Kenny Ackerman is a bridge between the art world and the art of finance.
As the owner and curator of Ackerman’s Fine Art LLC in Purchase, he maintains a collection of 19th- and 20th-century works by international artists. As a 20-year veteran of Wall Street — formerly working as a trader — he also offers clients a seasoned perspective on art as an increasingly attractive investment that, like any investment, has its risks. For him, though, this is more than a business. It’s an opportunity to share the beauty of fine art with the world.
Walking through the Westchester Avenue gallery, he speaks with enthusiasm, as if seeing the works for the first time.
“This is the pinup room,” he says of a selection of six suggestive paintings created between 1940 and 1970 by American pinup artist Gillette Elvgren.
“His editions are unbelievable, better than anyone else’s,” he says of Andy Warhol’s 1987 screen print, “Beethoven.”
“And this is by Grandma Moses,” he says of “March,” a 1956 painting of a classic wintry New England scene, which the artist — otherwise known as Anna Robinson — finished at the age of 95. (Self-taught, she began painting at 78, Ackerman says.)
He points to two iconic red and blue “LOVE” sculptures by American artist Robert Indiana — much smaller versions of the one at 1359 Sixth Ave. in Manhattan — and discusses the mesmerizing quality of “The Milkman,” Israeli artist Reuven Rubin’s 1928 painting of the region that would become Israel 20 years later. And we note our shared appreciation for photorealism while admiring the work of Bertrand Meniel, whose paintings can hardly be distinguished from enlarged photographs.
“When I formed Ackerman’s (in 2010) and decided that I would try and build a business, it wasn’t just to make money,” he says, “but to introduce great art to people as investments and to protect people from the bad things that I was seeing in the industry.”
Ackerman “got the bug” — as he refers to it — after visiting a French Impressionism exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He’s been collecting ever since. But with art being a hot commodity for criminals as well as collectors like himself, due diligence is required.
“Over 50 percent of everything that people send to us is fake,” he says. “So there’s a lot of work that goes behind selling. Because if I sell something to you and, in a year, you learn that it’s not real, I have to give you your money back. We honor that. So I don’t ever want that happening. Thank God, it’s never happened to us.”
To ensure authenticity, Ackerman works with a team of specialists.
“For each artist, there’s usually an expert,” he says. “And when there’s an expert, they give you a certificate.”
But even the certificates — which state the authenticity of the work — can be forged. And this is why Ackerman’s services are so valuable, especially for newer collectors.
“Unless they’re shrewd — and there’s a lot of shrewd buyers out there — the novices need someone to protect them, to guide them and that’s what we do,” he says.
Not only does he prevent clients from purchasing fakes, but from overpaying.
“We have people calling here all the time saying, ‘I have this art and I want to sell it. I bought it for $250,000 from a gallery in the city 20 years ago.’ And I just have to say, ‘I’m sorry, but you overpaid and there’s nothing I can do.’ We get that a lot,” he says.
In addition to buying and selling directly, Ackerman offers a consignment option for clients looking to sell. With this service, he showcases the work in his gallery — after ensuring authenticity — for a set period of time. If the item sells, it will likely be for a greater value. If it doesn’t, Ackerman purchases the work for a set price.
“Let’s say that you have a $100,000 painting,” he says. “And I say that I’ll give you $60,000 for it. But if I put it on consignment and sell it for higher, I’ll give you, say, $80,000. If it doesn’t sell in six months, I’ll still buy it for $60,000. You really have nothing to lose.”
And neither does the art lover.
Ackerman’s Fine Art LLC is at 2900 Westchester Ave., Suite 107, in Purchase. For more, visit ackermansfineart.com.