A round mirrored artwork hangs from steel cables in the dining room of the Four Seasons Residences model suite. Many luxury condo buyers come with art collections that have to be accommodated in their residences.
“Art has become one part of the whole signature a person places on their condo suite” – Sam Mizrahi
Art is always the first to go in a bad economy, says Toronto art curator Flavio Belli. But judging by the turnout at the recent Art Toronto fair, as well as the increasing interest in collecting art as investment and design statement, he thinks there’s nothing to fear.
“The Canadian market is very hot these days,” says Mr. Belli, now curates for private clients and worked for years as the art director and curator of the Carrier Gallery. “It’s tremendous to see that Canadians, particularly our contemporary photographic artists, are being recognized internationally.”
He cites photographer Edward Burtynsky, whose photos at the recent Toronto International Art Fair (TIAF) were priced at $35,000, hugely successful photographer Jeff Wall, and encaustic painter Tony Scherman.
It’s a sign that Canadians’ art tastes have expanded beyond the Group of Seven. “Our early painters produced marvellous work,” Mr. Belli says, “but there’s much more to Canadian art than that. And buyers are starting to sit up and take notice. Waddington’s recently held a contemporary art auction for pieces created after 1980. That’s a first for Canada -- usually the auctions have work from before mid-century. Clearly the taste of Canadian collectors is certainly becoming more educated.”
These art collections are finding their way into luxury condo suites. Some buyers come with large collections that will need editing; others come with a starter collection they intend to build.
Buyers in their late 20s to early 40s, tend to buy contemporary, up and coming artists, says Janice Fox, director of sales for the Four Seasons. “This young buyer is pretty well travelled and they’ve attended art shows all over the world. The work they bring back seems to be edgy contemporary pieces. Frequently, they have their own art curators to help them make wise purchases, or to edit down a collection so it works with the condo space.”
The older buyer at the Four Seasons tends to have a wider collection. “It could be European masters, contemporary or whatever. But we’re talking major art here.”
Mr. Belli, who fulfills editing and purchasing roles, has clients who have collected for years. Although they rely on him to let them know if something is coming available that they might like, they also are asking for help in editing or selling part of the collection so that it will fit in the condo.
The challenge of a condo, even one with a generous a footprint, is enough wall space to accommodate their art. Sam Mizrahi, whose luxury condo buildings at 133 Hazelton and 181 Davenport draw from a broad demographic, has found that many of the buyers, regardless of age, come with some kind of art collection.
Because condo spaces are more open concept, thus fewer walls, and have large expanses of glazing and sometimes double-height ceilings, there are challenges.
“When buyers sit down with us, we not only look at where to place the sofa and credenza, but also where to hang that 20-by-30 piece of art,” Mr. Mizrahi says. “Often people with art do ask for more walls, and it’s not just amount of walls, but the length of walls as well. Fortunately, one of the successes we’ve had is being able to customize suites.”
In addition to paintings and photography, there’s sculpture and hand-blown glass, that buyers need to accommodate. “Art has become one part of the whole signature a person places on their condo suite,” Mr. Mizrahi says.
Dominic Tompa, who handles sales for Daniels Corp.’s Festival Tower and 111 Forsyth in Oakville, says he has encountered a similar situation in both projects, especially with buyers of the higher-priced suites.
“Buyers with art collections do spend a lot of time looking over layouts to make sure it can accommodate art. I wouldn’t say that’s the main decision point for a particular suite, but it’s definitely a factor.”
Mr. Tompa finds that most are searching through the available floorplans to see what suits the art best.
Ms. Fox has found the same: “Sometimes buyers almost cry over not enough wall space for their art. And that can prompt a question about changing the space or adding a wall, but that doesn’t always make the most sense. That’s when they have to get serious about editing the collection, or at least rotating pieces, or passing some on to their children.”
Another big consideration is lighting and humidity. “Light is one of the true enemies of art,” says Mr. Belli.
Most luxury condo buildings have that handled, with ultraviolet blockers on the exterior of windows and interior blinds that will help filter harmful rays.
At both Mizrahi projects, 133 Hazelton Lanes and 181 Davenport, windows are protected with UVA and UVB, and units have sophisticated steam humidifiers to ensure proper humidity levels.
Even so, Mr. Belli advises clients with really valuable pieces to consult with a preservation specialist. “You want to be able to enjoy the art, and not have to get too worried about the preservation of it, but at the same time confident about protecting it.”
Security concerns arise, even at luxury buildings with 24-hour concierge and elevator key pad access. But Fox says it’s mostly buyers who have serious art collections – European masters for example – who are most interested in how secure the building is.
Such careful deliberation over the care of art should leave no doubt that Toronto, though still very young in art collecting terms, has come a long way.