THE art and antiques industry may be better off ditching the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, says former faculty chairman Nic Somers.
His comments, in a letter to ATG published last week, come in
the wake of the Arts & Antiques Professional Group Board
unanimously deciding to stand down amid growing frustration with
Mr Somers, who accuses the RICS of arrogance and lists a
catalogue of negligence and incompetence in its approach to the
faculty, praises the efforts of the Professional Group Board and
says the stand-down comes as no surprise.
Stand-off at RICS as board decides to stand down
Full text of Mr Somers' letter:
SIR - As a past vice-chairman and chairman of the RICS Arts
& Antiques Faculty, the report that the members of the
newly-named 'Arts & Antiques Professional Group Board' had
unanimously decided to stand down comes as no surprise and I
completely agree with the stand they have taken.
When I look back at my six years of office, I found it a most
frustrating time trying to get any well-planned new ideas through
to the management of RICS.
What does surprise me is the arrogant attitude which the
strangely named 'Knowledge' Board appears to have taken in stating
that they will now appoint 'a new board' to review the global
opportunities in North America, Europe and the Far East'.
The current Art & Antiques board is made up of
well-respected members of the industry, they are either running
their own successful businesses or are senior members of larger
firms. They all give their time and experience to RICS free.
Where, I ask, do the 'Knowledge' Board think they are going to
find similar calibre people who will command the same industry
respect? Who is going to give their time to a professional body
that has an inability to understand what they are being told by
those who do understand the issues that we face as auctioneers and
valuers in the real world?
The question also has to be asked what 'new 'opportunities there
are in other countries, which haven't already been suggested over
the past 11 years, by former Art & Antiques committees but
which were not taken up by RICS?
After the amalgamation of the Incorporated Society of Valuers
and Auctioneers (ISVA) with the RICS in 2000, the then chairman of
the faculty, Jonathan Meyer, and I spent a considerable time
cultivating relationships with the very different professional
appraising and auctioneering organisations in the USA. With
reciprocal visits to each others' conferences, this culminated in
2005 with an international conference in Dublin, jointly organised
by RICS, the American Society of Appraisers and the Irish
Auctioneers & Valuers Institute.
This 'milestone' conference was also attended by the President
of the RICS, together with senior members of the American Society
of Appraisers and the International Society of Appraisers. It was,
we were later informed, the first time that the chairmen of all
these organisations had sat round a table and discussed, not only
issues mutual to all countries, but also possible ways we could
work together more closely in the future.
The following year the faculty were told by RICS management that
there would no longer be funding to visit USA conferences and it
ended up with the faculty representatives having to pay out of
their own pockets the cost of travelling to these important
The Arts & Antiques Faculty were also keen to establish
relationships in Europe and we hosted a luncheon, organised by the
British Art Market Federation at RICS HQ, for the chairmen of the
majority of the European art and antiques professional
organisations and the principal auction houses. A request to RICS
for funds to follow up on this initiative fell on deaf ears.
In 2001 we had a faculty that ran a well-supported annual
weekend conference, a world-respected two-day practical
examination, the top winners being presented with industry awards,
and a structured and interesting CPD programme. All this was
organised and run by the members of the committee with the
efficient help of a part-time RICS employee.
Ten years on, because RICS has insisted on doing all the
organising, the annual Art and Antiques conference has disappeared
altogether, so too the two-day examination. I am not aware of any
industry award having been presented in the past five years and I
now have to look to other organisations for my CPD, attendance at
which is an RICS mandatory requirement.
I have read the RICS replies to the well-structured action plan
prepared by the Arts & Antiques board last October and sadly I
find nothing in them that gives me any confidence that RICS will
change anything for the better. The replies, in my opinion, appear
to be meaningless spin and show little understanding of what our
profession is actually about.
I have absolutely no doubt that chairman Chris Ewbank and his
committee have done everything possible to find ways to work with
RICS, but you can only bang your head against a brick wall for so
Perhaps the time has now come for a parting of the ways with
members looking for a professional home where they feel more
comfortable and where their views are not only taken seriously, but
Nicholas Somers FRICS FRSA FNAVA
Past Chairman of RICS Antiques & Arts Faculty, 2003-06
Past Chairman of the ISVA Fine Art and Chattels Committee 1995