Turn your home into a gallery – minus the price tag
Some high-end homes are being sold with the help of art, says Andrea Marechal Watson
Have you ever browsed a gallery wishing you could take it all home? Don’t give up hope. A curator at a top London museum has suggested that works in storage should be lent to private homes rather than hidden away in a basement. Collector Florian Wupperfeld, founder of Leading Cultural Destinations, says the idea has merit. “It might be a good way to look after works, as storage can be very costly,” he says. The tradition of lending an art collection to a museum could soon be turned on its head.
Galleries faced with astronomical rents in the couloirs of Mayfair and Belgravia find themselves ever more pinched for space, especially as the art itself is getting bigger. One dealer’s rent demand went from £75,000 to £350,000 last year, according to gallery owner John Martin.
Several gallerists have solved the problem by “outsourcing” works to developers, lending them art to dress properties while expanding their exhibition space at no cost. These free outreach spaces may be conversions of Georgian homes, new luxury developments on the
Thames or any of the emerging creative districts in the capital.
Using art as part of a marketing strategy for high-end homes is widespread across the globe but in London it has reached epic proportions, as dozens of galleries and developers jump on the bandwagon.
Lending art to a developer is a virtuous circle: the gallery gets a classy extension where it can show work for free, the interior designer acquires a luxury look for little investment and the artists, though often last in line, get paid.
Furniture is even taking second place in show homes where vast canvases, glass cases housing antiques, bespoke carpets, rare prints and sculptures often dominate the scene. There is often the chance for clients, particularly those wanting a turnkey property, to buy the works, or have them thrown in.
Turning homes into mini-museums goes hand-in-hand with hard evidence that the prices of properties near important museums and galleries are soaring. The very rich, who after all sustain the estimated £43billion art market, want art on the doorstep as well as in their home.
Some new London schemes that are not blessed with an icon like a Tate or the British Museum nearby are trying to reinvent the areas around them as new cultural hubs. Nine Elms hails itself as London’s newest cultural hub, close by is the newly christened Battersea Creative District, while a series of art events, including the suspension of a grand piano from a crane by Catherine Yass, is marking the progress of work at Television Centre in White City.
And it’s not just the high-end developers. Peabody, a housing association that is overhauling the run-down Thamesmead estate, announced a partnership with Bow Arts “to help the area become one of the capital’s newest cultural locations for artists, designers, makers and food entrepreneurs”.
This intertwining of art and property means that interior designers have started to call themselves curators, while developers such as Nick and Ben Wilson of Residence One say they have become “art dealers by default”.
Andrew Kafkaris of Bruton Street Management, which looks after prime London properties, says: “In the 18th century many great houses were built around the works of art, collected by people taking the grand tour of Europe. We are returning to that situation today, with homes being built or refurbished around art collections.”
One scheme in Marylebone was launched with an art exhibition, put on at the same time as Frieze up the road last September, with £100million worth of artworks by Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró and Andy Warhol rivalling the total price of the property. It worked: all but one of the six apartments at Park Crescent have been sold in what is a slow market for such luxury homes. The
apartments didn’t come with the art in situ, but if a buyer expressed interest, the developer, Amazon Property, might look to gift it to them, or help secure it at a preferential rate.
Luminaire Arts in Belgravia, one of the capital’s many dealers now specialising in renting art, claims that its original artworks assist clients to sell the homes. Many estate agents agree, and this is particularly true for foreign investors and overseas clients who don’t want the inconvenience of styling yet another home.
Developers and designers have responded to this desire for turnkey, fully furnished homes and many have, like the Wilson brothers, become art dealers by default. Alexander James Interiors bought a limited edition Damien Hirst butterfly print, The
Souls III, to dress Barratt’s show home in Landmark Place, Tower Bridge. The print, on loan from AJI, is for sale to purchasers.
Would the Hirst print, which cost £5,500, be negotiable? It seems likely. Last year Strutt & Parker sold a house furnished with lent artworks in Eaton Square to a Middle Eastern client who insisted that he would only take it “lock, stock and barrel” even though the art was not originally for sale.
“The seller came to an arrangement and agreed, as the value of the art was minor in comparison to the £30million price tag for the house,” says partner James Gilbert-Green.
At West Eleven’s new Clapham development, Bakery Place, it has printed a catalogue of the artworks that dress the property, and are for sale. The association between Banda Property’s 12-18 Radstock Street development and art could not be closer. At the ground level of the apartment block in Battersea’s Creative District sits JGM Gallery, which deals in Aboriginal art. The luxurious, lateral homes upstairs are filled with its artworks and a bespoke tapestry by a graduate of the nearby Royal College of Art hangs in the lobby.
It’s not only paintings and sculpture that interior designers hire: French glassmaker Lalique has lent works and Steinway, whose pianos are works of art in themselves, regularly loans out self-playing grands.
Most of the art used to dress properties is decorative or abstract. “More often than not figurative art is a no-go,” says Nick Campbell of Narcissus Interiors. Yolanda CruzSuarez, gallery manager at the Store Street Gallery in Bloomsbury, which lends artworks, finds large statement pieces with bold colours work best. Contemporary works of calligraphy, bird and animal paintings are also popular, according to the Art Newspaper’s editor-at-large Georgina Adam.
Far from being an afterthought, art has become an integral part of the design process, with the sheer weight and size of some works a major consideration for architects, says Joe Burns, of interior design firm Oliver Burns. “From reinforced floors to freight elevators to bear the weight of heavy paintings, the architectural fabric of the building is now carefully considered to best accommodate the needs of an aspiring art collector,” he says.
‘Large statement pieces with bold colours work best’
Burst: a Damien Hirst, below, displayed at a show to launch Park Crescent
Curves: a home in Mayfair, on the market with Knight Frank, cover; a flat by Dukelease, designed by Rolfe Judd and kitted out in pieces lent by Luminaire Arts, above; a Steinway piano lent to a property for sale, below
Colour: inside Park Crescent, left; an interior in Banda Property’s 12-18 Radstock Street, right; the dining room at the Manor in Mayfair, below, on the market with Knight Frank for £11.25 million