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Modern art shares from $13 in new art stock exchange

By Mairi Mackay, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A stock exchange where you can buy and sell shares in art works launches Monday
  • Founder Pierre Naquin says it will open the market to those couldn't afford art before
  • Investors can buy and sell shares and research art works on Art Exchange website
  • Critics say Art Exchange will not add anything new to the world of collecting
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(CNN) -- A Paris company is launching a stock exchange with a difference Monday -- one that buys and sells shares in art.

Art Exchange will allow investors to buy and sell shares in modern and contemporary art works -- including paintings, sculptures and photographs -- valued at €100,000 ($130,000) and above, with prices quoted on a public index.

Shares start at €10 ($13) for works that Art Exchange says are authenticated and certified.

Pierre Naquin, the founder of A & F Markets, the company behind Art Exchange, says it will open up the rarified market to wannabe collectors who previously wouldn't have the means to buy art.

"People want to invest in something they understand and like," said Naquin. Today the only (people) who can buy art are art collectors. You have to be very rich or very organized."

Investors can make money on the exchange in much the same way as they would with any other commodity -- through selling shares at a higher price than they bought them at.

The value of artworks will evolve with the art market, says A & F Markets, shifting in response to auction results, exhibitions, book releases and other elements in an artist's evolution that may cause the value of their works to rise or fall.

Art Exchange says it will launch with a "modest selection of exceptional art works and the support of several galleries."

I think we need to show -- most certainly the French galleries -- that the Exchange works and that the artworks sell
--Caroline Matthews, Operating Manager, A & F Markets

The first work, "Irregular Form," a 1998 abstract oil painting by late American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt, is valued at €110,000.

The exchange says that the other artwork up for sale Monday is by Italian art prankster Francesco Vezzoli and that "it is the only remaining trace of a historic performance that Vezzoli put on at the Guggenheim in 2007."

Both works are being floated in conjunction with New York and Paris-based gallery Yvon Lambert.

In a statement, a representative from Yvon Lambert said that they wanted to "explore this new project" and that they were "very enthused" about participating in the exchange with two works.

Despite claiming the support of other galleries, Caroline Matthews, A & F Markets' Operating Manager, would only publicly confirm the involvement of Yvon Lambert, citing reasons of confidentiality.

"I think we need to show -- most certainly the French galleries -- that the Exchange works and that the artworks sell," she said in an email.

Support from some European arts organizations and galleries has been muted.

"Whilst we would be wary of art being promoted and invested in simply for its commodity value this new scheme in Paris... has the potential to bring new audiences and income streams to artists and arts organizations, and we will watch with interest as it unfolds," a spokesperson from British arts organization, the Arts Council England.

Patrick Bourne, managing director of the Fine Art Society in London, added: "It has been suggested that Art Exchange will create a new form of collecting art, which I think is misleading," said Patrick Bourne, managing director of the Fine Art Society in London.

"Only if some of the investors turn into proper collectors, buying principally for aesthetic and cultural reasons, will the exchange have contributed something to the art world, as opposed to the art market."

But Naquin defended the idea. "People are afraid that the public is just going to see art as numbers. It's simply not true," he said. "Some of those who are buying shares may become collectors after that."

The exchange says potential investors will be able to research art up for sale via the website, which will give background including artist biographies, previous works, collections they are in and a price history.

"It is like the kind of information used for financial products," Naquin said, likening Art Exchange to more traditional stock exchanges.

Investors can then place an order to buy or sell shares via the website. Art exchange takes 0.5% from each transaction.

Naquin places potential investors in two camps: financial professionals who want to diversify investments in a new asset; and entry-level collectors who haven't been able to invest previously.

Art Exchange is also not regulated by Autorité des marchés financiers, France's stock market regulators.

Some of those who are buying shares may become collectors after that.
--Pierre Naquin, Founder, A & F Markets

"At present there is no official authority for this sort of trading," Matthews said. "We are obviously regulated in the sense that we are subjected to property laws, especially those regarding artworks.

"Moreover, as a question of security, we oblige ourselves to follow the same rules as other financial markets," she added.

Investing in art has been popular for some years, although prices plummeted in the high-end market during the global recession.

But Naquin hopes to expand in future by opening Art Exchange offices around the world, with showrooms to showcase art for sale on the exchange.

"You go to China and the art work they are interested in is very different from, say, the U.S. and the UK. So, we would like to get a bit more local."

Susannah Palk contributed to this story.