Loaning Art: For Love or Money

While I have been developing the American market for Vastari in the last few months, in speaking with collectors, many are unsure about the ins and outs of loaning art. Many ask questions like: “Why would I want to do this?” “What are the benefits?” and “How do I go about making this happen?”

The benefits are varied and range from financial, to reputational to philanthropic. For the more financially minded collectors, there’s the opportunity to increase the value of your art through more exhibition exposure.

According to Sjarel Ex, Director Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, The Netherlands, “When [an auction house] values a collection, and see that a piece was previously included in a museum exhibition, they immediately add 20% on top of the estimate”

Another financial perk is saving on storage fees and possibly insurance. Most museums in the US will pay insurance, some in Europe will not. This is an important question to ask the museum you are considering lending to.

There may also be tax benefits for lending your art to a gallery. In the US this is specific to each state, it’s worth consulting a tax attorney to find out if a tax break is available to you. For example, there is tax relief when an imported work to the state of California is exhibited at a museum. Restoration of a piece may also be negotiated with a museum as part of the borrowing agreement.

If you are trying to take an art-backed loan, banks are more comfortable loaning when the artwork used as collateral is securely placed in a museum. For example, the FinExpo product, which Overstone provides in partnership with Vastari, star pieces can be placed on long or short-term loan with major institutions interested in exhibiting the artwork. Harco van den Oever of Overstone calls this solution “...very helpful in Europe, where it is often necessary to hold pledged assets in a third-party warehouse”.

Especially with contemporary art, galleries are more willing to sell to collectors who allow their work to be viewed by the public, which helps to build awareness and therefore increase the value of that artists’ work.

One very important reason to lend is to validate an artwork. Vastari Founder, Bernadine Brocker, explains “The inclusion of da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi in the National Gallery’s landmark exhibition of 2011-12 made the art world sit up and take notice. This was the most complete display of Leonardo’s rare surviving paintings ever held and Salvator Mundi being part of it confirmed it’s authenticity in the minds of many.” This is an extreme example but proves how academic affirmation can impact the value of an artwork.

All of these aspects listed above can help when it comes time to sell or donate the work. Loaning work is valuable simply because it bring it out into the public for viewing and helps build goodwill with museums.

Finally and most importantly, lending art to museums benefits the community. By lending art you are sharing your passion for art with the public. It might be possible that you will learn more about your piece through the museum. As Philip Hook, Senior Specialist & Board Member of Sotheby’s London stated: “It’s a shame that more and more artworks are not accessible to the public as they are locked up in freeports and warehouses around the world”.

My personal reason for feeling inspired about this product is the opportunity to help to democratize art lending. Vastari is simply facilitating connecting two groups who want to and need to know each other. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to move art currently in storage into the public view.

In the words of collector Alain Servais, “ Above all, it [lending artworks] is a responsibility towards the artist. I am just a kind of a custodian of their works and not the final owner, and I certainly have no right to hide them away. ”