Monet for Nothing

New startup is building a stock exchange for high-value art

Art International News
A new startup wants to make art investment available to the masses. (Kevin Laminto/Via Unsplash)
A new startup wants to make art investment available to the masses. (Kevin Laminto/Via Unsplash)

For centuries, art collecting and art brokering were comfortably ensconced in the exclusive domain of the super-rich. Now, things could be changing. A start-up called Masterworks is trying to build a stock exchange for high-value art. This summer, Masterworks acquired Claude Monet’s Coup de Vent at an auction for $6.3 million and plans to launch a public offering with individual shares valued at $20.

Unfortunately, your fractional ownership won’t allow you to take the painting home and hang it over your mantelpiece, but it will allow you to participate in a highly lucrative and historically-tested investment vehicle that has never been previously available to the masses. According to Masterworks’ website, masterpiece paintings have outpaced growth in the leading U.S. stock exchange index by nearly 300 percent in the last 20 years.

Current sales of expensive art are limited by liquidity and transaction protocol. There simply aren’t that many people willing to fork out a hundred million dollars for a Picasso on any given day. By creating an affordable entry point, Masterworks also hopes to help art reach a wider audience while giving the general public more agency in selecting and determining the true value of cultural artifacts.

Masterworks art transactions will be recorded through an artificial intelligence (AI) platform that creates transparency and immutability. Ownership can be clearly tracked using smart contracts and digital currencies, allowing for instant transfers across geographic borders without the involvement of banks and auction houses that traditionally charge high fees.

New AI-based art platforms like KODAKone, for example, allow artists to register their artwork digitally before entering the art market, providing security to all present and future stakeholders. Ironically, your digital kitten art may one day be more easily authenticated than Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvador Mundi, which recently sold at auction for $450 million.  Plus, telling your friends down at the pub that you own a Picasso could be, well…priceless.

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