The Art of Luxury Real Estate

As real estate prices reach stratospheric levels, real estate professionals are banking on the artistic value of the world's trophy properties to explain the surge, reports James B. Stewart.
September 4, 2012, 7am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Architectural works have been included in the world's premier art museums for at least 80 years (the founding of the Museum of Modern Art's architecture department), so perhaps it should come as no surprise that the global trade in luxury real estate is being equated with the global art market. With the highest end of the real estate market approaching the values at the same end of the art market, real estate professionals are calling out the comparability. 

"'Art is what people are willing to pay for, and an apartment like this is like a piece of art,' the Long Island real estate developer Steven Klar told a colleague of mine at The Times, Alexei Barrionuevo, in late July as he listed his penthouse on West 56th Street for $100 million," observes Stewart. 

"Kathleen Coumou, senior vice president at Christie's International Real Estate, said that some residential properties could legitimately be marketed and sold as art. 'When we call a property art, it tends to have architectural or historic significance,' she said."

Not all are sold on the comparison however. "David Kusin, a former Metropolitan Museum of Art curator who also worked on Wall Street and now runs Kusin & Company, a consulting firm in Dallas that specializes in the economics of the art market, told me the comparison of real estate to fine art infuriated him," writes Stewart. 

"'There's absolutely no statistical validity to it,' he said. 'It's like comparing Earth to Saturn. And I've been studying these markets for 18 years. I live in a home designed by the dean of Taliesin,' Frank Lloyd Wright's school of architecture. 'The interior designer and landscape architect are at the apex of their fields. There is no comparability at all between the structure I live in and the art that hangs on the walls.'"

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Published on Friday, August 31, 2012 in The New York Times
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