February 25, 2009

Photographer Annie Leibovitz pawns her life's work for a £10m loan to pay her mortgage

Photographer Annie Leibovitz has borrowed £10million against some of her most famous pictures to pay the mortgages on all her homes.

The artist, 59, has become so concerned with her mounting debt, accumulated on properties she inherited in 2004 after the death of her lover Susan Sontag, she has turned to a company that lends money with fine art as collateral.

Documents seen by the New York Times reveal she secured the funds by giving the company, Art Capital, ownership of all her work - past and future - until the loan is repaid.

Victim of the credit crunch? Annie Leibovitz with her famous portrait of a pregnant Demi Moore

The images include those taken for the 1981 Rolling Stone front cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono shot on the day of Lennon's death, the photograph of a naked and pregnant Demi Moore, images of Michelle Obama for Vanity fair and of a semi-nude singer and actress Miley Cyrus taken for the same magazine.

Ian Peck, a co-owner of Art Capital, said Leibovitz was not alone in choosing to use her work to raise money at a time when share portfolios are plunging and homes have no equity left to borrow against.

One of Leibovitz's photographs for the Walt Disney Year of a Million Dreams campaign shows actress Scarlett Johansson, depicting Cinderella

'What's amazing is that individuals and institutions who previously we thought were untouchable are being deeply affected.

Leibovitz has shot Michelle Obama for this month's cover of U.S. Vogue magazine

'People who were truly enormous financially are now scrambling,' he said.

But he said many people found it very difficult to part with art work during times of hardship: 'It's akin to giving up your home, particularly for people who have built up collections over many years. People don't feel emotionally about stocks and bonds, but they certainly do over art.'

His company, dubbed an art pawn shop, issues loans of $500,000 (£350,000) or more at interest rates from 6 per cent to 16 per cent. Art becomes subject to sale if owners default.

The company has recently taken in - and put into secure and climate-controlled specialist art warehouses for safekeeping - pieces by Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Henry Moore and Picasso.

Clients have also borrowed against vintage film posters, antique teddy bears and valuable scientific instruments.

Mr Peck said only about one in ten of the deals end in default: 'Our aim is to avoid defaulting at all costs. Given the trouble involved in a default, it's better karma and business not to.'

No comments: