated me very strongly with my heart and everything was one day we went inside and he said, just grab a chair Paola, grab a chair. Let’s sit here today. And let’s hear what people has to say about the paintings. Let’s just sit silently.

So we sit four hours. Of course it was after I finished work because I was continuing working there in the bank so it was after hours. So it was somebody who was fun just to be with him and to see his smile and to see. So I, this is when I realized that people really were doing it for the right reasons.

R: It’s so interesting about your story and it’s that you ended up doing what a lot of people would love to do, right? Like, which is to really, truly pursue what they’re very passionate about or what they’re really truly interested in, or to find what they’re passionate about even just to start with.

So tell us a little bit about, about that transition when you realize there’s actually something maybe missing in the art market, where you could fit in as an entrepreneur.

P: I wanted to understand why two things almost identical, one value this, and then the other value this, and how they behave in history.

How I could, because in the market, in the financial markets, things have a value, but in art, the value, it depends on many factors. So I just wanted to understand that. So I met the group. Meanwhile, I was working in New York, private equity group that they, they established the first art fund in the world. I looked at the profiles.

I said, you know, maybe at one day I will, I will work for them. Maybe one day. I don’t know how and when, but I will. So I mean, what I was studying in Argentina, I contact them and I said, I’m a student. I want to start helping you opening the marketing that’s in America. So they believe in me. I was working literally almost as an internship.

It was very excited because I was able to learn a lot from them, but more as an art as an, as an investment, because it was a private equity fund. So it was a good thing for me to learn. But then I started to see that they created an art advisory, more private accounts side, where collectors could really make their own decisions. And it was more really advising at the collector directly, not a fund that invest in art and buy and hold and this and that.

So this is when I decided to, uh, you know, there’s many circumstances that that happens and it just things starting to guide you in the right direction. So I was able to create my own company and to focus in art advisory.

So I think you just have to have it. You just have to understand. And you have to explain your family, your friends, and be strong about it and be really, really in love with it and do it for the right reason.

R: I know that you have had very powerful experiences in how actually an art collection or art can be a very bonding thing between one generation and the next.

Can you tell us a little bit about what your experiences have been in terms of like what an art collection actually can symbolize in terms of a legacy for a family from one generation to the next?

P: I think the most important aspect, why now, is that we are living in a high tech world where information is easier than before, than 10 years ago. Anybody can know the price of something now. So it is a very efficient market and it’s everywhere. So some family members know there is that, and they enjoy, and they would like to get involved, but some not.

So it is a great challenge. But you are as a father, you cannot oblige your kids either to follow your passion, especially for something like that. You just have to give the right tools, get them into the right situation so that they can do it themselves and figure it out themselves. The importance of this and education is the only way for them to really, uh, whenever they receive that in the future, they can be responsible about it without just saying just sell everything as you know, most of the times happens. But it’s very important as children ask as many questions as we can to your parents, and also try to find mentors, collectors. Ask them what they would do different if they would be, you know, 30 years ago, what they would do.

So just not only as question to our curators, to galleries and ask them the same five questions to all of them and learn and understand the importance of, of these right now, sustainability is also important as you know, very important. Democratization of art. We’re looking, we’re seeing it. And if do you, sometimes the NFT is becoming more valuable than the actual work so that everything is about an experience. We all want an experience.

R: Well, I’m very glad you’re also bringing up the NFTs discussion because of course that’s something that’s been fascinating as all, even those of us who have very little knowledge, I guess, about the industry. What do you think about this? And are you a positive about the kind of attention it’s bringing to the arts industry?

P: Always in bad years of the economy, people will always look for the safe assets. So this is, this is what you see studying the market in the past 10 years. However, the NFTs also democratize art. I liked actually an area, which is the better thing. I’m very quickly, which is a museum raising funds through an NFT.

We’re looking at that a British museum right now doing a, an NFT from a Japanese painting. So they realized that with an NFT, they have, they can be, you know, sustainability, they can go hand in hand. They don’t have to worry about going in a cover of a magazine. They don’t have to wait long periods of time for a donation of someone and this and that.

All of a sudden, like this. So you’re able to, to really, to really find other sources, really incentivize, not only get, talk to this new generation, but get funds for the museum without having to downsize. So if we, as collectors, as people that work in the field, are able to see it that way, to try to see it on a gift part and how we can get an impact and the positive aspects of it.

What is the relationship with climate change? What are the positive things about an NFT and how you can, how you can do it,

R: What’s the big advice that you can give to a family that today’s starting an arts collection, like, you know, if they could start from scratch and like, you know, how can they build something that will be enjoyed for many generations to come, ideally?

P: Buy a book, The History of Art by Gombrich. You read it little by little, but I think it’s a good source. Go to museums as much as you can. Try to really understand where you want to go. Do you like abstraction? Do you like a more conceptual art? Do you like more video art? So just try to pick two or three ideas that you really want to do it and start little.

And then little by little, you start, you can, because this way you can create dialogue, you become the creator of your own art collection.

R: It’s interesting how it’s almost the same advice you would give someone when they start a business, right? Like it’s like pick a niche, solve one problem. So it’s interesting how it overlaps with entrepreneurship and that single-mindedness that you need to make that a success, but I mean, such excellent advice, Paula, thank you so much for sharing this.

I have one last question. What’s your advice on like, you know, sort of like self-development, how to pick up the courage to take the opportunity of a breakaway moment or like to know, to do what you did?

P: I think it’s important to understand how economies move and what are the drivers of movement, of ideas. But listen to your heart and listen to what it’s telling you.

Have a few mentors outside the family, people that you admire. All ages.

R: Be brave enough to listen to your heart and have mentors. I think absolutely exquisite advice here for us on the Women in Family Business podcast. Thank you so much, Paola, for joining us today.

P: Thank you very much for your time and your smile.

Thank you.