CAROL BELLAMY looks at the move towards investment in fine art and design as a complement to investment in property.

Design-led 20th Century interior, Dublin, January 2015, courtesy Gloss Magazine, The Irish Times.

Design-led 20th Century interior, Dublin, January 2015, courtesy Gloss Magazine, The Irish Times.

Sculptor John Behan (right) with Allianz CEO Brendan Murphy and Celtic Realm.

Sculptor John Behan (right) with Allianz CEO Brendan Murphy and Celtic Realm.

If there was ever any doubt about the impact a strong property market has on the sale and commission of fine art, the boom years put paid to it. Like property, auction houses selling fine art and antiques enjoyed unprecedented levels of success. The reasons were many: the construction and sale of premier properties, the funds generated from these sales and the entry to market of a new wave of high net worth buyers as a result. The country was flourishing and when there is surplus cash, ‘luxury goods’ thrive. The pursuit of Irish art during this time was such that demand outstripped supply and prompted the introduction of contemporary art sales, selling works by emerging artists at public auctions, a genre up until then primarily served by the private art galleries. The title of “general valuer” had served me well in the years preceding the boom, especially when working on insurance schedules. With the Irish market too small to accommodate a specialist, my years working in an auction house prepared me perfectly for the typical schedules I encountered, comprising 18th and 19th Century furniture, silver and porcelain, together with the work of well-known Irish artists.
However, with the spiralling interest in contemporary art I quickly realised that I would need to evolve professionally in order to survive as a valuer. My response was to immerse myself in the world of contemporary art by becoming a frequent visitor to the many art galleries, attending numerous exhibitions, arming myself with price lists and, where possible, meeting artists. This got me to a point where I could immediately identify the work of new ‘names’ on the block when they inevitably presented during a valuation.
The collapse of the property market saw the end of this golden era, which in unison with property is also showing gradual signs of recovery. Working as a valuer during this time was hectic, but the learning curve I experienced has proved invaluable. It expanded the range of works I was comfortable with and gave me the prudence to advise my clients, both private and corporate, in the creation and development of their collections.

Celtic Realm, a monumental sculpture by the Irish artist John Behan, which was commissioned over 30 years ago, stands majestically at the basement entrance to Allianz House. The piece, a rare casting in aluminium, has recently undergone a restoration, re-igniting interest and discussion among staff and visitors alike.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
As a valuer, the equity of an existing collection is something that I can establish and outline for a client following a valuation. A role advising private clients on creating equity through a collection of art and design has evolved as a result.
I have met many collectors over the years and the most successful ones treat their collections similarly to the stock market. They take advice, keep an eye on the market and diversify. Limiting a collection to one country provides little protection if its market dips or weakens. If your preference is for contemporary art, identify successful artists from other countries and include them in your collection; in other words, spread the risk. Of course, you have to like it to live with it, but incorporating a financial approach to collecting makes perfect sense.
Irish art is now the most popular choice for collectors in Ireland, where once it was antique furniture. You knew you were in a prosperous home by the antiques and fine art that greeted you at the entrance – high-end houses were decorated with quality original pieces that had proved their worth over time and could always be relied upon should the need for some funds arise.
With today’s affluent home owners favouring a more modern approach to furnishing, and choosing luxury over tradition, furniture as a reliable source of equity is not a big consideration.
However, with the right advice and planning, a high-end 20th Century interior can provide the required level of luxury to live with and enjoy, while also creating an acceptable level of equity. Nowadays, choosing collectable names and designers from this genre has never been easier, with all the major auction houses holding several dedicated 20th Century design sales. I recently completed an interiors collection for a Dublin-based client where everything from lighting, furniture and decorative art combined to create a luxurious, high-end functional and equitable interior.

You knew you were in a prosperous home by the antiques and fine art that greeted you at the entrance – high-end houses were decorated with quality original pieces that had proved their worth over time and could always be relied upon should the need for some funds arise.

 

A picture speaks a thousand words
The aforementioned boom in contemporary art also resulted in unprecedented support from the corporate world. Keen to add to existing collections, large commissions for art and sculpture were common. However, in today’s business world financial gain is rarely the motivation behind an art collection. Companies appreciate the non-monetary value of art in the workplace with issues such as corporate social responsibility, public perception and staff morale now the prime incentives. Once dominated by industry leaders, smaller companies with a modest budget now also see the wider benefits of art investment.
Numerous studies have shown how art can benefit the employee/employer relationship, and the positive effect art can have on the brain, making the workplace more welcoming, and stimulating creativity. Accordingly, companies are now displaying art once reserved for the boardrooms in the communal open plan office spaces that make up the majority of today’s corporate environments. The choice of art can be shaped by the company’s demographic and values, or influenced by the results of colour analysis to create the preferred atmosphere, from calming and creative to vibrant and inspirational.
The entrance and reception areas are another space where, through the use of art, companies can create a positive impact, representing and supporting local artists and landmarks.
Allianz Ireland recently undertook a re-hanging project at their offices in Elm Park. In addition to re-framing and restoration, a short biography now accompanies the works, giving the viewer information on the artist, and explaining the inspiration or motivation for the piece.
Celtic Realm, a monumental sculpture by the Irish artist John Behan, which was commissioned over 30 years ago, stands majestically at the basement entrance to Allianz House. The piece, a rare casting in aluminium, has recently undergone a restoration, re-igniting interest and discussion among staff and visitors alike. During the restoration Behan recalled the inspiration for the piece, which was the Four Knocks megalithic tomb in the Naul, Co. Dublin. This information has now been placed beside the sculpture, encouraging the viewer to stop for a moment and enjoy the piece.

 

Carol Belamy

Carol Bellamy
Carol provides valuations for insurance, market and probate purposes, and also acts as adviser to private and corporate collectors of fine art and antiques.