London art exchange lets collectors buy shares of a Banksy

Fri Apr 11, 2014 11:55am EDT
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By Martinne Geller

LONDON (Reuters) - It may look more like a trading floor than an art show. Hundreds of well-heeled Londoners mill about, checking screens to see the latest trades and buy shares in initial public offerings. But the Banksy paintings and Shepard Fairey print point to a serious art gallery.

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 market."

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.   Continued...

U.S. artist Jeff Koons poses with his sculpture "Balloon Dog (Blue)" at the Kunsthaus in Bregenz February 16, 2007. REUTERS/Miro Kuzmanovic