London art exchange lets collectors buy shares of a Banksy

London art exchange lets collectors buy shares of a Banksy
A woman walks beside British graffiti artist Banksy's "2 Rats" inside the reception of the ME Hotel in central London March 26, 2014.

LONDON - 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 (S$10).

"We want to democratise 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 'commoditisation' of culture.

"I like the idea, I like that artists are being recognised... but it does feed into this consumerism," said Azziza Tillock, a 28-year-old Londoner who works in catering.

The global art market totaled US$65.9 billion (S$82.5 billion) last year, an increase of 8 per cent 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.

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