The Art Matchmaker: Shirley Rollins, Partner Art Advisory

Artwork by Mary Pratt

Shirley Rollins operates by a simple philosophy: the best kind of art is the art you love. But, finding the art you love is not so simple. 

That is where Shirley and her art advisory firm, Partner Art Advisory, come in.

With an expertly-suited background, Shirley – an art-history scholar with art-business savvy, founded Partner in 2013. Based in the New York metropolitan area, Partner is a contemporary art advisory firm that helps art enthusiasts and art collectors find the art they love.

From research and insurance, to framing and instillation, Shirley’s work encompasses every aspect of art collecting, giving her a rich trove of knowledge and expertise about art collection. 

In our interview, Shirley filled us in on “art-matchmaking,” a drive-thru gallery, her favorite UGallery artists, and the do’s and don’ts of building an art collection.

Tell me a bit about yourself and Partner Art Advisory. 

I have always been curious and fascinated about art, artists, and the significance of the wider context of the artwork itself.  Visiting museums and galleries as a child with my mother created a foundation for my passion for art. This early exposure to many artwork styles and origins along with my European heritage led me to continue studying art formally. I received a BA in Art History from Emory University, an MBA and ultimately an Art Business Certificate from NYU.

While at NYU, I recognized the phenomenal expansion of the global art market and how quickly the level of transparency was changing.  I began to see an opportunity to create a business where I could finally become an “art matchmaker,” an art partner bridging the gap between novice or seasoned clients and the highest quality fine artwork; hence Partner Art Advisory was established in 2013.  Partner Art Advisory focuses on emerging to mid-established contemporary paintings, works on paper, and sculpture.  It is my mission to help my clients navigate the often overwhelming art market and oversee all aspects of acquisition from research, invoicing, framing, installation, shipping and insurance.  I work closely with private collectors and businesses, utilizing my extensive network of industry professionals and comprehensive services to serve each client uniquely.  

It is most important to me to exceed my client’s expectations. My greatest pleasure is seeing my clients’ complete satisfaction once their artwork selections are finalized, installed and work perfectly for them and their space!


What have been some of the biggest changes you have seen in the art market since you first founded Partner Art Advisory?

This is a great question. I believe the “biggest change in the art market” is that the art marketplace is readily available to everyone. The shift toward transparency through online art marketplaces;, online galleries, artists’ collaboration sites, etc. create a truly efficient marketplace by providing access to art and artists from around the world while simultaneously revealing prices alongside the artwork. When I began advising, less than 20% of my business was conducted online, and currently it has risen to approximately 60%.  This major change in the art forum has opened art collecting up to a vast new entry-level audience.  These art enthusiasts finally feel more comfortable purchasing art through a transparent platform with the assistance of an art partner.  


Artwork by Jane Robinson

As an art advisor, you work with many clients who have a variety of personal styles.  What are the most important things you look for in an artwork when trying to find a piece that expresses different styles?

I begin by having a dialogue with my client. My clients range from first time art purchasers to art connoisseurs wishing to build upon their collections.  After listening and understanding their interests and perspectives, I visit the client’s residence or business location (apartment, house, office building, hotel lobby or vacation home) to develop a further understanding of their unique architectural setting and personal style. I interpret the client’s goals while evaluating the artwork subject matter, style, genre, movement, mood, medium, and, of course, price – these are among some of the most critical evaluation criteria. One of my primary focal points is researching the artist’s education, experiences, and the trajectory of their career. It is fundamental for me to understand and analyze each proposed artwork from a 360-degree perspective. 


Artwork by Mélisa Taylor

Of the UGallery art that you have purchased on behalf of clients, do any of the pieces stand out as having a memorable story behind them?

Actually, they are all truly memorable! This is the best part of my job – the unique and extraordinary journey my clients embark on with me. Art is a very personal reflection of ourselves, so you can understand how my adventures are full of an array of emotions.  


Artwork by Kloska Ovidiu

One recent amusing memory: a client asked me to take photographs in the natural light for a piece they were interested in purchasing. It was quite the “art scene” as I pulled this very large piece of contemporary artwork outside onto the front steps of my house where the natural light perfectly captured the essence of the artwork. As I began snapping photos, I began to hear car horns and call outs from the traffic below. After sharing the story with my children, my young son called it a drive-thru gallery!


Mangata 44 (14″ x 11″) by Mélisa Taylor, acrylic painting

How would you describe your own personal style when it comes to art? Are there any UGallery artists that you are particularly drawn to?

I have collected emerging artwork for over 25 years and it seems as though I am drawn toward works with references to water and movement as well as gestural pieces. There is a certain clarity, calmness, and soothing effect for me as well as a bit of nostalgia, as I grew up near the ocean. 


Boat/25 (36” x 48”) by Kim McAninch, oil painting 

UGallery’s Mélisa Taylorbeautifully exhibits a textural and elegant sense of movement and wonder. Kim McAninch’s beautiful brushstrokes and seascapes also intrigue me. Finally, Eileen Braun renders my curiosity with water through her lovely “Splash Bowl” sculptures.


Splash Bowl (Large) (8″ x 10″ x 10″)by Eileen Braun, ceramic

What are some of the most common challenges that you see people face when they are thinking about buying art?  Is there any advice you would give to our readers?

Seemingly, I hear it time and time again, the most common challenges people face when they are thinking about buying art is that they did not think they could afford high quality, fine artwork!  Most people are aware of the 5-6-7-digit price tags characteristic of the blue-chip market.  However, it is important to remind art patrons that those blue-chip artists were once affordable emerging artists.  My advice is regardless of the price point, only purchase artwork that you truly love. 

A different challenge people have when purchasing art is selecting the appropriate scale/size of artwork for their space. More often than not, people choose pieces that are too small for their wall; these pieces of artwork can aesthetically translate poorly and may lose their message. UGallery has a wonderful feature that reveals the scale of all of their artwork in a room called “Virtual wall” – this is a very helpful tool.  For many of us who may still be uncertain, ask a friendly art enthusiast or your Partner!