This app makes it much easier to be an art collector

Elmgreen & Dragset,

Elmgreen & Dragset, “Temptation” (2012) (photo by Daniel A. Gross for Hyperallergic)

Truth be told, most of us walk into art galleries never expecting to be able to purchase any of the artwork on display. We use commercial galleries, especially large ones, as museum entertainment, and leave the dream of collecting art to the top 1%. But how could this change if one could buy a work of art after paying only 10% of its price and pay the rest in installments? A new startup is giving budding collectors a chance to do just that.

Art Money is an application that offers a loan to buy works worth between $1,000 and $50,000 in 10 interest-free monthly installments after paying a 10% advance. For example, if you come across a $3,000 piece of art that you’ve been dying to have but can’t afford to pay the full amount at once, you can take it home. for just $300 and pay the rest in installments of $270 over the next 10 months. . Anyone with a clear credit history and an annual income of at least $30,000 from all sources, including other investments, can be approved for the loan. When the sale is concluded, the galleries immediately receive the full sum less a 10% fee.

“The art market is broken and inefficient,” Art Money founder Paul Becker told Hyperallergic in a phone interview. “People want to engage more in art, but there are too many things stopping them from doing that…It’s just too hard for people to buy art,” said- he declared.

Becker, an Australian arts entrepreneur, launched Art Money in 2015 in Sydney, Australia, in partnership with 26 local galleries. The app has since expanded to New Zealand and the United States and currently works with a total of 1,000 galleries. Approximately 600 of the participating galleries are located in the United States.

The art market is “not a welcoming environment” for new collectors, Becker said. It focuses on major collectors and makes it difficult for everyone else to even know where to start. “There is a pent-up demand from creative people who are interested in design and architecture, but they have never come to contemporary art because the contemporary art world pushes people away,” did he declare. “Finance is not the only part of the solution, but it is a big part.”

Art Money reports selling 4,000 artworks totaling $18 million in sales during its four years in business. A third of the app’s 3,000 customers returned for a second purchase after completing their first payment plan.

The app works in a similar way to a recent program launched by the Flemish government, which offers an interest-free loan of up to €7,000 (~$8,000) to purchase contemporary art from Flemish and Brussels artists. . Similar government-funded initiatives exist in the Netherlands and the UK, where they have been reported to boost art sales from participating galleries.

Does Art Money affect New York gallery sales? Jared Linge, the founder of High Noon Gallery on New York’s Lower East Side, told Hyperallergic his gallery has doubled its sales since it started using the app two years ago. “Any gallery can give you a payment plan, but you’ll need to make all payments before you get the piece. Here you get it straight away,” he said. The 10% fee the app collects from galleries is a discount it typically gives customers during regular sales, he said. Many of its new buyers, Linge said, are millennials interested in works from the gallery’s roster of emerging and mid-career female artists.

But not every other gallery working with Art Money shares High Noon’s success story. Several Chelsea galleries listed on the site told Hyperallergic that the app had a negligible impact on their sales. Jim Kempner Fine Art, Foley Gallery and Kim Foster Gallery reported no in-app sales. GR Gallery curator Francisco Scipioni said only one client had expressed interest, but he quickly backtracked and paid the full sum up front. Ethan Cohen Gallery said it made a few sales on the app for “substantial amounts”, but declined to divulge any further information. All of the galleries who spoke with Hyperallergic said the app hadn’t introduced them to new collectors.

“I think it’s a very exceptional idea, but getting people to use it is a whole different story,” Kim Foster told Hyperallergic in a phone conversation. For some big customers, she says, the very notion of a payment plan is offensive. In one case, a customer was so offended by the offer that he ended up buying an extra coin “just to prove he had the money”. Following several such instances, Foster stopped promoting his gallery on the app. “I find it embarrassing to offer it to people… The app is great for galleries, I just don’t know how to spread it without being rude,” she said.

“The main reason why some galleries are more successful than others [in selling through the app] that’s how they talk about it,” Becker told Hyperallergic. “The most successful galleries are comfortable talking about it,” he said, “other galleries are waiting for collectors to ask.”

The High Noon gallery seems to be a good example. Unlike its Chelsea peers, Linge includes a breakdown of monthly payments near each item on its gallery price lists. This removes a major psychological barrier against buying art, he asserts: “Americans are afraid of the word ‘loan’ because of its association with student loans and intractable debt.” Instead of “loan,” Linge promotes the service as a “credit system,” which seems to help ease resistance. He also follows Becker’s advice and personally engages with gallery visitors to introduce them to the app.

“Anything new takes time to catch on, especially in the conservative art market,” Becker said. Art Money, he adds, is “changing the culture of the art market” to pave the way for the “next generation of art collectors”. This diverse and financially responsible new breed of collector, he said, is “less extravagant, less complacent and more responsible” than the old guard.

Norma D. Ross