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New Hong Kong service lets you buy art by instalment - like you buy cars


Artvantage, a gallery loan provider, aims to enlarge the art market by instalment.

The Signal 8 exhibition at Cat Street Gallery, in Sheung Wan, is one of the first to sign up to Artvantage. Picture: Jonathan Wong | SCMP

Ever fancied a painting you couldn’t afford? A new business in Hong Kong now offers the option of buying art in instalments, much like how you would pay for a car. Called Artvantage, the service is in its infancy and will only in time build up a significant network of galleries. It also faces competition from banks desper­ate to hand out personal loans at a time when interest rates are at a historic low. However, the venture appears to be based on similar services elsewhere that have proven popular.

Own Art, in Britain, was set up by Arts Council England, a government agency, and its aim is to support living artists. People can borrow up to £2,500 (HK$25,500) for purchases at more than 230 galleries and repay in 10 monthly instal­ments, interest-free. Some galleries even offer loans of up to £25,000. The initiative has financed more than 35,000 purchases with a total value of £28.5 million since its launch in 2004.

Art Money was launched in Australia in 2015 with funding from the city of Sydney. It, too, offers interest-free loans to art buyers, at more than 165 galleries. It made 120 loans in the first eight months of operation.

Unlike these two examples, Artvantage charges buyers a fee, so it remains to be seen whether it will be able to lure customers in the same way.

“Galleries want to sell more and avoid dips in sales. We want to provide the liquidity so more people will buy art. This service can help galleries attract first-time buyers,” says William Duane, a former banker who launched Artvantage with Michael Donnan, a director of an art investment advisory and gallery.

Customers who have identified a work they want can go to the Artvantage website while they are still in the gallery and apply for what is effectively a loan of up to HK$300,000.

The money comes from a lender called WeLend, which charges sliding-scale fees depending on the loan amount and tenure (you can pay it back over six to 48 months). Like any personal loan, WeLend needs to see your identity card, proof of address and proof of salary – you can photograph these and upload them using your phone – and it will run a credit check.


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