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
'Banksy Does New York' Film - 2014

Art Somebody is going around telling people he's Banksy - but it isn't the street artist

Arts and Entertainment
Woody Allen and Placido Domingo will work together on Puccini's Schicchi

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
The sixteen celebrities taking part in The Jump 2015

TV

Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

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

TV

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.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore