A house—with art in it—is a home. Or at least it can appear to be, as developers on the luxury market have found.
Top-tier furnishings and interior design have long been used to sell properties, but now developers and brokers often turn to fine art, too, to excite the eyes of buyers with means (and maybe make some deals on the art, too).
In Beverly Hills, a spec home conceived by the fashion designer Charles Park features more than $6 million worth of art by figures as familiar as Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst, as well as artists at different levels of note on the art-market spectrum.
It’s an effort to add to a sense of atmosphere that might fail for otherwise feeling sterile or incomplete, said Aaron Kirman, the listing agent for the California property and president of Aaroe Estates, the luxury property division of John Aaroe Group. Mr. Kirman said he used to turn to art only for properties priced at $30 million-plus but now does so for the majority of his listings, anything for $5 million or more.
“Art adds an extra layer of je ne sais quoi,” he said. “Buyers don’t even realize what it is that makes a house pop, but a good house with good furniture and good art really sets the tone for what feels like fine living. It adds exclusivity and interestingness that makes a house feel more special.”
He emphasized: “Rich people know what it feels like to be rich, and usually that includes fine art.”
Finding the right pieces
Galleries and art advisers organize and provide the artwork, which is also made available for sale to buyers who might like what they see on the walls and choose to chip in more rather than start over with an empty space.
Tim Yarger, who curated the collection in the Charles Park Beverly Hills property as well as others in a similar mode, described the process as discerning and involved. Under the aegis of his gallery, Timothy Yarger Fine Art, he teams with an interior designer, Christina Craemer of ARC54 Design, and conceives a collection with internal logic and a story to tell.
“We distinguish our service from staging,” Mr. Yarger said. “The service we’re providing is curated collections that have a language and substance related to art history and contemporary culture.”
For the Beverly Hills house, besides art from Warhol and Mr. Hirst, there is a series of luminescent sculptures using neon tubes, courtesy of Laddie John Dill, a West Coast pioneer of so-called “light and space” art, and other works owe to artists like Udo Nöger, a beguiling German painter, and Retna, a Los Angeles native who got his start with graffiti.
“We’re trying to do something that is not so obvious, to let people experience something that is outside the canon,” said Mr. Yarger, who welcomes the chance to use properties not just as display spaces but interchanges for business of his own. “There’s a sense of cohesiveness and storytelling. Someone who has more than a decorative kind of vision could walk in and see a well-curated collection of art.”
Art world and real estate worlds collude
In England, art has played a major role in the rollout of The Park Crescent, an ambitious development project in London. In time for Frieze, one of the international art world’s biggest annual fairs, six new properties within The Park Crescent were transformed earlier this month into showcases for both the apartments going to market and enterprising art on display within.
“Art and apartments collaborate—one complements the other,” said Chris Lanitis, a director of Amazon Property, the developer involved.
For luxury properties ranging from £4 million (US$4.9 million) to £18 million (US$22 million), art from the upper echelon was enlisted for visual enticement as well as potential sales, including works from Warhol and Mr. Hirst (again) as well as blue-chip names like Alexander Calder, Salvador Dali and Marc Chagall. (A Calder mobile is the most expensive artwork on show, priced at £3.5 million.)
The more than 200 works were curated by an art advisory and dealership enterprise called House of the Nobleman as well as Lawrence van Hagen, an independent curator who works mainly with emerging artists in an array of different media.
For his exhibition/display titled “What’s Up,” the offerings include “market artists you would see at hip galleries today with a mix of younger ones you will start seeing in a few years,” Mr. van Hagen said.
He played with modes of presentation in different spaces, placing a canvas by Katherine Bernhardt with toilet paper rolls among its subjects in the bathroom as well as nudes by the shower and works in the kitchen that happen to have been painted with an unusual material: mustard.
“It encourages people to spend more time in the apartments when they see them,” Mr. van Hagen said of his purposefully playful and cheeky mode of presentation. “Every single detail is very meticulously selected, so the buyer spends more time looking.”
To developers and agents, that’s a benefit. To the curators and dealers with artwork up for sale, the arrangement can be a boon too. About the promise of well-heeled patrons looking with extra purpose and intensity, Mr. van Hagen said, “It also brings a huge amount of clients to me.”
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