Cash-Poor Collectors Turn to Haute Pawnshops

'Private art banks' exchange paintings for cash
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 24, 2009 8:12 AM CST
Annie Leibovitz recently secured two loans through Art Capital Group, a private bank that operates more like a pawnshop.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – With loans hard to come by, some rich Americans are turning to their art collections for quick cash. Rather than sell in a depressed market, collectors turn to a lightly regulated corner of the marketplace that provides capital in exchange for temporary ownership of artwork. While they may look like galleries, reports the New York Times, high-end pawnshops is a more accurate label.

One auctioneer called art lending “a very rough-and-tumble corner of the business,” largely out of sight before the recession. In addition to letting collectors borrow against artworks, the lenders also let artists pawn copyrights and future work. Photographer Annie Leibovitz recently received loans totaling $15 million, with not just homes but also photographic negatives and rights to future contracts as collateral.