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
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
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
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
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.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee