My Art Invest opened its doors in East London on Thursday,
providing art collectors with a front for an online trading
platform where they can buy shares in works by important street
artists for as little as 5 pounds ($8).
"We want to democratize art," Tom-David Bastok, My Art Invest's
25-year-old French founder, told Reuters. "For me, it's very,
very, very important that everybody can put a foot in the art
He called My Art Invest "Gallery 2.0" and indeed, upon entering,
would-be buyers are given iPads they can use to check the price
and availability of shares, and make purchases.
A buyer who acquires one quarter of piece's shares can take it
home for three months, or one quarter of a year.
Many in the young, artsy crowd liked the idea of being able to
actually own works of fine art, but some viewed it as a step
toward 'commoditization' of culture.
"I like the idea, I like that artists are being recognized...
but it does feed into this consumerism," said Azziza Tillock, a
28-year-old Londoner who works in catering.
The global art market totaled $65.9 billion last year, an
increase of 8 percent and the highest level since 2007,
according to a report by the European Fine Art Foundation.
Initial prices are set by My Art Invest, based on the market
value and the more expensive a piece is, the more shares are
issued. Once the initial offering is completed and all the
shares are sold, owners can list their shares on the gallery's
secondary exchange for resale at any price they like.
ART AND FINANCE
My Art Invest does not monitor or manage the trades, choosing,
like eBay, to let market forces play out.
"We are not a financial market but we try to be a cultural
market," said Bastok, who spent his youth accompanying his
mother at art shows, after which they would buy canvases and
paint to recreate their favorite works. He came up with the idea
for My Art Invest while studying finance at Paris's Ecole
Supérieure de Gestion et Finance and founded the company in
Paris in 2011.
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"I wanted to put my two favorite things, art and finance, into the
same concept," he said.
In France, the exchange traded a Jeff Koons sculpture called "Blue
Balloon Dog", with shares launched at 55 euros each and later
trading at 200 euros, as well as "Rome Pays Off" by Jean-Michel
Basquiat, whose shares climbed from 200 euros to 350 euros.
The average appreciation, however, is a more modest 30 percent in a
period no longer than three years, says Bastok. That compares with
an average return, according to My Art Invest, of about 4 percent
over a period of five to 10 years in art investing.
Bastok is far from the first to start a financial vehicle for art
investing. Back in 2001, ex-Christie's advisor Philip Hoffman
launched The Fine Art Fund Group in London. The art hedge fund no
longer has any active funds, but still advises five pooled funds
with assets under contract worth more than $200 million, according
to its website.
London is My Art Invest's first international foray, but Bastok has
plans for New York and Miami, and hopes to follow that with Shanghai
and Hong Kong. The business makes money by trying to buy pieces at a
discount and then takes a commission on every trade.
One of the most sought-after pieces in its collection is a stenciled
painting on canvas by elusive UK artist Banksy called "Heavy
Artillery" that features an elephant weighed down by a missile
strapped to its back.
Its 1,000 shares were listed at 120 pounds ($200) each.
($1 = 0.5970 British pounds)
(Reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by Ralph Boulton)
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