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Chicago Art Leasing

-Sponsored Post-

Joshua Ginsberg found himself practicing what had become both meditation and second nature after 15 years… he was working on a painting. It was his way of working out problems, and the problems he faced toward the end of 2008 are familiar to many of us. He had learned that the consulting firm he was was working for was closing and that he had to think of a new plan, fast.

As he blended colors on the canvas, he turned ideas over. He had a passion for art, but he had never given serious consideration to becoming a full-time artist. It was more than a question of his skills, he didn’t find the business model appealing. It lacked scalability – as an artist he would always be creating a new piece, selling it and starting over again. But what if there was a way to both maintain ownership of his work and generate recurring revenue… He put this thought aside for a moment.

He knew further that he didn’t want to be an art gallery. Aside from the start-up capital required, most of the gallery owners he knew were struggling to survive against enormous overhead costs and an art market that had all but frozen. Was there a way that he could provide art while radically reducing the cost of doing so…?

Returning to corporate America was equally unappealing and almost as risky it seemed as becoming an artist. At least with being an artist, he would be in control of his own work and time, responsible only for himself. But he didn’t want to let go of the skills he had acquired over a decade and a half. His thoughts kept returning to the technology business model he had come to love. It was a subscription-based model and the advertisers were essentially renting space on the website…Renting Space…

Suddenly he had his epiphany. After a week of research and conversations with friends and former mentors, he was convinced that his idea was sound. Chicago Art Leasing was born. If it worked, there would be a clear benefit to the artist, but the question on Ginsberg’s mind was if there would be an equally compelling reason for business to lease art.

He found his answer in the tax code. As one of his clients, an accounting firm in Skokie, explained: artwork is a non-depreciable capital asset. In non-CPA speak, this means that when companies purchase artwork, they are unable to write it off since the value, according to the tax code, doesn’t decline. But when artwork is leased, the company doesn’t own it, which can be written off as an expense.

Less than 2 years later with more than 30 projects and more than 60 artists, having proven the model to his satisfaction, Ginsberg is beginning to explore growing his operation throughout the Midwest. “It may not happen before the end of the year,” he says with a smile, “but it is certainly on the horizon.”