Leibovitz pawns her life's work to raise $16m

Portrait photographer forced to mortgage rights to her art as financial turmoil takes its toll

Pity the struggling rich who find that their swaggering homes no longer have the value necessary to help them raise more cash when suddenly they need it. But for some there is salvation. There are certain institutions out there interested in taking something else as collateral for new loans: art.

You are particularly blessed if you not only collect important art – it has to be good stuff, not your great aunt's oils languishing in the attic – but are the creator of it. Just ask Annie Leibovitz, the portrait photographer whose clients have included Walt Disney and Vanity Fair, but who has apparently hit the financial shoals.

She may be one of the most successful commercial photographers of her time but, over the past several months, Leibovitz has reportedly gone to an institution called Art Capital in Manhattan for loans totalling no less than $15.5m (£10.8m). Whatever outstanding bills she has, they are apparently considerable.

It is the nature of her loan agreement that will get the art world all a-twitter, however. For sure, she began by doing the traditional thing, offering properties as collateral, including her country home in upstate New York as well as town houses in Greenwich Village. But then she was forced to mortgage something else – at least for the life of the loans – all the rights to her photographs, those already taken and even those she will take in the future.

The loans-for-art market is not one that is widely known about beyond tight circles. "It's very discreet," Ian Peck, co-owner of Art Capital, told The New York Times, which published an exposé yesterday. Another prominent New Yorker who has resorted to pawning his artworks is the film director and property developer Julian Schnabel, who has stretched his own resources building a gaudy-pink apartment complex in the West Village known as Palazzo Chupi.

That art – some art, at least – is retaining its value where other commodities, including bricks and mortar, are not, has been confirmed, at least so far, by this week's auction in Paris of the Yves Saint Laurent collection. Takings on the first night were €206m (£183m). Elsewhere, however, there are fears that sudden dispersals of collections by cash-hungry galleries and museums could depress values in this market also.

For now, though, business is good at Art Capital, which expects to make art-secured loans of about $120m this year, compared with $80m last year. It has rivals who also report good times. At Art Finance Partners, also in Manhattan, there has been a 40 per jump in loan requests in the past six months.

Think of the art market and revered names such as Sotheby's and Christies come up. But where Leibovitz and Mr Schnabel have chosen to tread is a good deal less genteel. These institutions are entirely legitimate, but some might call them loan sharks, or if not that glorified pawn shops. Art Capital, for example, will make loans of $500,000 or more at interest rates of between 6 per cent and 16 per cent.

Most important to remember is this: default on your payments and those precious masterpieces – or, in the case of Leibovitz, those famous photographs (including, one assumes, some of the Queen) – will no longer belong to you. Indeed, the offices of Art Capital are hung with canvasses that clients have been forced to surrender and are now subject to sale. A Rubens here, two Warhols there and, around the corner, one Rodriguez.

Reporting Leibovitz's dealings with Art Capital, The New York Times quotes loan documents filed at the City Register's Office saying that she had signed over "copyrights ... photographic negatives ... contract rights" existing or to be created in the future, to secure loans first of $5m last autumn and then a second $10.5m tranche in December. The money will in part go towards consolidating existing mortgages on her city homes.

The news of her dealings appeared to confirm rumours that Leibovitz was on the financial ropes.

Recent stresses for the photographer have included huge costs associated with an elaborate studio in Chelsea, Manhattan, that she has since relinquished, and the death of her former partner, Susan Sontag, and the responsibilities of raising her children. She has also had to deal with lawsuits filed against her by a lighting company and stylist for about $700,000.

Artists on the breadline

Rembrandt van Rijn

The Dutch master declared himself bankrupt in 1656, when he was left with enormous debts after years of living beyond his means. He was forced to sell his house in Amsterdam and move to a more modest part of the city and his family opened an art shop to fend off his creditors. During these dark years, he painted numerous self portraits in which he depicted himself as a man racked by sadness and pain.

James Whistler

After the critic John Ruskin publicly denounced Whistler's Nocturne in Black and Gold in 1877, the artist sued him for libel. He won the action but was only awarded one farthing in compensation, a decision that appeared to vindicate Ruskin. The court costs combined with the damage done to Whistler's reputation – which drove away potential patrons – was enough to ruin him financially and he declared himself bankrupt in 1879, selling his London house and moving to Venice.

Lionel Bart

At the peak of his success, the composer, below, owned five houses, including a 27-room castle in Tangier and a flat in New York. However, he was forced to sell them all after signing away the rights to Oliver!, his most popular work, a decision which is said to have cost him up to £100m in lost earnings. The composer declared himself bankrupt in 1972 and slid into depression and alcoholism but slowly rebuilt his fortune during the 1990s through other royalties. He once said: "I hated money. I had no respect for it. My attitude was to spend it as I got it."

Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tv review
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

The best TV shows and films coming to the service

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn