The Best Places in the World to Live for Avid Art Collectors

Where should you live if you love art? Viewing it, appreciating it and collecting it. Here, Christopher Nye from The Luxury Property Show suggests some locations old, new and up-and-coming.

Certain parts of the world become known for their art, whether that’s classical Florence, avant-garde Berlin or cool, elegant Paris.

Places where there’s beauty all around are bound to appeal to a more aesthetic type. It’s no surprise that young Kate Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge, did her gap year in Florence before studying art history at St Andrews University.

Art has always followed wealth too, and so have lots of other people, so the great artistic centres of the world have a tendency to be crowded and expensive.

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But there are plenty of quieter, less touristy places that have also acquired a reputation for great art, where you can buy a truly palatial property to show off your own art from around €500,000 upwards. To give just three examples: Normandy, where David Hockney has sat out the pandemic among the ghosts of the Impressionists; the baroque beauty of Sicilian cities (top of page), a match for Tuscany; while Florida may not seem like one of the world’s great art centres, but its Gulf Coast has a more arty feel. Miami, as the de facto “capital of Latin America” is a wonderful melting pot for art. Plus, it’s a lot warmer than the traditional artistic hotspots of New York and Boston.

Florida – melting pot

A Property for Your Art

While you’ll find no shortage of advice on finding the right art for your property, finding the right property for your art can be more problematic.
Obvious things to avoid include damp, direct sunlight and infestations by insects or animals.

Life gets more complicated if you have to find room to show off your heirlooms or existing collection. There are no hard and fast rules, and modern art can look as good in an older setting as modern, and vice versa. It’s more about the building allowing your art to breathe and be seen to maximum effect.

The growth of open houses, which will no doubt return after the pandemic, has made many of us consider where and how we can best display art in our homes, including for commercial benefit.

Normandy – Hockney’s retreat

Perhaps ideally we would have large pale walls and no distractions, but equally you could emulate the salons of old and every inch of wall and floor with your favourite pieces (and some that might grow on you over the years).

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A less roomy home can also have architectural features that lend themselves to displaying artworks well, such as alcoves, staircases and ledges.

Dynamic Markets

The wealth of China has also helped to create a dynamic art market, and the link between East and West is Hong Kong. Great art galleries include the Tang Contemporary, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Para Site and the Edouard Malingue Gallery which showcases emerging artists in particular.
The big one about to open this year, however, is M+, Hong Kong’s new museum of visual culture.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong – dynamic market

Property in Hong Kong is expensive – roughly £18,000 (HK$200,000) per square metre which makes a 60-square metre two-bedroom apartment a little over a million pounds. Rapid price rises of the past decade have stabilised, partly due to the country’s domestic troubles.

Favourite areas to live include trendy and central Wan Chai or the more upmarket Jardine’s Lookout. Also check out West Kowloon, home of M+ and an up-and-coming artistic area.

The return of the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria has shone a spotlight on the value of African art. North Africa and Egypt in particular have always been a magnet for aesthetes and a wonderful base on the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

When choosing where to live, Gezira Island and especially its northern end, Zamalek, combines an upscale, arty neighbourhood with Cairo Opera House, the Museum of Modern Art, Zamalek Art Gallery and the El Sawy Culturewheel. Other museums and galleries are a pleasant walk away across the bridges. There are good international schools for those taking family in this popular area for expats and diplomats.

Egypt – Mediterranean base

When you live in Cairo it’s as easy to see the new outpost of the Louvre in the Saadiyat Cultural District in Abu Dhabi as it is to get to the original in Paris, or to enjoy long weekends in artistic neighbourhoods like Askerkal Avenue in Dubai or Mar Mikhaël in Beirut, as it is to get to Barcelona or Milan. For a spacious apartment in Zamalek you should budget for around £500,000.

England’s Creative Coast

One small benefit of England’s iffy summer weather is that beach holidays are often a wash-out, which is perhaps why so many former British seaside resorts have wonderful art galleries. Essex, Kent and Sussex’s coasts form a ring, conveniently no more than an hour or so central London, now collectively known as England’s Creative Coast.

It includes wonderful art galleries in seaside towns varying between the slightly down-at-heel but bohemian, to the truly gorgeous. There really is something for everyone in Margate, Rye, Hastings, Eastbourne, Brighton and Chichester. Between these are oddities like Charleston, near Lewes, country home of the Bloomsbury set, or Farley House, where Picasso used to visit.

Brighton – home of the Lanes

You can still buy art in Sussex, either at the many auction houses in Lewes and Canterbury, or delving in the shops old and modern in Brighton’s Lanes. France is just a short ferry ride away too.

The pandemic has – for many and various reasons including a stamp duty holiday – sent house prices sky high, especially in those coastal areas which working from home suddenly makes more doable. All the same, £500,000 will buy you a nice country house in the Kent or Sussex Weald, or a highly attractive flat in Brighton.

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