London art exchange lets collectors buy shares of a Banksy

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London art exchange lets collectors buy shares of a Banksy
In this released by banksy.co.uk on Thursday Oct. 2, 2014 shows a mural by graffiti artist Bansky in Clacton-on-Sea England taken earlier this week. The local authority in Clacton-on-Sea is mortified after telling its workers to remove a mural it later realized was created by the internationally famous graffiti artist Banksy. Banksy’s often satirical works have fetched up to $1.8 million at auction and his images have controversially been stripped from walls and sold for high prices. (AP Photo/banksy.co.uk) 
In this released by banksy.co.uk on Thursday Oct. 2, 2014 shows a mural by graffiti artist Bansky in Clacton-on-Sea England taken earlier this week. The local authority in Clacton-on-Sea is mortified after telling its workers to remove a mural it later realized was created by the internationally famous graffiti artist Banksy. Banksy’s often satirical works have fetched up to $1.8 million at auction and his images have controversially been stripped from walls and sold for high prices. (AP Photo/banksy.co.uk) 
In this released by banksy.co.uk on Thursday Oct. 2, 2014 shows a mural by graffiti artist Bansky in Clacton-on-Sea England taken earlier this week. The local authority in Clacton-on-Sea is mortified after telling its workers to remove a mural it later realized was created by the internationally famous graffiti artist Banksy. Banksy’s often satirical works have fetched up to $1.8 million at auction and his images have controversially been stripped from walls and sold for high prices. (AP Photo/banksy.co.uk) 
MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Christina Florence looks on at a piece of art titled 'Kissing Coppers' by the artist Banksy before it went to auction along with his 'Crazy Horse Car Door' (L) piece at the Fine Art Auctions Miami Street Art Auction at LMNT on February 18, 2014 in Miami, Florida. Three pieces of art by Banksy along with about 50 other lots by other artists such as Kenny Scharf, Basquiat, Bambi, Speedy Graphito went on the auction block. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: Banksy's latest art work in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City on October 18, 2013. The British street artist Banksy has been creating new street art for the month of October in New York. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
A street art stencil showing a soldier brandishing a machine gun above the slogan Vandals found vandalising this vandalism will be prosecuted' is seen on a wall in Los Angeles, California on August 21, 2013. The piece is by the artist Strömberg, although it has been mistaken in online forums to be by Banksy. Owners of the property have indicated they plan to remove the illegal artwork. The dyptich mural to the left called 'King of Pop' by artist Erik Burke was done with the permission of the property owner. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Michael Doyle, street art director for Julien's Auctions, stands next to "Flower Girl," a delicate stencil on a massive brick wall by popular street artist Banksy, is displayed in a warehouse in the greater Los Angeles area Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. The artist painted it on the side of a Los Angeles gas station in 2008. The building's owner carefully removed the wall section, which is 9 feet high, 8 feet wide and weighs nearly 5,000 pounds, framed it in sturdy aluminum and brought it to Julien's Auctions. Doyle says the piece could fetch more than $300,000 at auction on Thursday, because, "Celebrities are Banksy-crazy." (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
A design by British graffiti artist Banksy is seen at right, off of Main Street at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 04: A freshly painted but anonymous political mural, in the style of the artist Banksy, depicting David Cameron grabbing Nick Clegg in a parody of the famous image of footballer Vinnie Jones on Fashion street near Brick Lane on May 04, 2011 in London, England. The East End of London is home to a thriving art community, with paintings, sculptures and other works covering walls, buildings and rooftops across the area. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK, PALESTINE - 2014/08/22: An Israeli soldier walks past a Banksy graffitti mural in Bethlehem. The Islamic Jihad faction organized protests in solidarity with Gaza, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. As ceasefire talks collapsed completely in Cairo earlier this week, and fighting renewed on Wednesday. Hamas launched a barrage of rockets towards Southern Israel, some reaching as far as Jerusalem and illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, some 80 kilometers away from Gaza. Late Tuesday evening an Israeli missile struck the home of Hamas military commander Muhammad Deif, killing his wife and three-year-old daughter. Deif, according to Hamas reports was not assassinated. On Thursday, three more to military commanders, Muhammad Abu Shammala, Raed al-Attar and Muhammad Barhoum were also killed in airstrikes. In response, Hamas killed what they believed to be collaborators with Israel in Gaza. 18 suspected of having worked with Israeli army intelligence have been killed so far. Late Friday afternoon, a four-year-old Israeli child from Nihal Oz was killed by mortar fire from Gaza. To date, the death toll from the Gaza war stands at 2090 Palestinians and 67 Israelis. (Photo by Anna Ferensowicz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A Banksy image of a silhouette of a boy kneeling and praying is on a wall outside a parking garage Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, in Park City, Utah. David William Noll, a California man pleaded guilty Monday to defacing two Utah murals believed to have been done by the mysterious British graffiti artist Banksy. Noll will pay $13,000 in restoration costs as part of a plea agreement. Noll told a judge Monday he was suffering from a bout with bipolar disorder when he drove to Park City and damaged the works on New Year's Eve. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
A Banksy-stenciled an image of a videographer filming a flower is on a wall outside a coffee shop Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, in Park City, Utah. David William Noll, a California man, pleaded guilty Monday to defacing two Utah murals believed to have been done by the mysterious British graffiti artist Banksy. Noll will pay $13,000 in restoration costs as part of a plea agreement. Noll told a judge Monday he was suffering from a bout with bipolar disorder when he drove to Park City and damaged the works on New Year's Eve. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
A Sotheby's employee speaks on the phone next to large print showing former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill by British artist Banksy during a press preview of an unauthorized retrospective exhibition showing some 70 works of art in London, Friday, June, 6, 2014. Banksy is most famous for his anarchic humorous graffiti works that appear on street architecture without notice around Britain., that then appear as paintings or prints. Recently disputes have arisen over ownership of his art that appear on walls or doors due the value of the work.. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Curator Steve Lazarides poses for a portrait next to at art work by British artist Banksy, during a press preview of an unauthorized retrospective exhibition showing some 70 works of art in London, Friday, June, 6, 2014. Banksy is most famous for his anarchic humorous graffiti works that appear on street architecture without notice around Britain., that then appear as paintings or prints. Recently disputes have arisen over ownership of his art that appear on walls or doors due the value of the work. Lazarides was Bansky's agent during his early years as an artist. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
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(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.

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.

ART AND FINANCE

My Art Invest does not monitor or manage the trades, choosing, like eBay, to let market forces play out.

"We are not a financial market but we try to be a cultural market," said Bastok, who spent his youth accompanying his mother at art shows, after which they would buy canvases and paint to recreate their favorite works. He came up with the idea for My Art Invest while studying finance at Paris's Ecole Supérieure de Gestion et Finance and founded the company in Paris in 2011.

"I wanted to put my two favorite things, art and finance, into the same concept," he said.

In France, the exchange traded a Jeff Koons sculpture called "Blue Balloon Dog", with shares launched at 55 euros each and later trading at 200 euros, as well as "Rome Pays Off" by Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose shares climbed from 200 euros to 350 euros.

The average appreciation, however, is a more modest 30 percent in a period no longer than three years, says Bastok. That compares with an average return, according to My Art Invest, of about 4 percent over a period of five to 10 years in art investing.

Bastok is far from the first to start a financial vehicle for art investing. Back in 2001, ex-Christie's advisor Philip Hoffman launched The Fine Art Fund Group in London. The art hedge fund no longer has any active funds, but still advises five pooled funds with assets under contract worth more than $200 million, according to its website.

London is My Art Invest's first international foray, but Bastok has plans for New York and Miami, and hopes to follow that with Shanghai and Hong Kong. The business makes money by trying to buy pieces at a discount and then takes a commission on every trade.

One of the most sought-after pieces in its collection is a stenciled painting on canvas by elusive UK artist Banksy called "Heavy Artillery" that features an elephant weighed down by a missile strapped to its back.

Its 1000 shares were listed at 120 pounds ($200) each.

($1 = 0.5970 British Pounds)

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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