Co-Founders, New York City
Tatiana Seikaly was working in architectural design and Mimi Shojai was working for a luxury fashion brand before they became two of the co-founders of Agaport, a NYC based start-up that uses an online platform to simplify Freeport storage for art and luxury good collectors.
They have shared with us their insights into the Freeport industry and how they can help you choose a Freeport to store your vintage luxury handbags or your newly purchased Jonas Wood paintings.
Historically, just a handful of key players have controlled the art logistics space. How did the idea for Agaport come about?
Tatiana: It was one day while we were in college… Mimi and I came home to our friend (now co-founder) Joshua Pulman, who was working for an art fund at the time. Joshua was expressing his frustrations about the challenges he faced researching and booking Freeport storage. A few of our art world friends had expressed the same difficulties. So, the three of us decided to create a solution- Agaport. We knew that historically the industry was rather conservative, but with our diverse backgrounds in tech, fashion, finance and architecture we figured we could change that.
How does girl power work in the male-dominated logistics industry – how does your female identity bring different perspectives or insights to the business?
Mimi: Logistics is all about planning- for what you know will happen and what you expect to happen. We make it our priority to know as much as possible about our clients, their needs and the industry. Being female may make us different in the industry, but it is our due diligence and execution that set us apart.
Assuming I am just about to buy an artwork at an art fair. How exactly can Agaport help get something in storage at a Freeport?
Tatiana: We get this question all the time from collectors who want to benefit from the advantages of storing their acquisitions in Freeports, but have no idea how. The network of Freeports is extremely large and complex and quite intimidating for a collector to navigate on their own. Agaport changes that.
Mimi: Picture you are at an art fair, pricing a work you hope to acquire. You have fallen in love with the work, not to mention it’s a great investment piece, but there is one problem: you have nowhere to store it. The solution is simple. Visit the “Instant Quote” page on Agaport.co. Once you submit your information, we scan our database of Freeport providers to find the most appropriate amenities, location and storage rate for your acquisition. Before you can find the fair’s coffee bar, you will receive quotes for storage options to safely preserve your new piece. After you determine which quote to pursue, Agaport will book it for you and handle the daunting import/export paperwork. And don’t forget to knock the sale tax off your acquisition cost, as it will be suspended if your work is shipped directly to a Freeport.
What are the advantages of having something stored at a Freeport vs. at a local storage, or vs. at my NYC condo?
Tatiana: First and foremost, Freeport facilities we partner with offer the most secure storage space on the globe. Conservation and preservation are the utmost priority at these facilities, eliminating the paranoia about everything that could go wrong with your precious asset. When you are dealing with a range of objects, such as precious stones, century-old oil paintings or even classic Ferraris, Freeport facilities offer a toolkit of accommodations that ensure impeccable storage. Local storage facilities rarely have this range of accommodations. Additionally, because of their locations in Free Trade Zones, Freeports uniquely offer legal tax suspension. So, your precious assets can travel and be stored without the burden of import/export duties or sales tax.
Mimi: Storing your precious asset in your home is fabulous when the work is properly protected. However, it is always safer to store objects that are not being displayed off the premises. In the event of a fire or flood, your home leaves your precious objects vulnerable to mother nature. Don’t forget, storing valuable objects at home will increase your home owner’s insurance rate (sometimes by 10 times). But there is no better safer place than a Freeport and with locations all over the world— Freeport storage is exceptionally convenient for assets involved in the global market.
If I want to check out my artworks or handbags in your storage from time to time, how can you easily facilitate that?
Tatiana: Exhibition spaces are a unique feature of Freeports. Whether a potential buyer wants to examine your piece, or you and friends want to visit your item together, Freeports can accommodate. Many of the facilities Agaport partners with offer museum-quality spaces dedicated to showcasing stored objects.
There are many Freeports already in the industry. How does Agaport identify the best options for clients?
Tatiana: Identifying Freeport storage in the right location, with the appropriate accommodations and at a fair price can take weeks. Many large institutions have in-house teams that source and manage Freeport storage, but most collectors do not have the means or human resources. Agaport leverages a global database of Freeports and unique partnerships to streamline the entire process for our clients.
Mimi: We specialize in curating Freeport storage solutions that protect the value of our clients’ assets and decrease their bottom line expenses. The most important phase of Agaport’s process is what we call discovery. We take many factors into consideration during this phase, including object type (i.e. artwork, sculpture, classic car, vintage wine bottle), preservation needs, tax impact, intended use and forecasted travel plans. Using these discoveries, our system instantly sifts through real-time availabilities to find the most appropriate storage option.
How do you imagine your business to develop in the upcoming five years?
Mimi: Thanks to online platforms like Artsy, Arthena and 1stdibs, investing in art and luxury collectibles has never been more accessible or popular. Per a 2014 publication, individuals owned around $5 trillion worth of art and luxury goods for investment. And nearly a fifth of these assets are stored in Freeports, primarily on behalf of large collections and institutions. But smaller galleries and individual collectors are underutilizing the space. In the coming years, we hope Agaport introduces tailored Freeport storage strategies to smaller players in the market so they too can benefit from Free Trade Zones.
Agaport involves in handling all kinds of luxury assets. How have you developed the knowledge in this broad spectrum of luxury goods?
Tatiana: Before founding Agaport, we were all working in much different sectors of the industry. I was working in architectural design and Mimi was working for a luxury fashion brand. Our third co-founder, Joshua was involved in the art market, previously working for Arthena, Christie’s and Leo Xu Projects. Between the three of us, we have worked with just about every type of precious object, from antique furniture and crocodile handbags to 18th-century oil paintings. We understand the value of these objects and know how to keep them safe.
Are you a big fan or a collector of luxury goods yourselves? Which kind?
Tatiana: I am a big fan of contemporary artworks. Daniel Ashram is one of my favorites at the moment.
So far what is the most memorable story since you have started this business?
Mimi: Last summer we had the pleasure of attending an exhibition of stored objects at a Freeport in Luxembourg. The facility showcased some incredible pieces and family and friends from all over the world gathered to enjoy them. The event rejuvenated our efforts to make Freeports inclusive to more collectors.
Photos via Mimi Shojai & Tatiana Seikaly