• Irish Times
  • Published 21.10.2019

    Renting artwork can be tax efficient for new apartment developments and commercial offices and it’s a great way for gallery owners to showcase well-known artists.

    While many Irish banks were forced to sell their art collections during the economic downturn, the Central Bank of Ireland still retains a collection valued at €2 million, with an estimated annual budget of €10,000 to cover maintenance, repair and portfolio valuation.

    The Merrion Hotel in Dublin is renowned for its impressive Irish art collection, featuring many artists such as Paul Henry, which hang around the corner in the National Gallery, but a great number of Irish companies have little or nothing when it comes to a collection of art.

    Oliver Sears of the eponymous art gallery and Rory Guthrie of de Veresauction house, both offer the opportunity for companies to rent fine art instead of hanging soulless prints on the walls of company headquarters.

    “I find it astounding companies are not buying or renting good works of art. Not only is rental tax deductible as an expense for companies, but works that are purchased and hung in a public place for six to seven years can save on the potential capital gains incurred if the works are sold,” says Sears.

    Sears first began renting artworks at the request of his accountant – who had been renting pieces – and engaged Sears to curate new works for his office.

    “I have just a handful of customers who rent art at the moment, as it is quite difficult to find the person within a company who has both the vision and authority, and really there is no great culture of this in Ireland.”

    Guthrie of de Veres’ first foray into art rental began with the Four Seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge [now the InterContinental] in a deal that ran for 15 years. “Its foyer had important works by le Brocquy, Sean Scully and Basil Blackshaw, showcasing some of the finest Irish artists. We curated, installed and insured the works, allowing the hotel flexibility to change them every couple of years.”

    Guthrie’s most recent rental curation is Lansdowne Place, the high-end development by Chartered Land, designed by O’Mahony Pike Architects, where sales of penthouse units have exceeded €5 million. Fifty-five works now grace public spaces and show apartments, including pieces by Donald Teskey, Hughie O’Donoghue and John Shinnors.

    A lot of sense

    It makes quite a lot of sense for a developer. What is the point of showcasing high-end units, where the fit-out spend is in the hundreds of thousands, yet the works on the walls are cheap prints, chosen solely to cover up blank spaces.

    “For corporate office design, artwork is rarely factored in – and even if it is, it is normally last on the list, which is incredible when you consider the vast space that walls occupy,” says Guthrie.

    For Oliver Sears as a gallery owner, the bulk of the artworks he leases are from the gallery’s collections, whereas Guthrie curates on behalf of galleries, artists and also from private client collections.

    “The benefit for a private collector with works in storage are the cost of temperature-controlled storage in proper containers along with insurance can be high, whereas these works can earn a living for themselves, rather than incur expense”

    The benefits for artists is their work will get greater exposure and help to build their profile.

    Prices depend on the value of the work and duration of rental, which can be anything from double figures to four figures per month. For Sears, it is in the region of 3½ per cent of the value of the work on an annual basis, with insurance and installation paid by the client. Guthrie’s system offers the entire package to include installation and insurance.

    Sense of wellbeing

    For corporate spaces, recent research by Cass Business School in London into the difference an inspiring workplace can have on employee productivity found 80 per cent of those questioned felt that art in the workplace improved their sense of wellbeing, whilst 64 per cent agreed it made them feel more motivated.

    Trinity College has for years run a scheme whereby students and staff can request artworks from the university’s art collection to hang in their rooms and offices. It seems, though, that this scheme has been suspended for the 2019-2020 season.

    One of the perks for each incoming Taoiseach is the opportunity to choose a selection of art from the various State-owned collections to decorate the office, and the Office of Public Works holds a collection of more than 15,000 works used for State institutions here and embassies abroad.

    In 2018, US president Donald Trump requested the loan of Van Gogh’s Landscape with Snow from the Guggenheim Museum in New York for his private residence in the White House. Instead, Nancy Spector, the museum’s curator, offered a solid-gold toilet entitled America, in a move that brought many smirks throughout the art world. The same toilet in 18ct gold by Maurizio Cattelan, valued at €5 million, was stolen a few weeks ago, when it was on display at Blenheim Palace in Britain.

    Corporate rentals make sense – it doesn’t have to be a Van Gogh, but perhaps a modernist piece that subtly infers a corporate brand, creating a dramatic backdrop to company headquarters. See and

    This article originally appeared in the Irish Times on Saturday, October 19th, 2019 by Elizabeth Birdthistle

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