Crefovi is delighted to, once again, be invited as a VIP guest to the most important and widely-respected modern and contemporary art fair in the world, Art Basel. We look forward to meeting face-to-face with our art and luxury clients at Art Basel 2014, this event “incontournable” for the art business and world.
Over 300 leading galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa show work from great masters of Modern and contemporary art to the latest generation of emerging stars. Every artistic medium is represented: paintings, sculpture, installations, videos, multiples, prints, photography, and performance.
Art Basel 2014 will draw tens of thousands of visitors – collectors, gallerists, artists, curators, art enthusiasts – from across the globe who come to experience the highest quality Modern and contemporary art, including works by well-known artists and newly emerging artists.
Crefovi is an art law firm in London and Paris. Crefovi’s international clients are mainly involved in contemporary art, either as collectors, art galleries, museums or art foundations. Their legal needs, met by London art law firm Crefovi, range from tax issues raised by corporations’ investments in art works, to the execution of wills with a large proportion of art works to be distributed to heirs.
Crefovi regularly attends, and speaks at, important art events such as the TEFAF, Art Basel & Miami Basel art fairs.
Crefovi is also an active and dedicated collector of contemporary art, maintaining and managing a corporate collection in England and France.
If you would like to catch up or meet with Crefovi’s founding partner, Annabelle Gauberti, at Art Basel 2014, please do not hesitate to contact us on or fill-up the contact form below. We will revert back to schedule an appointment with you at your convenience.
While many fast-growth companies in the creative industries are currently the target of heavy private equity investments and a flurry of mergers and acquisitions, it makes sense, from a tax and financial standpoint, for individuals and corporate investors to go “long” on creative startups and SMEs.
1. “Good times” are coming back: invest in the creative industries!
With the global economy recovering from the 2007-2012 recession and a tangible boost of confidence, financial investors and corporates alike are becoming more bullish and enterprising, especially in the relation to the creative industries.
In the luxury goods sector, the historical data is very promising, with 2012 being the third year in a row of double-digit growth for personal luxury goods, at 10% annual growth rate, now over the Euro200 billion ceiling (1). There was no recession at all, in the luxury goods sector.
As a reflection of the outperformance of this creative sector, many luxury stalwarts have been either acquired (such as Loro Piana and Bulgari sold to LVMH as well as Christopher Kane and Pomellato sold to Kering), invested into (such as the investment of equity investment funds Ardian and Blackstone into a minority participation stake in Versace (2) and the negotiations for an investment made by buyout firm Permira into a Euro450 million majority stake in Roberto Cavalli (3)) or introduced on the stock market at sky-rocketing valuations, which are ever increasing (Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, Michael Kors, Brunello Cucinelli).
The technology sector is also back to acquisitive mode in full swing, with Facebook spending USD19 billion (!) to purchase WhatsApp, a cross-platform mobile messaging app for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia, which allows to send text, video, images, audio messages free of charge.
The USD19 billion figure is split between USD4 billion in cash, USD12 billion in shares and USD3 billion in Facebook shares, which will be distributed to the founders and employees of WhatsApp, spread over four years after the closing of the deal. Sequoia, the investment fund which invested USD8 million for 15% of WhatsApp’s capital in 2011, is about to make USD3.5 billion out of this transaction.
With many sectoral experts saying, and proving, that the creative and cultural industries are the booster to global and, in particular, European, growth and recovery (4), the future looks very bright indeed for all those companies which main assets are their intangibles (knowhow, intellectual property, brand value, reputation, etc).
2. How to benefit from the bullish market in a tax efficient way
If you have some back pocket money (5), i.e. some money sitting around idly in a savings bank account remunerated between 0.5% and 1.00%, which you absolutely do not need in the short and medium term and which you would not feel badly hurt if you were losing, now is the time to take advantage of the situation.
The taxman is generous to individuals ready to part with their cash to invest in the creative industries, on both sides of the Channel.
In the UK, HMRC is only inclined to give tax credits to individuals, the so-called “business angels” who are UK tax residents with an entrepreneurial mind. Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS), Venture Capital Trust (VCT) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) are the three tax tools through which individuals can invest in eligible companies (i.e. companies with no more than 250 employees or gross assets lower than £15 million, or £200,000 for a SEIS) in a tax efficient way.
Tax breaks are summarised below:
Maximum investment: £100K
Inc tax relief/investment: 50%
Holding period: 3 years
Capital gain tax: exemption
Maximum investment: £1 million
Inc tax relief/investment: 30%
Holding period: 3 years
Capital gain tax: exemption
Maximum investment: £200K
Inc tax relief/investment: 30%
Holding period: 3 years
Capital gain tax: exemption
In France, individuals who have to pay the French wealth tax (wittily called “impôt de solidarité sur la fortune” or ISF), and invest in SMEs, are also rewarded by the French state.
Through the “ISF PME” tax breaks, individuals subjected to the ISF can deduct up to 50% of the sums invested in French SMEs, up to 45,000 euros per year (6).
For everybody else who pays income tax in France, a new tax break of 18% of the cash invested in a French SME, capped at 50,000 euros per taxpayer per year, has been set up (7).
If the SME you have invested in goes bust, you will still have been able to take advantage of the tax breaks. If the SME produces many sparks and is being acquired, at a later stage, by a private equity investment fund, a competitor or any other third party, the early-stage investor individual will be able to cash in and realise a substantial capital gain on its early investment.
In the UK, such capital gain is exempted from taxation, unlike in France. That may explain why there are more than 50,000 business angels in the UK and around 5,000 (!) in France.
Sadly, corporate venture is not currently actively encouraged by either the French or British governments, which results in Euro230 billion sleeping idly in the coffers of all the companies listed on the French CAC40 index, for example.
More lobbying should be done, by institutions representing the creative industries such as Comité Colbert, Fondazione Altagamma, Walpole and the European Cultural and Creative Industries Alliance, to influence governments to provide tax incentives to companies wishing to invest in SMEs in a tax efficient way.
Positive changes are looming though, since corporate venture should kick off on 1 July 2014 in France, with companies paying taxes in France being able to amortise their corporate venture investments in innovating SMEs over a period of five years (8).
Let’s watch the space and hope that Cameron and Osborne are going to take stock and act accordingly, in the UK soon.
It is time to think carefully how to invest any spare cash that you may have and, with the bright economic outlook and new tax schemes pushed by governments to accelerate growth and recovery, both individuals and corporates have more and more investment options at their disposal, to encourage innovative and creative industries.
Annabelle Gauberti, founding partner of the London law firm Crefovi and president of the international association of lawyers for creative industries (ialci)
(1) Luxury goods worldwide Market Study Spring 2013 Update, Bain & Company
(2) M&A in 2014? Luxury brands on sale or seeking for financial partners, Portolano Cavallo Studio Legale
It’s going to be exciting to interact with the students, have them complete some case studies and short exercises on enforcement of intellectual property rights in the fashion sector. Crefovi strives to contribute to the training and education of young professionals who wish to break into the luxury goods and fashion sectors.
Annabelle Gauberti, Crefovi’s founding partner, is a tutor both at HEC Luxury Certificate and, now, at this Master from the University of Paris Est-Marnes-la Vallee.
Please review this page regularly since we will publish the video of our lecture, soon after 6 February 2014.
Crefovi’s founding partner, Annabelle Gauberti, was interviewed by Canal Plus on street art law, more specifically on the legal recourse that artists have, in case their works of street art and graffiti are stolen from the urban landscape.[hr]
Watch the interview here to learn more about street art law and urban artists’ rights in particular.
Can they enforce their intellectual property rights and ownership rights on the piece of urban art which was stolen from the streets? Can they sue the “thief”? You will have answers to these questions by watching this interview!
In addition, if you want to know more about your legal rights, as a street artist, gallery owner representing some urban artists, museum or collector, don’t hesitate to contact us!
London law firm for creative industries Crefovi publishes its latest proprietary research in the art and luxury issue of INFO Magazine, in relation to the interactions between the art and luxury sectors[hr]
In her essay, the California-based artist and professor at UCLA stresses her concerns that today, art is not only an asset class for the financial elite, but has also become a financial instrument. She also states that, the greater the discrepancy between the rich and the poor, the higher prices in the art market rise. According to Ms Fraser, while there is a direct link – quantified in recent economic research – between the art market boom and economic inequality that has reached levels not seen since the ‘20s in the US and the ‘40s in Britain, it is not just the art market that has expanded from this unprecedented concentration of wealth but museums, art prizes, residences, art schools, art magazines have multiplied in the past decade. She expresses her uneasiness at working in the art field, which has benefited from, and, as an artist, having personally benefited so directed from, the anti-union, anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-public sector politics that have made this concentration of wealth possible. Ms Fraser concludes her essay by saying that “a broad-based shift in art discourse can help bring about a long overdue splitting off of the market-dominated sub-field of galleries, auction-houses and art fairs. Let this sub-field become the luxury goods business it already basically is, with what circulates there having as little to do with art as yachts, jets and watches. European museums have the potential to be the birthplace of a new art field that could emerge from this split, where new forms of autonomy can develop”.
It is not the first time that an artist has expressed concern, resentment and even cynicism at having to play the game of capitalism and conform to harsh business realities.
Sarah Thornton, in her book “Seven days in the art world”, cheekily describes her conversation with Marc Jacobs, artistic director of Louis Vuitton Malletier, to whom she says that she heard that artist Takashi Murakami referred to his Louis Vuitton work as “my urinal”. After taking an audible puff on his cigarette, Marc Jacobs, who deeply understands the art world – he collects, attends the auctions, visits the Venice biennale -, replied coolly “I’m a big fan of Marcel Duchamp and his ready-mades. Changing the context of an object is, in and of itself, art. It sounds like a put-down, but it’s not”. As Ms Thornton notes, “given that Duchamp’s “urinal” is one of the most influential works of the twentieth century, one might argue that Murakami is in fact glorifying his LV affiliations”. However, one can only wonder how this play on words might be interpreted, coming from an artist.
To further expand on this point, it is worth noting that some street artists have a radical take on the luxury goods business, trying to differentiate themselves as much as possible from this industrial sector. For example, French street artist Zevsmade many works of art parodying logos of famous luxury brands, such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren, criticizing the role these brands play in society. Since these street art works may damage and dilute the image of luxury houses, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren, among others, have put in place some robust anti-copying and anti-counterfeiting teams, who do not hesitate to threaten litigation if artists do not stop using their protected trademarks in artworks. The paradox is that, the more street art boldly criticises and parodies the luxury goods business and consumerism, the more expensive it becomes on art markets, fetching ever increasing prices at auctions, just like any other luxury good!
It is true that there is a correlation between the fine arts and luxury goods sectors, as buyers of the former are often buyers of the latter. To give clues about their status and wealth, high net worth individuals (HNWIs) tend, in general, to surround themselves with luxury goods and art works. With a rising trend of HNWIs becoming more numerous, especially in emerging economies such as China, Brazil and India, the demand for luxury goods and art works is bound to increase. “In Asia, Russia and the Middle-East, the purchase of artworks has acquired enormous cultural, economic and lifestyle importance. The decade’s new millionaires, hopping from art fairs to auction sales the world over, have transformed the auction market into an increasingly high-end market”. As one of the most important economic features of the art market is that it is essentially supply-driven (i.e. there is a limited amount of high-quality fine arts pieces available on this market), increased demand cannot necessarily increase supply, and instead elevates prices of art works. As a result, only either the 1% (or, most likely, 0.1%), mentioned by artist Andrea Fraser in her essay, or corporate art collectors, can afford buying works of fine arts.
Indeed, companies play an essential role in the current art world, as corporate collectors, patrons, charity-event organisers, supporters of art exhibitions and collaborators with artists. Luxury houses, in particular, are very attracted to the art world and, despite the “disdain” shown by certain artists towards commercial endeavours and the luxury goods sector in general, actively get involved on artistic projects. At the forefront of this movement, Louis Vuitton has even recently published a book, entitled “Louis Vuitton: Art, Fashion and Architecture”, to publicise its many collaborations with artists. From the Louis Vuitton Foundation, expected to open in 2014 at the zoological gardens in Neuilly, in the outskirts of Paris, to the many fashion collaborations with artists Takashi Murakami, Olafur Eliasson, Richard Prince and, more recently, Yayoi Kusama and Daniel Buren, Louis Vuitton is the all-time winner of art accolades, even having set up an access and arts education programme for disadvantaged children in partnership with five London museums.
Other important corporate collectors are François Pinault, the founder of luxury goods conglomerate Kering (ex PPR), who has created a contemporary art foundation at the Palazzo Grazzi and La Punta della Dogana in Venice and who is the owner of the world’s largest auction house Christie’s; and jewellery house Cartier and its highly originalcontemporary art foundation. In the words of luxury marketing specialists M Chavelier and G Mazzavolo , “an art collaboration will attract the attention of the press and the public, invigorating the brand’s creativity, giving the brand a renewed pertinence since it will become associated to celebrities of the contemporary art world, giving it the proof of aesthetic sensibility of the brand”.
It all makes sense from a business standpoint anyway, since, according to luxury strategists JN Kapferer and V Bastien, “luxury is the artist’s means of financial subsistence. Working for the luxury industry allows an artist to live decently while pursuing his or her artistic work”. In addition, corporate collectors and patrons can benefit from substantial tax advantages when putting money in fine arts: both the US and France grant hefty tax relief to companies that buy works of art to constitute corporate art collections. Another Gallic example is the tax cuts granted to French companies that make donations to public bodies, which main activity is to organise contemporary art fairs for the public .
In the UK, the British government has recognised the importance of providing reductions in corporate tax, capital gain tax and income tax, in exchange for donations of qualifying gifts of pre-eminent property to be held for the benefit of the public or nation. A new scheme entitled “gifts of pre-eminent objects and works of art to the nation” was introduced in April 2012, in order to boost philanthropy by living individuals and corporations.
To conclude, I agree that the art market has become a luxury goods business, controlled by the economics rules of supply and demand. If some artists are unhappy with this state of affairs, I think that it is down to them to control the “demand” chain for their art works. If they do not want to sell their art pieces above a certain price and/or to certain types of buyers, they should make it clear when dealing with art gallery owners and other distributors of their work. Artists could even directly approach the types of buyers they want to sell or donate their work to, such as museums, art foundations or non-profit organisations, obtaining written warranties, covenants and undertakings from these “selected” buyers that they will not put the art works in the secondary market (in particular, at auctions). As the demand side for contemporary art works is ever increasing, inflated by the cohorts of HNWIs who seek highly visible labels and for whom buying from an internationally renowned gallery is similar to buying from Louis Vuitton, Prada or Chanel, artists need to have a well-thought business plan, in which they lay out their plans to reach financial success as well as recognition from the art world, while holding true to their ethical beliefs.
Author: Annabelle Gauberti is the founding partner of Crefovi, a law firm specialised in advising the creative industries in general, and the art and luxury goods sectors in particular. She is a solicitor of England & Wales, as well as an “avocat” with the Paris bar.
Annabelle is also the president of the International association of lawyers for the creative industries (IALCI).
 “Art and Money” by William N. Goetzmann, Luc Renneboog and Christophe Spaenjers, 28 April 2010.
 “Seven days in the art world”, Sarah Thornton, Granta 2008.
 One of Takashi Murakami’s most visible commissions has been for the accessories giant Louis Vuitton Malletier. In 2000, Marc Jacob asked Murakami to reenvision “monogram canvas”, the company’s century-old signature pattern in which the beige and brown initials LV float in a field of four-petal flower and diamond shapes. Three Murakami designs were put into production, and one of them, “multicolor”, which used thirty-three candy colors on white and black backgrounds, was so successful that it became a standard line.
 “Art attacks: Perspectives on the use of fashion logos”, Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School, 8 February 2012.
 Contemporary Art Market 2010/2011, The Artprice annual report.