High-end US developers use valuable artworks to draw in potential buyers

Valuable sculptures and paintings are being used as a marketing tool at luxury US properties, drawing on potential buyers' passion for culture

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 5:16am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 5:34am

Visitors to homes being built by Miami-based developer The Related Group might see a dramatic Markus Linnenbrink sculpture in an outdoor space, an installation by Uruguayan artist Ana Tiscornia in a lobby, or any number of valuable pieces hand-picked by the company's three in-house curators.

In what is a growing trend in hot property centres around the world, developers and builders are increasingly using art to showcase, market and brand their projects.

"In this new world, art is like an introduction. It's your business card," said Carlos Rosso, president of the condominium division of The Related Group.

When you think of luxury, you think of everything that threads across it
Randy Char, Las Vegas condo chief

"When you are selling real estate to billionaires from Russia, the Middle East and China, what distinguishes you is what is hanging on your walls."

The Related Group, which is working on 35 developments around Florida, is incorporating art into each one.

"We get real artists to come and intervene in the projects, whether it's the facade of a garage or artwork that we put inside the building or sculptures we use in the park areas," said Rosso. The company has its own curators, who seek out intriguing artworks to be used in the building, and earmark hundreds of thousands of US dollars towards a single piece to be used in a lobby space.

That's a policy firmly in place at One Thousand Museum - a residential tower under construction in Miami and slated for completion in 2017 - where the sales centre features an artwork in the form of a lighting installation by Zaha Hadid, who is also the architect of the building.

"We wanted to create a museum-quality residence, knowing that many of our prospective purchasers within the building are patrons of the arts and collectors," said developer Louis Birdman. Hadid, also renowned as an artist, painter and sculptor, has several pieces of furniture and accessories in the existing spaces.

Something is clearly making an impact - the sales office opened in October, and since then about a third of the 83 units, for which prices start at US$5 million, have been sold.

At the luxurious Oceana Bal Harbour in Miami, Argentinian developer Eduardo Costantini, who owns the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires, has thrown in a couple of extra reasons for purchasing the US$30 million residences at Oceana - he has acquired two Jeff Koons sculptures, for a total of US$14 million, to be housed in the entrance to the building.

Koons is now the priciest living author at auction, after his Balloon Dog sculpture sold at a Christie's auction for more thanUS$58 million.

There will be a retrospective exhibition of Koons' work at The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York next year and more of the artist's pieces will be featured in the Oceana's lobby.

The art-real estate trend is especially prevalent in Miami, but is catching on fast.

"People who buy high-end real estate tend to have art and culture as a huge part of their life," said Randy Char, senior vice-president of operations at the luxury One Queensridge Place condo in Las Vegas. "We definitely had that in mind when we designed the building."

As a result, the walls of the show flats in the development - comprising two 18-storey towers with 219 units - are covered with artworks, many culled from local galleries.

Often, said Char, new buyers buy the flats with the artworks still in them.

But he said the art-real estate connection goes beyond that - exclusive events for the residents and their guests, some of which are held in one of the 15,000 sq ft penthouses, often incorporate art displays.

"When you think of luxury, you think of everything that threads across it," said Char.

To that end, One Queensridge Place has organised art displays with US-based artist Peter Max, known for his lush psychedelic works, which showcase Max's work alongside millions of US dollars worth of Piaget watches and Giorgio Armani fashion.

In New York, designer and furniture maker Jonathan Chanduvi is planning an exhibition at Azure, a hip condominium on the Upper East Side, where the lobby will feature Chanduvi's furniture pieces.

In the prestigious areas of Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Holmby Hills in California, SRE Investing, which designs and builds luxury homes, puts valuable art on its walls so target customers can see the possibilities. "When you're showing a buyer a home, don't ever ask them to imagine anything, because virtually nobody can," said Seth Phillips, the company's chief operating officer.

Time Equities, a New York real-estate firm, has its own in-house curator to seek out high-calibre art for public spaces.

"Our mission is to bring contemporary art by emerging and mid-career artists to a non-traditional space, promoting the artist, expanding the audience for art and creating a more interesting environment for occupants," the curator said.

One of the residential buildings for which she is responsible displays an installation by Grimanesa Amoros - whose work was shown at last year's Art Basel Hong Kong exhibition.

The correlation may soon be seen in other parts of the world, including Hong Kong, says Yara De Abreu, vice-president of Developer Solutions at Opulence International, a Miami-based sales and marketing firm working with luxury properties in Greece, Spain and the Bahamas.

It is now liaising with a Hong Kong affiliate to implement more art in local properties as an additional branding tool.

"It's an extremely important concept," she said. "And we need to do our work to make sure that we are targeting that specific demographic."