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Inside the American Embassy in Stockholm dangles art for millions. Mike & Doug Starn, David Hockney and Martin Wickström are a few of the artists on the walls. Despite the paintings' immense value, the Embassy has not paid more than a fraction in relation to its selling price. The reason: they rent it.

4 min read

"Many large companies are getting rid of their art collections. Instead they start renting. Partly as a consequence of new facilities, CEO changes and sometimes due to ownership structures changing faster today", says Karolina Bertorp

Karolina is the founder of Moderna Samlare whose company is leasing the art to the American Embassy but also count blueships like Oscar Properties, law firm Vinge and Radisson Hotel to its client base. We met with Karolina whilst installing new works at one of Oscar Properties new facilities in central Stockholm.

In less than 5 years, Bertorp has built up an client base of 25 large companies, helping them to decorate both offices and lobby areas with the finest of contemporary art. She is building a fruitful business whilst helping to democratise art collecting. Not the least, she is allowing companies to try before they buy.

As a general elevator pitch, renting art is an effective way to get to know a number of artists. At first, there are not many companies that would invest 1 or 2 million SEK on art. In this case, to rent is a good option. Art can also become a nice way to show that your company is not only concerned with the bottom line, but that you also have an interest in inspiring your staff and that you care for the society at large.

Sweden is full of empty (office) walls, and Moderna Samlare is not single-handedly trying to fill those walls. For almost a decade, Åmells Konsthandel have been spearheading the business-to-business art rentals in Scandinavia. The company also has a fine art gallery at Stureplan in central Stockholm, and turns over almost 200 million SEK with a very healthy margin. 

If we look further, there are a some major players in the art rental business. A few of them are also offering individuals to use their services. US based company Hang Art in San Francisco have thousands of works in their online gallery. Customers can rent artworks for a month, or how long or short they prefer. The only thing needed is a driver’s license to collect the work of art, and a credit card. 

British start-up Rise Art offers artworks for rent or purchase from some 50 galleries and major art giants like the Tate, the Serpentine Gallery and Dundee Contemporary Arts. As a subscriber you will get a list of recommended artists and their available works - and if you find your dream piece you can rent it for just a few dollars more than the cost of your TV license.

Karolina, how come that the American Embassy decided to rent art from you, seeing they probably have access to tons of art through the American government?

With the the Embassy they wanted to get to know, and support, Swedish artists specifically. With our network of galleries, private collectors and artists, we were able to offer a carefully selected "collection" that ticked their needs. And since they did not now exactly for how long they wanted the art, a tailored art rental program was their preferred choice to seek colour and inspiration to their office environment. 

Another advantage, to lease your art is tax deductible (in Sweden) and it usually fits the reasonable budget to spend decorating an office entrance or a number of conference rooms with expressive and encouraging art.

What if they get tired of the artworks? 

Well, then they have the opportunity to replace them. Customers are always right, or so the expression goes?

And if they fall in love with the artworks?

Don’t worry! Our agreement includes a purchase option that enables employees to purchase the artwork. In fact, it is quite common that employees choose to exercise this option. We blame the whole love affair on the art itself…

I have a few paintings at home that I am not able to fit, do you accept undertakings from individuals?

Certainly, we are always interested in cooperating with collectors and artists. 

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