Art, not sex, is what sells NYC’s trophy apartments

Interior Marketing Group’s work on display (credit: Interior Marketing Group)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to New York City real estate, perhaps a more apt adage would be that a picture is worth a ton of sales.

Springing up across the city in model units, sales galleries, and across new developments, high-value artwork is the newest tool in a seller’s inventory.

“Home stagers have been using prints and paintings to fill blank walls since the practice of staging began, but I think developers, brokers and sellers are now seeing the added value of art,” Cheryl Eisen, President of luxury interior design and property staging firm, Interior Marketing Group (IMG), told LLNYC.

“They’re thinking more deeply about the subject and how art can be used in a very competitive market. Art collecting is an investment, a passion and a source of pride in the luxury community, so the synergies are clear.”

Widely accepted is the idea that pieces used need to be original works of art, that is, pieces that are not reproductions or simply decorative.

“Real means the intention behind the piece,” explained Roy Kim, the chief creative officer for Douglas Elliman Development Marketing, who has placed artworks worth up to $150,000 in listed apartments. Kim told us that when choosing artwork for Elliman, he likes to counter the vibe of the interior design, and to make the piece pop.

“Staging an apartment is a delicate art,” he said. And the art, “[is] as important as the furniture or interior design.”

Typically, the more expensive the apartment, the more expensive the art used to stage it will be, as the pieces should align with the net worth of the buyer. “You want people to connect emotionally to it,” said Kipton Cronkite, an art advisor and curator, and Douglas Elliman broker.

“If it’s the $5 million demographic, the art needs to be at an elevated level of sophistication, like the buyer,” Cronkite said.

The NOMA building’s sales gallery shows original works by Josef and Anni Albers (credit: MW Studio)

At the NOMA building’s Flatiron sales gallery you’ll find original works on loan from the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. The duo are famed for their contributions to the Bauhaus movement — which was the inspiration for the building itself.

“It definitely is a talking point,” said Caleb Hartzler, the sales director for the development. “It’s always helpful for the art to have a meaningful connection to the building.”

But how do building developers go about getting their hands on rare works of extremely valuable art? They certainly aren’t ripping pieces off their own walls — although Kim did note that he’s known developers who have displayed their collections in the lobbies of their buildings.

Instead, they connect with galleries to buy, loan, or strike deals with artists to show their work — or more often have a curator do that for them. But at IMG, they employ an in-house art department (housed in a 33,000 square-foot warehouse in Jersey City) that actually creates original objet d’art used for staging projects.

“The pieces we use tend toward modern and abstract — genres we think most people can appreciate,” Eisen said. “We pride ourselves in our ability to evoke a mood and create a mise-en-scène that resonates well with upscale buyers. Brokers and developers like how we play with lines, shapes and occasional bold colorings to give a space luxury grandeur.”