Cash in on your Picasso
Behind the world’s most beautiful paintings lies a borrowing binge
FEW ART collectors are as liquid as Patrick Drahi, a French telecoms magnate, who purchased Sotheby’s, an auction house, for $3.7bn in cash last month. Selling art can take months, even years. The only way to unlock its value quickly is to borrow against it. And indeed the number of owners doing so is rising. Deloitte, an accounting firm, estimates that the outstanding value of loans against art in America reached $17bn-20bn in 2017, up 13% from the previous year. Industry insiders say such lending has continued to grow at double-digit rates since then.
“Ten or 20 years ago it never crossed your mind to leverage your art collection. But the word is out now,” says Evan Beard of Bank of America Private Bank, the institution with the highest outstanding value of art-secured loans. As interest rates have fallen, borrowing has become more attractive. Open public registers make it easy to check if art is encumbered. Price estimates and auction results available online since the early 2000s have made underwriting easier. In America collectors can even keep encumbered art on their wall.
“一二十年前，你从不会想到用收藏的艺术品来借钱。而现在人人都知道这件事了。”美国银行下属私人银行（Bank of America Private Bank）的埃文·比尔德（Evan Beard）说。这家银行的未偿艺术品抵押贷款最多。随着利率降低，贷款变得更有吸引力。通过公开的公共登记很容易查到艺术品是否已经被抵押。从本世纪初开始，估价和拍卖结果可以在网上查询，这让贷款审核变得更容易了。在美国，收藏家甚至可以继续把抵押的艺术品挂在自家墙上。
Large banks’ private-banking arms have been lending against art since the 1970s. Now the strong market is attracting specialist lenders. For a private bank, though a loan may be secured against a piece of art, it will almost always be backed in the last resort by a client’s entire balance-sheet. Boutique lenders, by contrast, will accept a piece of art as sole collateral.
Athena, America’s largest boutique lender, requires art worth about $2m to secure its minimum loan of $1m. At Bank of America and other private banks, the minimum loan is closer to $5m. Both accept only works by well-known artists as collateral, since they are the only ones with reliable longevity. Thus art-secured loans are less risky than many believe, says Arturo Cifuentes of Columbia Business School.
“We can lend millions of dollars in three or four weeks,” says Cynthia Sachs, chief investment officer at Athena. But boutiques’ greater speed and flexibility come at a price: interest rates that outstrip those at private banks by several percentage points. That may hobble their growth. Rachel Pownall, a professor of art finance at Maastricht University, thinks the market for specialist lenders may be limited, since most art by famous names belongs to super-rich clients of private banks. Among dealers and gallerists, only the smaller ones have to turn to boutique lenders.
“我们可以在三四周里借出几百万美元。”Athena的首席投资官辛西娅·萨克斯（Cynthia Sachs）说。但要享受这些专门机构在速度和灵活性上的优势要付出代价：它们收取的利息要比私人银行高出几个百分点。这可能会阻碍它们的发展。马斯特里赫特大学（Maastricht University）的艺术金融教授蕾切尔·波纳尔（Rachel Pownall）认为，专门贷款机构的市场可能有限，因为大多数知名作品都在私人银行的超级富人客户手里。在交易商和画廊老板中，只有实力较小的那些才不得不找专门贷款机构借钱。
The best prospect for growth in the sector may be Europe. None of the continent’s banks has an art-lending programme on the scale of those in America, where 90% of art-secured lending takes place. Art financiers such as the Fine Art Group in London and WestendArtBank in Berlin have moved in. Lenders say inquiries from wealthy clients about leveraging their art collection are rising. Though Europeans are in general reluctant to borrow against their possessions, those who buy art for reasons beyond the aesthetic may prove willing to make an exception.
这一行里增长前景最好的地方可能是欧洲。在那里，还没有哪家银行开展像美国那类大规模的艺术品抵押贷款——目前90%的此类贷款都发生在美国。伦敦的Fine Art Group和柏林的WestendArtBank等艺术品融资机构已经进入这一领域。贷款机构称，富裕客户有关艺术藏品抵押贷款的问询越来越多。尽管欧洲人总体而言不喜欢抵押自己的财产来借钱，但那些并非出于审美需求购买艺术品的人可能愿意破个例。