Trend alert: Art aficionados design living spaces around collections

The gallery space in the Soho home of Edwina Sandys
The gallery space in the Soho home of Edwina Sandys

Real estate and art are birds of a (very expensive) feather. So it is no surprise that if rich folks got ’em, they want to flaunt ’em. Gone of the days of being bored by a host’s fancy vacation slides or family photo shoots. Now the well-to-do are eager to instead show off their art in the most spectacular ways.

A home gallery space
A home gallery space

The WSJ reports that lately “the intensity has ratcheted up as values of both high-end art and high-end real estate rise.” So much so that art lovers are modifying their living spaces to mimic a “Night-at-the-Museum” vibe, often going as far as constructing gallery spaces and/or installing special lighting, HVAC museum-grade humidifiers, and alarm systems and sensors to allow visitors to look but not touch.

Home renovation and design consultant, Royce Pinkwater told the Journal that in recent years she’s seen an uptick in clients who “are highly focused on displaying very valuable collections.”

When mere modifications such as keeping interior walls blank as well as avoiding “wall acne,” such as lighting and electrical fixtures, to best offset the art, are not enough, some owners are actually designing their homes around their collections or (*gasp) building extra dwellings — guest homes for art, if you will — for them.

One indulgent architect used his client’s art collection, which included Vik Muniz’s portraits made of sugar of child slave laborers harvesting the white stuff, as inspiration for the home’s design. “Taking a cue from the pieces’ cheeky use of materials, [the designer] created siding for the home made of skinny wood stakes.”

As fun as all this sounds, as with most obsessions, this one comes with a few challenges, and, as a result, some art hoarders must forgo their painting-heavy fantasies because glass-box condos rarely have enough wall space. Instead, they tend to concentrate on sculpture acquisitions. Also, getting large-scale art into high rises can pose a problem. One collector says “they got the elevator company to place [an oversized] piece on top of the passenger cab to bring it upstairs.” And because art waits for no man, in some cases transporting it may “involve closing off a street and hiring a crane to hoist it through a window.”

Many art collections cost even more than the homes that house them. But owners say the effort and cost is worth it. As one avid collector puts it, “You could buy a table you could put flowers on, but I thought that was a ridiculous waste of money, I’d rather buy a piece of art to be a focal point.”

For an amazing example of a home built around art, check out LLNYC’s cover story with artist and aristocrat Edwina Sandys.