Financial investors are pressuring companies to reduce their carbon emissions. Could art collectors do the same at galleries?

The art collector and billionaire at the head of investment firm Blackrock Larry Fink had a clear message in his annual written address to CEOs last January: “No issue is higher than climate change on our clients’ priority lists. They ask us about it almost every day.

Although the letter was stamped with environmental concerns, Fink’s main point was that greener approaches are good for business.

“This is the start of a long but rapidly accelerating transition, one that will unfold over many years and reshape the prices of assets of all types,” Fink wrote. “The climate transition presents a historic investment opportunity,” he said, adding that “climate risk is an investment risk”.

In the art industry, where Fink is living his second life, galleries have taken notice. Many are by making net zero carbon commitments. Dealers participate in symposia to discuss new sustainability strategies. Christie’s has announced that it will go down to zero by 2030, and multinational gallery Hauser & Wirth has announced the same. Both hired dedicated staff to meet the challenge.

“Any organization that wants to continue to exist and perform its function 10 years from now must take this seriously,” said Danny Chivers, climate change researcher and environmental advisor at the Gallery Climate Coalition, which was founded in October to encourage individuals and businesses in the art world to halve their emissions by 2030.

BBut there are major differences between the investment industry and the art industry. In the financial world, investors are under significant pressure: they injected $ 288 billion into sustainable assets in 2020, an increase of 96% compared to 2019. In addition, increasingly standardized rules and rankings make it easier for customers to buy in or out of business — a business based on its sustainability merits. Nothing like this exists in the art industry.

In addition, the pressure in the art world comes mainly from artists and dealers, not collectors, who have been less vocal. Are they finally going to show up and start pushing?

Hauser & Wirth, Durslade farm, Bruton, Somerset. Photo: Jason Ingram.

Where are the collectors?

In October 2020, the founders of the Gallery Climate Coalition started with only 14 members. Six months later, they numbered 500, including merchants, advisers, fair managers and auction houses. Yet no collector is listed on the organization’s website. (Circle of CCG supporters requires a one-time donation of at least £ 1,000). [Update, June 24: There are a few collectors, GCC tells Artnet News, who have donated but who did not want to be listed.]

Resellers told Artnet News that the imperative to act largely comes from within. Ewan Sales, CEO of Hauser & Wirth, said it is the artists who have been a major catalyst towards greener business practices. But little is said about collectors demanding low-carbon shipments, and no dealer has mentioned that their business would be compromised if they failed to clean up their gallery’s carbon footprint. (One dealer said his gallery would first organize itself internally before offering customers the option to “green” the way they buy and ship artwork.)

On the other hand, Tineke Lambooy, professor of corporate law and member of the advisory board of Art / Switch, a non-profit organization that promotes sustainability practices in the art sector, told Artnet News that in the financial world, investors are asking companies to “comply with OECD guidelines which are in line with the principles of the United Nations Global Compact.

“Business leaders and CFOs need to be guided by the attitude of investors towards a greener environment. How this fact translates into the art world is not yet completely clear ”, Venters said. (This year, the gallery hired a full-time environmental sustainability manager.)

“We are in a climate emergency, and if we don’t do things differently, the planet will be in trouble,” he added. “Every sector seems to understand this. “

The founding members of the Gallery Climate Coalition.  Courtesy of GCC.

The founding members of the Gallery Climate Coalition. Courtesy of GCC.

Where are our green labels?

When it comes to those who engage, transparency is key: promises are only worth the numbers. As Fink wrote: “Data and disclosure issues”.

Tom Woolston, global operations manager for Christie’s, told Artnet News the company is seeking validation from the Science Based Targets (SBTi) initiative, an independent body that helps private companies achieve sustainability goals. based on science to align with the Paris Accord, and gives certifications to companies that meet the qualifications.

“You see a lot of organizations making promises without necessarily always following them,” Woolston said. “We are very sincere in our ambition. Christie’s now plans to publish an annual environmental impact report.

“It can be a very complicated and technical field and we are all on a learning curve,” added Woolston, suggesting that the complex issues made it essential to partner with an organization specializing in the subject such as SBTi.

Another point of progress would be a gallery ranking system.

“It’s relatively easy for investors in other industries to find companies through rankings and make decisions based on them,” Lambooy said. The ESG rankings (environment, social and governance) for most actions is a click on Google. “It’s time to formulate them” for the art market, she said.

Image courtesy of Christie's.

Christie’s has committed to be net-zero by 2030. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

A green art market

Things are improving rapidly. Just a few years ago, you would have struggled to find climate talks at an art fair, let alone see sustainability as a top concern for art dealers. But the pandemic has made the world smaller and more fragile. This also led to the the largest drop in CO2 emissions since World War II, up to 7.5 percent. What will the behaviors look like when the world returns to some sort of normalcy?

In a recent article by the editorial board of the Financial Time, the editors warned that as the world emerges from this pandemic, we may see the second largest to augment in carbon emissions.

As the art world recovers, many in the business are saying it’s time for collectors to start voting with their dollars.

“The art sector, private and public, is where the imagination of society resides,” Chivers said. “If we want to imagine and build a better future, we need everyone in art to be on board. “

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Co-investment vehicles under the Final Deferred Interest Rules | Foley & Lardner srl

As a result of the latest Treasury regulations issued by the IRS under Section 1061,1 fund promoters should consider investing capital through a blended fund with other investors rather than using their own investment vehicle to invest alongside the fund, which could be subject to the three-year holding period requirement under section 1061.

Section 1061 re-qualifies certain long-term net capital gains with a holding period of less than three years as short-term capital gains at ordinary income rates. Section 1061 applies to an “applicable partnership interest” (an “API”) held by or transferred to a taxpayer in connection with the provision of substantial services by the taxpayer in an applicable trade or business. Deferred interest agreements can constitute an API, which would be subject to the three-year holding period.

However, an “equity interest” in a partnership is generally not an API (the “Capital Interest Exception”). For this purpose, a capital interest is an interest that would give the holder a share of the proceeds if the assets of the partnership were sold at fair market value at the time the interest was received and the proceeds were then distributed. in a complete liquidation of the partnership. . As a result, a participation of a fund promoter may be able to structure part of its investment so that it is exempt from Article 1061 (and the three-year holding period) with respect to its capital. invested under the capital interest exception.

In order for the fund promoter to comply with the capital interest exception, the allocations relating to its capital interest must be reasonably consistent and determined similarly to the allocation and distribution rights that apply to the capital invested by investors. unrelated service providers who have made significant capital contributions (defined as 5% or more of the partnership’s total capital account balance at the time the grants are made). The regulations provide for the following non-exclusive factors for the application of this test: (i) the amount and timing of the capital contributed; (ii) the rate of return on the capital contributed; (iii) the modalities, priority, type and level of risk associated with the capital contributed; and (v) rights to distributions in cash or in property during the operations of the company and in the event of liquidation.

As drafted, it would be difficult to ensure that interest in a fund promoter’s co-investment vehicle qualifies for the capital interest exception, as allowances must be compared to those. made to major unrelated service providers. The Treasury and IRS continue to study the application of the capital interest exception to co-investment vehicles.

Provided the partnership agreement and the books and records of the fund clearly demonstrate the requirements listed above, the fund promoter could co-invest in the investment of the underlying portfolio through a combined fund with unrelated service providers. On the other hand, a fund sponsor who co-invests through its own investment vehicle may not be eligible for the capital interest exception and could therefore be subject to the three-year holding period.

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1 All references to the “Section” are to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or to Treasury regulations promulgated thereunder.

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