Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Interest-free loans create unique set of art collectors

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David Pike saw himself reflected in a Peter Howsen painting

By Anna-Louise Taylor
BBC News

Serious art collectors have always needed wads of cash, but an Arts Council loan scheme has meant a pig farmer and a factory worker are among the 12,500 individuals who have been able to use interest-free funds to buy works.

The kind of money needed to buy an Emin or Hirst means owning big-name artworks can often be out of the question for most people.

And even work by lesser-known contemporary artists can cost a pretty penny, meaning they are out of reach of most.

But pig farmer David Pike, who lives in a caravan in Wolsingham, County Durham, is just one of those who has managed to buy artwork thanks to Own Art.

The scheme allows people to borrow up to £2,000 interest-free over 10 months to buy work by a living artist.

I relate the picture to myself, because it is such an intense picture
David Pike, pig farmer

David Pike's favourite piece is by Peter Howsen, a portrait of a man in great pain, in which he can see himself. He bought it after his partner died and it is one of his most treasured possessions.

"At the moment I now live in a caravan and it is circumstances as much as choice that has led me to this situation," he said.

"Obviously, going from a period farmhouse to a little caravan I've had a limitation of space, but of course I've brought a certain number of things with me and amongst them is one of my favourite pictures.

"I relate the picture to myself because it is such an intense picture."

Regan Harle, a mod-loving factory worker from Darlington in County Durham, has also been able to indulge his passion.

Regan Harle's latest purchase was a portrait of himself and his beloved Lambretta

"If that scheme wasn't there, I wouldn't have my pictures.

"Art collectors - they buy things for names - I wouldn't call myself an art collector.

"I bought two Banksies, and I sold one, because my TV went 'bang', but I bought them because I liked them.

"I'm just a working-class guy. I work nights, and I never told anyone at work about my art."

While his prized Lambretta scooter was off the road, the owner of his favourite gallery suggested he had a portrait done, a new concept for Regan, who wanted a painting of his pride and joy more than one of himself.

"I totally rebuilt my scooter, and James Paterson, a local painter, was keen to do it (the painting).

"I was just in the background, it was all about the scooter. But it's even better than I imagined.

"And it's hanging by my front door - to scare the burglars."

Regan's collection, all funded by Own Art, continues to grow.

We might have to get a bigger house
Regan Harle, factory worker

"I like Mackenzie Thorpe, I like his landscapes, and I really like another local artist, Lou Harris, and I love Peter Blake, I've got a Peter Blake target.

"We were in the gallery at the weekend, and there were two new Lou Harris ones in there - we might have to get a bigger house!"

Another art fan, Tasaddat Hussain, a human rights lawyer from Huddersfield, recently commissioned a work from his favourite painter, Chris Gollon, on the theme "justice".

He became a patron of Gollon 15 years ago, and by using the scheme, has a piece from every period of his career. Like Regan, he does not see himself as a collector.

Alan Yentob, Tasaddat Hussain and Chris Gollon with "Justice"
I had always liked art but I had never seen any that bowled me over and hit me between the eyes like his did
Tasaddat Hussain, lawyer

Tasaddat said: "When I first saw one of Chris's pieces it bowled me over. I had always liked art but I had never seen any that bowled me over and hit me between the eyes like his did.

"I represent people from lower levels of society with little money, and buying art is a very elitist thing to do. It's a very strange contrast but ultimately, for me, it's not about being grandiose, I just want to buy the piece.

"It's very much an organic process, long gone are the days when you buy something as a knee-jerk reaction."

He said he has only bought a piece as an investment once - and it remains under his bed as an "emotionless" purchase which does not fit in with the art in his home.

But he is still looking for more.

"I have fairly limited wall space and there's only one space in my kitchen I can shoehorn another in.

"I don't worry about missing out on works I have my eye on - if somebody else buys it, so be it."

Since it began in 2004, more than 14,500 Own Art loans have been taken out, valued in excess of £11.6m, and the Arts Council says it has generated more than £6.5m worth of income for artists.

The scheme is allowing people from all walks of life to buy contemporary art for the first time
Mary-Alice Stack, Own Art

Currently 26.5% of all loan applications in England are from first-time art buyers and 82% of borrowers said it had allowed them to buy a work they would otherwise not have been able to afford.

Mary-Alice Stack, development manager for Own Art said: "We're really pleased that the scheme is allowing people from all walks of life to buy contemporary art for the first time.

"From farmers to policemen, students to pensioners, we're making it possible for everyone to buy original art and craft for their homes."

Alan Davey, chief executive of Arts Council England, said: "I am proud that the Arts Council has made it affordable for anyone to buy contemporary art and become a collector."

Imagine... Own Art is broadcast on BBC One at 2235 GMT on Tuesday 1 December, or catch it on BBC iplayer.



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