The Monday Interview: Selling art as a business investment

Limerick lawyer Rosanne McDonnell believes the Republic could become an important European art business centre if it were to seize the opportunities presented by Brexit, writes Pádraig Hoare

[timgcap=Rosanne McDonnell: It is not just a financial investment, but also an emotional one. With art and antiquities, it is a passion and interest for people, and not only about money. It is about longevity — that is where the word legacy comes in because it is leaving a legacy for the next generation outside of property. Picture: Alan Place]RosanneMcDonnellLimerickLawyer100618_large.jpg[timgcap]

Brexit may have thrown many Irish industries into the throes of uncertainty but for Limerick lawyer Rosanne McDonnell, who specialises in the business of art, the picture could not be more clear.

Ms McDonnell who is behind the Art Business Summit at Adare Manor next week believes the Republic could become an important European art business centre if it were to seize the opportunities presented by Britain’s departure from the EU.

The event sees prominent people from mainland Europe, the UK, and the US, all involved in the art business mixing with Irish tax, law and wealth management advisers.

It hopes to provide insights for advisers to help clients investing in the international art market.

According to Artprice.com, some artwork has delivered average annual returns of almost 9% since 2000.

“Currently a lot of the American galleries like the Marian Goodman Gallery and the Gagosian will have their main storage facilities in London. Brexit will make it more costly to store and ship art through London, as their European base.

“We have Maurice Ward Art Handling, a fantastic company here in business for 50 years with a state-of-the-art storage facility in Dublin that is newly built, and they are in the final stages of their storage facility in Shannon, basically to support these US, Chinese and Russian galleries that would be using London as their European hub, to now move the art through Ireland,” said Ms McDonnell.

It is likely that Brexit will make the movement of art between the UK and EU more burdensome and costly, she said.

As an English speaking EU nation, we are ideally placed to become a gateway between Europe and the US but only if the tax regime and storage facilities are right, she added.

Detractors who point out there is little advantage to the economy in becoming a haven for rich art collectors are missing the wood for the trees, according to Ms McDonnell.

“Of course there is going to be additional logistical support that will be required. There will be more employment, with local expertise in the Shannon area required, for example. Also from a business point of view for the galleries and dealers in Ireland, there will be more connectivity with their US counterparts. That will also have a positive effect.

“We have a lot of international guests flying in for the conference, including some of our American guests who are finding their family roots. They’re spending the week here, reconnecting with relations. It has a knock-on effect. It’s great to be able to put Ireland on the map globally when it comes to art investment,” she said.

The conference will bring together investors and art experts, according to the West Limerick native.

“With art and antiquities, you are looking at the long-term return. What I mean is that it is like a piece of jewellery. You buy an engagement ring in a jewellers and if you go to sell it 12 months later, you may not make much money on it. But if you mind it, and keep all the relevant documentation over a decade or two, the long-term investment would have a lot more of a beneficial impact for the owner. That is how art works also.

“One of the main things is to be as knowledgeable as you can. Like the diamond ring, you need to know the quality. It’s the same with art, you need to make sure to have the right knowledge for your financial investment, whether that is €500,000 or €5,000.

“It’s like anything -- caveat emptor, it does pay to be prudent at the beginning. We don’t seem to have that knowledge for individuals who are interested in the area. A lot of the conferences I have gone to abroad are very much focused on the business professional, which is great, but there isn’t that same conference geared towards individuals who are interested and passionate.

“They don’t have to be collectors today, but it is good for them to have the knowledge if they do want to proceed down that route in years to come, or for the next generation that they have something outside of property. There is a line that says the Swiss buy art like the Irish buy property. It’s about looking at our collectibles in a different light, and with a bit more time, consideration and value into that too,” said Ms McDonnell.

Managing director of deVeres Auction House, John deVere White, who is sponsoring the Adare Manor event, claims the prices of art and antiquities rise in recessions.

Ms McDonnell said: “Diversity with property and antiquities and art does pay off in the long-term. If it is the case that the markets do fall somewhat in property, you have another diverse investment to which you can revert.

“It is not just a financial investment, but also an emotional one. With art and antiquities, it is a passion and interest for people, and not only about money. It is about longevity -- that is where the word legacy comes in because it is leaving a legacy for the next generation outside of property.”


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