Following in the footsteps of founder Leslie Hindman, Alyssa Quinlan, Hindman’s Chief Business Development Officer, is continuing the firm’s tradition of strong female leadership. Many of you might recognize Quinlan as she serves on the boards of Ravinia Women’s Board, Women of St. Chrysostom’s, MCA’s Emerge Committee, and Luminarts Executive Board. She is a member of Chief, the private women’s networking group, and the Chicago Estate Planning Council. During her free time, she assists at charity auctions for organizations such as Rush Woman’s Board, Chicago State Foundation, CJE SeniorLife, and many others. Quinlan served as Hindman’s Director of Business Development nine years ago, then enjoyed a successful career in wealth management at J.P. Morgan and opened the Chicago branch of the international appraisal firm, Gurr Johns.
“The entire team was thrilled when Alyssa returned to Hindman three years ago,” says Jay Krehbiel, Hindman Co-Chairman and CEO since 2019. “She has reinvigorated our Business Development Department and enabled so much of our recent growth. She is a great colleague and mentor to the team, and we are lucky to have her back at Hindman.”
As an executive leader at Hindman, Quinlan is delighted to work as part of a team that has seen incredible recent successes and is looking forward to an exciting year ahead. Last year, the firm reported its highest annual sales ever—$87 million— and set a world auction record price for a work by Martin Wong (1946-1999). The piece, a 1984 acrylic on canvas entitled Persuit (El Que Gane Pierde – He Who Wins Looses), brought $1.1 million, well over a presale estimate of $500,000 – $700,000. This past May, three days of fine art sales—which featured works by Ed Clark, Renoir, Hockney, and Warhol—realized more than $9.9 million, a record for a week of fine art sales for the company. September saw Casting Spells: The Gertrude Abercrombie Collection of Laura and Gary Maurer, which featured 21 works by the Chicago-based Surrealist known as the “Queen of the Bohemians.”
When she isn’t on a plane traveling to meet with clients and advisers, Quinlan’s expertise, guidance, and vision have helped Hindman over the years, all while balancing the work she loves with being a mother, wife, and mentor to so many.
SR: What is your role as Chief Business Development Officer?
AQ: I work with an incredible team from our 13 offices who are focused on helping secure consignments from across the country, whether from estates, private collectors, museums, or corporate collections. While the auction industry is more of a niche field than private wealth management, at the end of the day, we’re ultimately a relationship-based business. We want to ensure that advisers and clients are familiar with our appraisal and auction services in the event we can serve as a resource to them in the future.
SR: What the house puts on the block depends on what people wish to sell, on the one hand, and what people wish to buy, on the other. Is there one department that is seeing more activity these days?
AQ: Fine Art, particularly works by blue-chip artists, Jewelry, and Watches always seem to find top buyers, but we’ve seen an increase in many other categories, including Books and Manuscripts, Asian Art, Sports Memorabilia, and Furniture and Decorative Arts. With more people entertaining friends and family in their homes, we decided to try an auction dedicated to items you would need to host a lovely dinner party with a sale called “Dining at Home.” It was so well received that we’ve added it to the permanent schedule and host the auctions twice a year.
SR: eBay, 1stDibs, and other such outlets have certainly impacted the selling of art, antiques, and decorative art. Have these presented a challenge in getting sellers and buyers to appreciate the value of Hindman’s expertise and service?
AQ: In the past, I would oftentimes hear that clients had donated or gotten rid of things that had substantial value without knowing it. Thankfully, with all the resources online, clients have developed a better sense of value or potential value when contacting our firm. But, that isn’t to say we don’t sometimes pass along unpleasant news. Someone may call after an episode of Antiques Roadshow to say they have the exact chair that was estimated for $100,000. But we may have to explain that theirs is actually a reproduction that was mass-produced many years later and would be worth a fraction of that value at auction. Overall, I think the various sites have brought more awareness, which is helpful in our industry.
SR: Can you speak about art and antiques as a component of wealth management?
AQ: Having spent several years in finance, it was always fascinating to me to see how personal property would factor into a client’s overall portfolio. Clients would often only focus on their investment portfolios when, in reality, their art and other collections made up a substantial and sometimes an even greater percentage of value. Here at Hindman, we spend a lot of time working with clients to help evaluate their personal property for insurance purposes, as well as fair market value.
SR: Hindman has operations in multiple locations in the U.S. How do taste and buying habits vary from place to place?
AQ: We do offer categories out of certain offices. For example, we sell Western Art out of our Denver salesroom, and American Furniture, Folk, and Decorative Art is sold out of our Cincinnati salesroom. And our headquarters in Chicago hosts the majority of our sales of Jewelry & Watches, Post-War & Contemporary Art, Asian Art, and European Furniture and Decorative Arts.
SR: I’m guessing your client base has become more international over the years. Where are you seeing the most action outside the U.S.?
AQ: In 2021, bidders from 70 countries across the globe participated in our auctions. We have seen particularly strong bidding activity in the U.K., China, Canada, Hong Kong, and France.
SR: Some folks may still think of auctions as a kind of elite club. How have you demystified the auction experience?
AQ: I always enjoy hosting behind-the-scenes tours and giving talks called “Demystifying the Auction Process.” I am constantly asked by friends and advisers if they can buy at auction, and I always tell them that everyone is welcome to bid. It’s a fabulous way to purchase unique items for your home, stunning jewelry, couture, or any other category we offer. We were thrilled to launch our Digital Bid Room and app at the beginning of last year, which makes the bidding experience even more accessible and streamlined no matter where you are.
SR: Sounds like you are happy to be back.
AQ: Yes, I’m often asked what it was like returning to Hindman after nearly 10 years away, and in many ways, it felt like returning home, but to a much larger home. I’m lucky to work with many of my former colleagues once again, those who rejoined like myself, as well as those who have joined the team recently from other auction houses, museums, and galleries. Being able to continue to help expand what Leslie Hindman impressively built, combined with Jay’s vision, has been such a thrill. I constantly say that I have the best job in the world!
For more information, visit hindmanauctions.com.