Whether you’re in the market for a masterpiece or a last minute addition to a room, you have options besides buying and committing to a work long term. A variety of art leasing companies are offering solutions for adding color to office lobbies, placing impressive sculptures outside new real estate developments, and making blank living room walls finally feel complete. With flexible financing and curatorial expertise, these new outfits are making works by big-name artists and up-and-comers available for rent to individuals and businesses. A Financial Times article from 2015 called art leasing a “growing industry.”
Do a little research, and you’ll quickly find that firms cater to diverse clientele and provide fairly different services. Consider your budget, the type of work you’re seeking, your curatorial needs, and the scale of your project before committing to a single operation. If you’re intrigued by the trend and seeking an alternative to paying a lump sum, read on. Below, you’ll hear from just a few of the many companies offering this kind of service. Notably, some galleries and dealers provide leasing options as well--it never hurts to ask.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR COLLECTORS
Affordability varies greatly from company to company. For example, a firm called ArtMgt allows collectors to lease works for as little as $50 per month. Half of each art rental payment becomes a credit toward buying that work, or any other, from the company. If you’re looking for something specific, companies such as ArtMgt allow you to commission and lease new, unique works from the artists on their roster.
Victor Le Fell, founder of Artolease, primarily works with businesses, although he says the company will also lease to private collectors who like the artists they showcase. When searching for an art leasing firm, he suggests potential clients look for programs that “create a harmony” in their spaces and investigate some of the leasing company’s previous projects.
Kipton Cronkite, who runs Artstager, offers collectors the opportunity to “stage” art, or live with it for a while, before purchasing. “If a gallery or artist won't allow one the opportunity to 'try before buying', then I advise against buying that specific artist,” he says. “Art is meant to be enjoyed and is an expensive purchase that isn't always an instant connection.” If you have any reservations, you should be able to keep it up for a few days and then determine how you feel about it. A curator himself (he will curate exhibitions in East Hampton and at two residential developments on the Upper East and Lower East Side this summer), Cronkite offers guidance for clients who aren’t exactly sure what they want.
If, in fact, your goal is to earn money, some art leasing firms offer opportunities for collectors willing to part with their pieces. Artemus, a collaboration between New York real estate titan The Durst Organization, investment banker David Storper, and financier Asher Edelman, bills itself both as a “new form of art financing” and a “new way to curate environments through art leasing.” The company states that it serves collectors by “allowing them to unlock the value of their collection while maintaining the possession of the artworks.” Collectors seeking liquidity can lease out their works--and switch up what’s on their own mantle in the process. The lessee may buy back the works at any time during the lease.
Walk into One World Trade, and you’ll see vivid paintings that brighten the impressive, though neutrally colored, interior. Artemus curated this public art collection, which includes a monumental painting by major artist José Parlá. The company works with all segments of the art market, from Old Masters to contemporary, and can buy artworks that clients request. Artemus has its own inventory which includes pieces by iconic artists: Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Keith Haring, Auguste Renoir, Yayoi Kusama, Sol LeWitt, Marc Chagall, and more.
Cronkite, on his end, works with a variety of blue-chip and emerging artists that he scouts through studio visits or conversations with art program professors. “Once I see the space, understand the vibe and know the budget, I build a portfolio of art to recommend to the client,” he says, explaining his process. “I can confidently say that 99% of the time we get it right.” From geometric abstractions to photography, the works Cronkite selects tend to be accessible and colorful.
ArtMgt, on the other hand, posts their affordable inventory online. On their website, you can browse images of works with accompanying prices for leasing and purchasing. There’s a transparency here that’s often difficult to find within the art market. Works range from bright wood, acrylic, and enamel paint sculptures by Björn Meyer-Ebrecht to colorful prints by Sarah Palmer. The site allows searches by subject, media, dimensions, colors, tones, availability, and price range.
The financing of an art lease can be structured in a variety of ways. For example, ArtMgt requires a deposit of two monthly payments for each leased work (and the minimum terms for a lease and a cleared rental are three months and one month, respectively). Meanwhile, Artolease will accept several payments for important artworks above $20,000.
Artemus breaks down the financing in a manner more typical of bankers and real estate salesmen than of anyone else in the art world. Given the value of the collection you’re leasing, they’ll offer a yearly rate, a flexible duration (5-10 years, say), a purchase premium, and a deposit (dependent on their analysis of risk and market liquidity). Additional costs include installation, maintenance, and insurance.
Another reason to lease art for a business-related activity? It could be tax deductible. Take this into account as you calculate the price of your project.