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Can the Pandemic Home-Improvement Boom Boost the Market? An Auction Veteran’s New Company Targets Interior Designers

Seasoned art collectors talk about “wallpower,” the quality of paintings that do more than just look good, but that impress, tell a story, and get dinner guests gossiping. Still, plenty of people—even people who buy expensive homes and hire professional interior decorators—have never given a thought to the subject.

Enter Liz Beaman Delman. An American art expert who has spent two decades in the auction house world, split between Christie’s and Sotheby’s, Beaman Delman hopes to fill in the gap with her new advisory business, Above the Sofa.

McArthur Binion DNA:Work, (2020) Image courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London

McArthur Binion
DNA:Work, (2020)
Image courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London

“I had always fantasized about doing something in the interior design world or adjacent,” she explained in a recent interview with Artnet News. “When I started to investigate what transitioning to that different world would be, it just didn’t make sense at that stage in my career to be a design assistant at a big firm. I asked myself how I can combine all of my expertise but still somehow have a hand in this other area that has really fascinated me. That was the genesis of the idea.”

On more than one occasion, Beaman Delman said, she has observed designers who are so focused on the interiors themselves that the art on the walls becomes something of an afterthought.

“You see a lot of certain types of work being used over and over again,” Beaman Delman argues. “But you can spend the same $25,000 or you can even spend $10,000 and find an exciting, emerging artist who may actually be going somewhere. It’s a little bit like venture investing in the sense that you can buy ten emerging artists and there may be only one that takes off—but isn’t that more interesting than buying something that matches the couch and has no resale value?”

Beaman Delman’s mission, she says, is “empowering the designers to guide their clients to collect.” This includes providing all of her own market research, including a database she maintains tracking galleries around the world and the artists they show. “Obviously, I’m applying my own eye and edit on the selection that I’m presenting, but I’m giving them a tool kit to be able to speak to their clients and to get them to think differently about the art acquisition.”

Though she divides her time between New York and Los Angeles, Beaman Delman says she has been increasingly focused on cities such as Atlanta, Austin, Birmingham, and Nashville. Scores of people have relocated to these areas amid the pandemic, where there’s not necessarily the most robust gallery infrastructure.

Beaman Delman’s hope with Above the Sofa is to raise the game. “From the moment the final mood board for each room has been selected, I get to work putting together the selection so that the artworks can be installed on the same day as the furniture and really have that ‘Wow!’ moment.”

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