Elite home stagers decorate with gallery, museum art

BY BONNIE MCCARTHY for The Los Angeles Times

In Los Angeles, Picasso and Warhol pieces don't hang just in museums — they grace the walls in extravagant open houses.

At real estate's most rarefied level, when homes are selling for $10 million or more, "you're not going to be putting up Z Gallerie pieces anymore," said Billy Rose, president of the Agency in Los Angeles.

Instead, elite home stagers coordinate with art galleries to rent original art pieces to use during home showings. Like the houses themselves, the art is for sale.

Realtors and galleries say it's a win-win: The pieces make the homes feel more luxurious and one-of-a-kind, and the art is more likely to be sold if it's brought to a place where wealthy buyers are sure to pass through.

When staging a newly renovated estate in Pacific Palisades on the site of President Ronald Reagan's former home, the developers brought in Picasso sketches, works by David Hockney and Donald Sultan, a Vija Celmins ocean lithograph and two Ethan Murrow drawings.

The house was redone to appeal to a buyer with a deep affinity for the Golden State, so nearly all of the pieces "reference California or classic Western imagery," said Janus Cercone, principal of Los Angeles-based Jaman Properties.

Rare art rentals from places such as Jason Vass Gallery in L.A. and Hamilton Selway Gallery in West Hollywood are in line with other open house practices designed to help sell a luxe lifestyle: the vintage prestige cars sitting in the garage, the lavish custom furnishings and the catered champagne-and-caviar parties.

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