Have you ever dreamed of wading into the lucrative market of cutting-edge art, but lacked the funds to do so? A new art-buying platform called My Art Invest could help you purchase at least a piece of a piece of art.
The business, which launched an international website last week, is designed to allow art lovers to purchase shares in works by leading contemporary and street artists like Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Katrin Fridriks and more.
My Art Invest founder Tom-David Bastok, a 25-year-old one-time finance student, says that he was inspired to start the business because he wants "to make the art market more democratic." Speaking to TIME in his newly opened gallery in London's trendy Shoreditch neighborhood, Bastok says he wants to revolutionize the "elitist" way art has been previously bought and sold. "This is very important for us — that everyone can have access to the art market."
The system works like this: My Art Invest purchases works by artists — established, as well as rising stars — and lists the pieces on their website. Each work is priced according to its current market value and then divided into shares, which start as low as £5 (~$8) a share. (Prices average around £50 or ~$80 a share, though a share of a Banksy work is around £120 or ~$200.) Customers can either browse the works online or in the gallery and select a piece they'd like to invest in; gallery visitors are even offered iPads to make their purchases on the spot.
Once all the shares of a particular work have sold, investors can either sell their shares on the website's trading platform or hold on to them as the piece's worth grows. When a piece's shares are completely sold and 51% of the shareholders agree, Bastok says, "My Art Invest will resell your shares by selling the entire artwork," ideally for a significant profit.
The platform seems ideal for those who are eager to invest in the cutting-edge art market they might normally be priced out of, but is it a gamble? In 2011, a Parisian-based company called Art Exchange tried to establish a similiar system, offering buyers shares in high-priced art works. They also offered sellers daily liquidity. Yet the Art Exchange never took off.
Bastok says that My Art Invest differs from other such initiatives because, "we are a middle or a long-term investment, not a quick-shot [investment]." He notes that selling all the shares for a piece and then the artwork itself could take up to five years.
But his business model has already turned a profit for investors. Though My Art Invest has just launched internationally, the platform has been available in France since 2011, which explains why the website has many sold-out pieces such as canvases by Takashi Murakami or skateboards by Damien Hirst. "In three years, all of our artworks have increased in value," says Bastok proudly, who adds that French customers have seen an average of 30% increase on the value of their shares. According to Reuters, the company previously traded shares on one Jeff Koons sculpture called "Blue Balloon Dog," which launched with shares priced at $76 each but went on to sell for $277 each.
But what about those people who would like to actually see their art, and not just own it? My Art Invest attempts to address that with the London gallery and Bastok says they're also planning on expanding with galleries opening in New York, Paris, Miami, Hong Kong and Shanghai within the next five years. What's more, investors who purchase 25% of the work's shares are able to keep the work to display in their home for three months — or 25% — of the year.
"If just one person buys the painting and puts it up in his home, no one will see it. But here" — Bastok stops to gesture at the art on the gallery's walls where pieces like Banksy's "Heavy Artillery Elephant" and Conor Harrington's "The Killer Inside Me" hang — "there will be 100 or 200 or 300 people who buy it. And then 100 people will talk about their new artwork."
Bastok also believes that art shouldn't simply be a financial investment but a personal one as well. "When you put £1 down on a work, you want to be aware of everything about the artist. In My Art Invest, the biggest point for me is that you have to fall in love with a good investment. So we have to select some good investment [pieces], but you have to fall in love to buy your shares."