If you like fine art, buy a few pieces now and then, or would like to, you are probably delighted to find people who like the same stuff as you. Personally I like figurative and abstract art that evokes an emotional response: landscapes just don’t do it for me, neither does still life. I will happily chat for hours about art – whether someone shares my taste or helps me look at art in a new way, it’s always an enlightening experience.
For some time I’ve been pondering how to introduce the idea of sharing fine art. There are a very few examples of sharing in existence:
- An art “stock exchange” in France
- Art club ArtLab (UK) and Artsicle (USA)
- Some art funds for wealthy individuals to invest in major works of art
But the only real example of a private art syndicate that I’ve found goes back to 1994!
I’ve recently met Rich Pepper, a fine art consultant who understands just how sharing could help some of his clients who either don’t have to the funds to buy what they want, or find the idea of buying art on their own a bit daunting. Rich was previously a lawyer with a major City of London law firm. So he not only understands the art, but also the legal aspects required to make the sharing arrangement work.
Sharing art is about finding a small group (usually 2-6) of like-minded people who share your view and want to spend a similar amount per year buying art together. This can work in many ways, so I’ll use a hypothetical example to show the principles.
Four people get together to spend £1,000 a year each on fine art. If necessary, they could each stretch this to £1,250 per year giving a total annual budget of £4,000-5,000.
Before buying anything, they spend time visiting galleries and talking to establish their likes and dislikes. They ensure that their tastes are sufficiently similar, they can work together, they can agree a broad process for deciding what to buy and that they trust each other. A period of discussion and preparation is the best way of determining whether or not that trust exists.
As with any sharing arrangement, the contract is essential as it records all the key decisions about the arrangement: it is “proof” that the syndicate members are sufficiently like-minded and compatible.
The contract includes:
- Who owns what
- The exit strategy – how to leave the arrangement
- When and how it will move from owner to owner
- Any conditions specific to the piece addressing differences such as size and fragility
- Management of the arrangement
Returning to our fictional private syndicate, they agree to buy the first painting for £4,500 or £1,125 each. This level of budget has a dramatic effect on the quality and interest of the artwork that is accessible; £2000-3000 is an important point in the art market, above which there is some fantastic work available.
The artwork is moved every three months on a rotating basis and they meet each time it changes hands, to discuss attractive galleries and exhibitions, and artists to investigate. They choose the next purchase on the third changeover, nine months later.
As further purchases are made, the quarterly meetings become the swapping point allowing everyone to see all their artwork and discuss the next purchase, usually over a meal and a few drinks.
There are several benefits of sharing art:
- Commitment to buy art you love at a reduced cost
- Variety of artwork in your home
- Spread of investment, so you have a higher chance of buying part of a piece by a successful artist
- Enjoyment of belonging to a community of people who love the same art as you.
Having spoken to many people in long established private syndicates sharing all kinds of assets, people usually treasure the last benefit most highly even though they generally joined for the first three. The pleasure of belonging to a group of people who enjoy the same art, the shared responsibility of ownership, the fun of swapping, encouraging others to push the boundaries of their tastes and interests, going to galleries together and deciding what to buy will almost inevitably overshadow the other benefits, even if the group is lucky enough to invest in the next Damien Hirst when still an impoverished art student.
If you are interested in sharing art, please reply to this email. I’d love to hear from you.