Art bubble fueling real estate sales?

Brokers increasingly use exhibits to lure buyers

Jul.July 01, 2012 07:00 AM

From left: Artist Carrie Sunday and Elliman CEO Dottie Herman at the “Study in Meditation” party

At 4 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon last month, the Prudential Douglas Elliman location at 980 Madison Avenue resembled your average real estate brokerage office. But by 6 p.m., desks and computers were gone, 16 abstract canvasses by the artist Carrie Sunday hung on the walls and guests were arriving for a party honoring Sunday’s exhibit, “Study in Meditation,” which will be displayed in the office through the end of this month.

Elliman CEO Dottie Herman was inspired to host the exhibition, she said, because “I like putting strong brands together. Carrie is just so talented, and I hope I’m part of her success.”

The Elliman/Carrie Sunday event is just one of a growing number of collaborations between artists and real estate marketers. In addition to the Elliman event, last month saw Unframed 2012, an art auction held in a $32-million penthouse at new condo 400 Fifth Avenue and a contemporary art opening at the Upper East Side’s “Waterfall Mansion,” which is currently on the market for $31 million.

Real estate pros have long used contemporary art to liven up sales offices and help market homes. But with art houses reporting record-breaking sales figures, brokers and developers are now especially eager to tap into the growing market of high-end art buyers. More than ever before, they are opening up their offices, lobbies and model apartments to artists, usually kicking off these exhibitions with gallery-style receptions.

Today’s hot art market is “part of the popular culture of luxury and celebrity,” said Amy Cappellazzo, chairman of postwar and contemporary development at Christie’s. “It’s good for the sex appeal of the real estate market.”

By collaborating with artists, brokers and developers hope to attract wealthy collectors, who may very well be looking for pricey homes in which to display their purchases.

“It’s all about reaching out to a certain clientele,” Karen Mansour of Douglas Elliman Development Marketing, which is handling sales 400 Fifth Avenue. At the recent Unframed event, some 250 guests bid on artwork displayed throughout the building’s six-bedroom penthouse, and a Chris Levine piece called “Lightness of Being” was sold for $17,000.

In designing the “Waterfall Mansion,” developer Kate Shin said she specifically made sure the house was well-suited for displaying art. Now that it’s on the market, Shin is displaying some 50 pieces of work by nine contemporary Korean artists in the house, and held an opening-night reception in honor of them.
“Art is an effective strategy to communicate with my buyers,” she said.

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