Young firms turn to Old Masters

Helen Jones talks to a company that rents out 'instant heritage'

Impoverished but the lucky owner of a fine piece of art? Then some of your financial worries may be over. Instead of sellingfamily heirlooms, owners of country houses faced with enormous bills, or Lloyd's names with mortgages and school fees to pay, have found a new source of income - renting their works of art to companies in return for an annual fee.

The Langford Fine Art Collection was set up by Tony Harris, who was a guest at a country house and saw a space on the wall where a large painting had hung. The owner explained that it had been sold to pay for the upkeep of the house and Mr Harris then devised a system for owners to retain their ownership while receiving an annual rent.

Corporate art has graced the offices of City and financial institutions for years and some, such as the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation, own particularly fine collections, but renting rather than owning art is a relatively new idea. Susan Ahlquist, the joint managing director of Langford, says: "People come to us for a variety of reasons. Some to raise money and others find insurance costs are prohibitively expensive or are frightened to display their pieces for security reasons."

Rik de Stroumillo, a graphic designer who rents out a painting via Langford, says: "I thought it was a good idea. I have a picture that I didn't particularly want to get rid of but I see this as a way of getting some pin money." He adds that to fill the gap on his wall he "may consider renting something that I might not be able to afford to buy".

But the business is not without its difficulties. Langford has to assure owners of confidentiality not least for security reasons but also because some family members may not know that an heirloom is on loan or because some fear what their well-heeled neighbours might say. "You have to be sensitive. Some do not want anyone to think that they are strapped for cash and we have to respect that," says Ms Ahlquist. Langford handles paintings, tapestries, sculptures, porcelain, glass and other objets d'art, usually with a minimum value of pounds 25,000, which will generate a rental of around pounds 3,000 a yearfor a minimum of two years. The more valuable the work of art, the higher the rental income.

The most expensive work on its books is a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds valued at pounds 1.5m. Other paintings include works by William Hogarth, Canaletto and John Singer Sargent.

The company handles most subject matters - landscapes, marine, still life and sport, though cherished portraits are more difficult to place. Paintings and sculptures also have to be of a reasonable size. Too small and they will not be suitable for reception and office areas. Having sourced a work of art, Langford works in conjunction with International Art Consultants, a firm of corporate art specialists, to find a suitable firm to rent it.

Peter Harris, the chairman of International Art Consultants, says: "The system allows companies, who are unwilling to commit the sums of money needed to acquire works of art of Old Master status, to rent them instead. It enables companies to achieve the image they require at a rental cost that is wholly tax deductible."

So why do companies invest in works of art? Mr Harris says: "It gives companies an aura of heritage, history and pedigree even if they are reasonably young companies. It also gives a sense of what the company is about both to visitors and employees."

But Mr Harris warns that it is not good enough just to have any old painting as long as it is valuable. "Although the Japanese tend to go for value rather than what the picture is actually of, we find that most companies want something that relates to their business," he says. "It is not just decoration, like ordering a new pair of curtains. It has to have relevance to the company and its image."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advisor – Ind Advisory Firm

$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture