How Art Became the Trump Card in Prime Residential Property Developments

Art comes in different sizes, shapes and mediums. Throughout history, wealthy individuals and families have built spectacular homes which are often accompanied by artworks. A prominent example is the Medici family in Italy whose patronage of the arts contributed to the Italian Renaissance. The symbiotic relationship between art and property continues today.

For property developers today, selecting the right artwork can be as important as selecting the right location. In London, during the launch of residential development The Chilterns in Marylebone, a series of commissioned photographs was displayed in the entrance lobby. Building’s lobbies are typically visible not only from the inside but also the outside. Overtaking the entrance lobby was a strategic decision and location for a private gallery to showcase its artworks. In the case of The Chilterns, the commissioned photographs by David Bailey welcomed visitors and potential buyers, as well as being part of a welcome pack for buyers of the properties. Each original artwork by David Bailey is said to be worth around £20,000. As a reference point, properties at The Chilterns are listed for sale from £3 million. The close relationship between high-end homes and art is undoubtedly present to this day. The choice of David Bailey’s work is also a deliberate one, likely chosen to attract younger property buyers who are drawn towards photography in their collections.

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David Bailey's work at the entrance lobby to The Chilterns in Marylebone, London. Image by Von Chua.


Art As A Marketing Strategy

Art collections are an expression of the owners and what they enjoy.

Whether selling a built property or off-plan, property developers promote their properties in an increasingly competitive market. The inclusion of art in prime residential properties’ marketing brochures and show homes are commonly seen today as a marketing strategy. From computer-generated images in the promotional materials that are carefully designed by the interior architects / interior designers and the PR agency, in addition to furniture pieces, artworks are also chosen to create a lived-in property. The effect of this strategy works so well that property developers have recognised the value of art as a marketing strategy. Even within the marketing strategy of mid-range homes, art is increasingly integrated by introducing emerging artist’s works, prints or affordable art.

As luxury collections including art are about private enjoyment, residential developments have become the place to be interjected with art. Luxury residential property’s buyers want to be able to enjoy their favourite pieces in the comfort of their home, so a well-designed home considers this to act as a blank canvas to complement the display of the prized collections to be seen daily. Therefore, property developers and designers do place importance in this winning finishing touch when marketing properties.

Art that is carefully displayed in properties can play an important role in the desirability of a property. The symbiotic relationship between art and property means show homes are often an ideal place to integrate an art collection. Gallery owners have this relationship in mind and will curate an art collection that is of a value proportional to a property. Art collections displayed in show homes are typically borrowed from local galleries and the value of the works are often listed on a separate price list for interested parties. This is useful because estate agents say high net worth individuals regularly request to purchase artworks shown in properties. At the ultra-high net worth individuals spectrum, Knight Frank has publicly mentioned that some buyers have asked to purchase the entire art collection on display in a property. It is rare but it has happened.

Architectural Characteristics for Art in Property Developments

With high-end residential developments, an architectural characteristic that buyers often look for is the tall ceiling height. One of the many reasons, aside from looking and feeling spacious, is that three metres is approximately the minimum height required to display key artworks. Architects, property developers and estate agents specialising in the prime residential sector are aware of what potential buyers are looking for, and whether conscious or unconscious, buyers of these homes are drawn to properties that can easily showcase their existing or future art collection.

Some clients approach their architects or interior designers with a vision centered around art, or even centered around one prized artwork. This will form the design brief that designers work from. At times, some clients will have a vision on an art collection that is on their wish list, so working with art consultants and gallerists to realise that vision, commissioning work from artists, attending major art fairs or art auctions are also part of the services that interior architects and designers offer to deliver a home that genuinely reflects its owner’s taste.

Architectural characteristics are most noticeable when property buyers have large pieces of artwork. The challenges increase not only from a spatial point of view such as ceiling heights mentioned but also from a structural point of view. Although we do not see what is underneath our floors, walls or ceiling, the structural integrities of these elements are particularly vulnerable if we have an oversized piece of art. Imagine hanging a large glass sculpture by Chihuly on a ceiling or a large piece of painting by Rothko on a wall, these unique requirements need to be pre-planned with care. Also, the sequence in which the art collection arrives is also a critical point in project planning to mitigate all risks.

The Wider Context of Art in Developments

Large-scale development projects are introducing artworks to provide some warmth and character to a new place. This tends to entwine art and culture, inviting and engaging with new residents to instil a sense of community in the wider context. The Riverlight development in Nine Elms, London, is an example whereby property developer St James - Berkeley Group allocated over 75% of the site to landscaped outdoor spaces that include artworks by Kate Davis and Peter Newman.

The inclusion of art in new developments is also an increasingly considered element in planning applications. Property developers are spending 2% to 3% on placemaking to create places people want to live, work or play in; this expenditure on property developments is not unheard of and is increasingly an important element in the successes of new developments. The symbiotic relationship between art and property, from personal enjoyment by home buyers to the general public’s enjoyment of public art within developments shows how art became the trump card in prime residential property developments.

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