The Impact of the Private Collector on the UK Art Storage Market

Art storage facilities

The idea of storing paintings or sculpture seems alien to most of us. Those of us from typical backgrounds, buy art to hang on our walls as we enjoy looking at it, or even on a more functional level, to fill empty space. Perhaps you own one or two special pieces of art, bought, inherited, or acquired from a dear friend, which have more value, sentimental or monetary, than the others. Surely you would want to keep these closest to you, rather than locking them away, and only seeing them a couple of times a year?

Yet, as the fine art market continues to post commendable results, more and more art is going into storage.  In 2015, sales of art and collectibles at Christie’s totalled £4.8 billion, down 5% from 2014 but still the company’s second highest total.  Sotheby’s auction sales for the same period are flat at £4.6 billion after an 18 percent increase in 2014.

While art galleries and dealers still buy a significant part of this market, more and more is bought by private individuals.  Collectors such as Charles Saatchi, who has exhibited his collection in London on and off since 1985 and Roman Abramovic the owner of Chelsea football club, have chosen to open Public galleries to showcase their collections. 

Clearly this is beyond the means of most collectors, so they turn to private art storage to store their works.  For comparatively small fee, these companies will store your collection in highly secure and environmentally controlled conditions. The standards of these facilities are sufficiently high for major museums to store their works their works there.  The rise in private clients using art storage facilities has led to many developing custom built client storage facilities, where you can view your work in a discrete room, similar to those offered by bank vaults.

Even with the most accommodating company, access to your art requires advance booking, and is nothing like having it in your home or business, so why buy works of art you can’t display? Some collectors have simply been bitten by the collecting bug and enjoy having an extensive collection.  Others, see art as a fantastic investment, as with the interest rates at such a low level, art can often outperform other investments. Owning art also has a rare kudos attached to it, it transcends other luxury goods, deferring on the owner the appearance of wealth, knowledge and good taste.

Though, we will never know the exact motivation of the private collector, what we can be sure of, is that with the art market continuing to grow, there will be no shortage of new private buyers in the market, and no shortage of art storage facilities willing to accommodate them.

About the Author:  Huw is an experienced art storage and shipping professional with an art history background.

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