France's Stock Market for Art Launches With an IPO of LeWitt and Vezzoli Works

France's Stock Market for Art Launches With an IPO of LeWitt and Vezzoli Works
As ARTINFO recently reported, the French company A&F Markets has come up with a venture called Art Exchange that will treat artworks as investment vehicles, opening them up to partial purchase by shareholders. The initiative has just launched with an offer of shares in two pieces, one by Sol LeWitt and the other by Francesco Vezzoli. Now 11,000 shares of LeWitt's "Irregular Form" are available at €10 ($13) per share, for a total value of €110,000 ($142,000) and 13,500 shares of Vezzoli's "The Premiere of a Play That Will Never Run" are also offered at the same rate, giving it a total price of €135,000 ($174,000).

These first two works to be offered by Art Exchange are both owned by Paris's Yvon Lambert Gallery. Pierre Naquin, the founder and president of the investment venture, told ARTINFO France that a half dozen French galleries are planning on participating in the project, and that other countries — especially Great Britain — have shown even more enthusiastic interest. Naquin believes that French galleries may be hesitant because in France "there is an very institutional side to culture, also in terms of respecting the artwork."

Naquin is aware of the opposition that his undertaking has spawned. "Not everyone agrees with what we're doing and we understand that," Naquin said. "They're afraid that afterward people will consider art as having an index — art went up today, art went down today." But Naquin insists that because investors follow stock values carefully, his artistic marketplace will have the effect of increasing the number of people interested in art. The participating galleries must commit to show their stock-market works by appointment, as well as to loaning them for retrospectives or other exhibitions, since these are expected to increase the value of the shares. Art Exchange has the exclusive right to sell any of the works within its system. The art will remain on the market until a buyer has purchased all existing shares. If an investor buys 80 percent of the shares, he or she can force the sale of the remaining 20 percent.

Pierre Naquin said that he expects Art Exchange to have less power over prices than auction houses in the beginning. "Price evolution will be more moderate — minimal in relation to the 100, 200, or 500 percent increases for works that only come up for auction every five or ten years. This being said, we won't be independent of the market."

Art Exchange is not the first stock market for art. China's Shenzhen Artvip Cultural Corporation started selling shares last year on the Shenzhen Cultural Assets and Equity Exchange. Instead of selling slices of an individual work, Artvip sold 1,000 shares in a collection of pieces by artist Yang Peijiang, which sold out immediately.