Buro 24/7, August 2015
Offering interest-free loans to people wanting to buy art at Sydney Contemporary and beyond, Art Money is the smartest scheme to hit the art world in a long time. Noelle Faulkner tells us why.
To many people, the art world is intimidating enough; let alone the thought of dropping a few k on a piece in one sitting. It's interesting, because every other industry has this problem sorted - be it a car, a house, a lounge, all the way through to a brand new Vitamix - fact is, big-ticket items generally come with a finance plan. Yet, bar some galleries who offer a lay-by option, the art deal is usually an on-the-spot-cash-drop. Then, compounding this anxiety further, is a fear that should you hesitate or not be able to cough up coin quick enough, the artwork will get sold to another. We're not talking about a Gucci bag that's in every store here, art is a one-of-a-kind game, remember?
Luckily, a new financial program aiming to normalise and well, bring some rationality to the process is here. Meet Art Money, an immediate, interest-free loan supporting galleries, artists and reducing that the knee-jerk reactions that can happen to the best of us, seasoned collectors or not.
"Art Money started as an idea to help increase engagement and bring more people into the art world," explains 10 Group's Paul Becker, the founder and brains behind the scheme. "One of the biggest barriers to access this idea in art was that when you wanted to buy an artwork, you essentially had to pay upfront for it." What Becker aimed to do, was to bring a scheme to Sydney (which has since gone international) that will help provide a sort of boost into buying, making the art collecting ladder a little easier to climb.
Darren McDonald, 'Albino', 2014. Oil on linen, 152×152 cm. Scott Livesey Gallery. The gallery is the partner of Art Money
Inspired by government-funded schemes like Collect Art in Tasmania and Own Art in the UK, Becker mulled over the idea, eventually partnering with and gaining start-up funding from City of Sydney (though this is a commercial venture, the first of it's kind in the world), and went on to launch Art Money in April this year. Since then, over 80 galleries (and counting) have signed up nationally, not to mention several international galleries. This includes many of the global visitors showing at Sydney Contemporary.
So how does it work? Provided the gallery you wish to purchase from is a partner, and you've been pre-approved by the Art Money site, you're welcome to borrow $750 to $20,000 to purchase a work that will immediately be yours. The loans are interest free and are to be paid over 10 months, with a 10 per cent deposit upfront.
"We've had feedback from people who have said 'I've been thinking about this for a long time, but never been able to get there. This has enabled that in a financial sense,'" he says.
"What I like about it, though, is it democratises art. It takes away the whole elitism thing, that makes people think that only the wealthy can afford to buy art." Unlike European culture, often Australians think of art as an extravagance, an out-of-reach purchase for the elite - but in reality, that is just not the case. "I think we need to do a lot of normalising in the art world," says Becker. "So what Art Money does is just make the buying process normal - not this scary big-ticket thing. It's sensible and you don't have to feel extravagant and you don't have to feel like they're being irresponsible by buying art."
Essentially, the Art Money program gives art lovers permission to buy art, in a responsible way. "It's just good retail practice really that happens in every other industry," shrugs Becker, humbly. "We're just bringing it to the art world. It's a no brainer, really."