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Robinhoods of the Art World Lure Scores of Investors in Pandemic – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — New offerings kept coming over the summer: Banksy, George Condo, Zao Wou-Ki.

A New York startup that allows investors to buy a tiny stake in paintings by world-class artists for just $20 has seen a surge in demand during the pandemic, according to its founder, and has bought 15 artworks since the onset of Covid-19 to feed their appetite. A recent $1.52 million initial public offering of a piece by the American graffiti artist KAWS sold out in a few hours.

“People feel that equity markets are overvalued and they are looking for other places to put money,” said Scott Lynn, a collector who started the company, Masterworks, in 2017.

Masterworks is at the forefront of a burgeoning niche in fractional ownership in luxury assets such as fine art, collectibles, vintage cars and even race horses such as Authentic, one of the favorites in the Kentucky Derby. The startups offer the shares as an affordable way to invest in expensive, rarefied fields that are typically available only to the mega-rich.

Think of it as the art market’s version of the popular trading platform Robinhood Markets, which lets users buy a fraction of a company’s share for a few dollars. It mirrors the democratization movement unfolding in the stock market — except that the assets are inherently more risky and lacking of a track record. Auctions are filled with casualties, and even works by star artists can implode once prices get overheated.

The concept of fractional ownership isn’t new in the art market — or for thoroughbreds. It’s a buyer-beware investment: Robinhood itself is under pressure after complaints from novice investors and is facing a U.S. regulatory probe. But the pandemic has heightened the taste for those risky bets. It’s about the experience and the excitement of owning a part of something unique — even as many will likely take a loss.

“Folks are stuck in the house, bored, and, if they’re lucky enough to be working, aren’t spending money on things they normally would,” said David Ritter, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “So, they have money to play with.”

James Scollick, 40, an avid user of Robinhood from Los Angeles, discovered Masterworks on Instagram in July and invested $10,000 two weeks later. Half of that went into buying shares of a Condo painting and the rest into secondary-market shares for Banksy’s “Mona Lisa.”

“It felt like a natural way to invest some of my money,” he said.

Masterworks has been luring about 10,000 new users a month during the pandemic, founder Lynn said, and it isn’t alone. Acquicent, a company founded last year to develop a trading platform for fractional-share owners of classic cars, saw an 80% jump in the number of potential investors in the past three months, according to Anthony Citrano, founder and chief executive officer.

“It’s an asset class that 99.9% of people could not touch ordinarily,” he said. “As far as people interested in investing, it’s very hot right now.”

At MyRacehorse, the number of investors has tripled since April, according to founder Michael Behrens. More than 12,000 investors watched a race at Santa Anita Park in California on Zoom recently, some wearing #myracehorsewins T-shirts and hats. In June, the two-year-old company bought a 12.5% stake in Authentic, a colt trained by twice-Triple Crown winner Bob Baffert, in a deal that valued the racehorse at $15 million. 

“You have to go into it understanding that it’s not a traditional investment,” Behrens said. “We encourage people to embrace the experiential part of it.”

Otis, a one-year-old firm offering emerging art and collectibles such as sneakers and comic books, is also seeing an increase in demand. Of the 35 pieces it owns, 20 were purchased since March, according to founder Michael Karnjanaprakorn. Shares go for as low as $10. The most expensive offering was a $425,000 painting by Banksy.

“Maybe two years ago this seemed like a very stupid idea,” Karnjanaprakorn said. “People were like, ‘Why would you do that?’ Now it’s a real thing.”

The fractional-ownership companies have different business models, but most file documents with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and host initial public offerings similar to new equity issues. At Masterworks, there’s a secondary exchange market for those interested in quicker returns by trading shares.

In recent months, Masterworks has emerged as an active buyer of works under $5 million even as deals in the broader art market slowed down. The startup acquired 15 artworks for $31.8 million since March 17, compared with five in the previous two years, according to founder Lynn, who added he plans to spend more than $100 million on art this year.

Masterworks buys at auctions or through private sales, planning to hold onto the works for as many as seven years. The company charges a 1.5% annual management fee and takes 20% of the profit when the pieces eventually sell. To keep up with demand, Lynn more than doubled his staff to 40 people since March.

User Aaron Shumaker, 37, has spent more than $200,000 on shares of six artworks at Masterworks in the past year, including by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Yayoi Kusama.

“I don’t think I’d feel so comfortable to have one of these works displayed on my wall,” said the Washington, D.C.-based entrepreneur, who hasn’t laid eyes on any of his holdings. “That seems like a lot of risk.”

Instead, he’s happy for Masterworks to store them in a facility with proper security, climate control and insurance, while he hopes to make a financial return on his investment.

The sobering reality is that most art doesn’t go up in value.

“Even great, great artists become overvalued to the rest of the market,” said Jeffrey Deitch, who co-founded an art-advisory service for Citibank in 1979 and has championed street art as a gallery owner and museum director. “There were times when I bought works of art, when I was convinced it would be a great score, and I barely got out alive.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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Revisiting memory at the "…fire and frost" art exhibit in SUB – The Gateway Online

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As we head into fall, I once again remember how quietly the trees forget their leaves in an exhale of colour. I remember the ground in a pool of yellow when I told my partner I loved him for the first time. I remember finding out I could order pumpkin spice lattes year-round.

While these recollections may seem minuscule, we are all a collection of “I remembers.” Our brains serve as our own personal wizards, cataloging and discarding events at the touch of a synapse. Our memories are sacred. They are stored time. 

Those memories are the theme of ...fire and frost, a partnership between The Art Gallery of Alberta, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and University of Alberta Students’ Union on exhibit at the Myer Horowitz Theatre from now until September 30, and at Concordia University from October 8 to November 4. The exhibit is curated by Shane Golby and features three contemporary artists: Colin Smith, Linda Craddock, and Candace Makowichuk

Cody Shimizu

I visited the exhibit earlier and let me tell you, the work is deep, and not your one-in-the morning-stoner-revelation-deep. It is physically deep in that I found myself enveloped within the places the artwork took me. When I stood in front of Craddock’s oil and photo collage Embarkation #5 1944, I felt like I was dusting off my memories, like my first fall romance. Or how I felt a longing to be a kid again when viewing Makowichuk’s bromoil photograph, Waiting: The Playground Is Closed Series. The act of recalling my memories felt like a tribute to my past. 

Cody Shimizu

I was most moved by Colin Smith’s photography on paper, Piapot School. In it you find an empty classroom, with the exception of a desk flipped on its side, a blank chalkboard with a scribble on it, and a peeling soccer ball on the floor. Outside lies an upside down projection of a deserted basketball court. There is however no learning taking place there, no one to play soccer with, and there is not even a basketball to play with on the court. Viewing Piapot School was like viewing a school memory without the two subjects that made it important: academics and the people. The experience was at once contemplative and haunting. 

Cody Shimizu

On Gil Scott-Heron’s final album I’m New Here there’s a verse that says, “No matter how far gone you’ve gone, you can always turn around.” The process of “turning around” is essential to what makes us human. Our memory is a knitted scarf we wear, each memory a stitch building off of the last one. In the presence of the pieces in the …fire and frost exhibit I unraveled the threads of my own personal history.

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New art gives Downtown Guelph walkway a new look (8 photos) – GuelphToday

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A project to revitalize The Walkway in Guelph’s downtown core offers passersby an opportunity to take in local art in a unique space.

The Walkway Project allowed members of the Necessary Arts Collective (NAC) to beautify the space by painting the pillars throughout the sunroof-lit walway that connects St. George’s Square with the Baker Street Parking lot.

The City of Guelph funded the project through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund which is a $30 million province-wide fund dedicated to stimulating the tourism economy and safely bringing visitors back into local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was kind of cool because all of the artists were already committed free of charge,” said Chanel DesRoches, local artist and owner of the NAC studio. “But the city paid us for our time and the Downtown Guelph Business Association pitched in for materials so it was really this last-minute huge community engagement opportunity.”

Artist Amber Ozols said her succulent-inspired series is about death and loss, but Ozols uses colour to try to bring happiness to the observers of her technicolour pieces.

“You can still tell that it looks like a plant or a flower but they’re all just succulents that I have digitally altered or I do sketches of them on-sight and bring them out here,” said Ozols.

Robert John Paterson, a freelance illustrator, based his design off the dimensions of his pillar before starting to paint his Canadian landscape-inspired tower just outside of the downtown post office.

“Coming up with a design that was really tall and skinny is pretty challenging,” Paterson said. “Most times when you compose an image it’s rectangle or square but this is like colouring on the side of a cigarette.”

On Sunday, the final pieces were unveiled and members of the public were able to walk through the footpath and enjoy the artists’ creations. Members of the public were also able to take a tour of the newly renovated Necessary Arts building.

“The fact that people know about us based on what they see online, or based on a short conversation based on what they see here (the walkway) and sparking potential interest … That is everything,” DesRoches said. “The thing about art is that it’s a side hobby now until you’re think you’re ready to make a jump and we can be that small or big jump.”

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Moostletoe Tour cancelled but MJMAG offering plenty of art opportunities this fall – moosejawtoday.com

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The artists and committee of the Moosetletoe Studio Tours have decided to cancel this year’s annual tour of local artists’ studios due to COVID-19 concerns, but that doesn’t mean Moose Jaw will be without chances to get involved with art throughout the fall.

The Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery has a number of programs and projects coming up that will help the community continue to stay connected to both their own creative side and the artists of Moose Jaw.

Education program coordinator Christy Schweiger from the MJMAG shared a few of the upcoming items of interest on the art gallery’s calendar, beginning with the ongoing work happening to put the gift shop online.

No set timeline has been established for the launch of the online shop, as the curator and tech team are still in discussion and the process will take some time, but MJMAG hopes to have the online option available for the Christmas season.

“We have someone in the community who is very tech-oriented that is working with the curator to come up with a concept of how to do that,” said Schweiger. “So that’s a little ways off but we will be working on that, and it’s a great idea to have it up for Christmas. We want to highlight local artists and work with local artists in not only our community but in Saskatchewan to provide them that option.”

The Norma Lang Gallery is also under construction as MJMAG staff prepare for the fall exhibition titled Marsha Kennedy: Embodied Ecologies, which will open on Oct. 9.

The Women’s Cape Project showcase in the gallery lobby, facilitated by cultural educator and traditional Cree artist Barb Frazer and featuring the beadwork of local Indigenous women, will also be expanding with an addition to the exhibition — another beadwork medallion project featuring 30 more artists.

For those looking for a more hands-on art experience, the MJMAG has also planned several art classes coming up, with something for all ages. 

Adult classes will be taking place in-person, with a limit of six participants per class to ensure proper safety protocols. Materials will be provided for all participants, and masks will be required while in the building.

“It’s hard to wear a mask for the whole time but it is required, [and] we will be taking breaks,” said Schweiger. “We’re just trying to test the waters and make people feel comfortable and safe, while we’re offering classes.”

Kids classes are also available, with small, in-person classes available as well as online versions for those nervous about public spaces. Schweiger is also working on providing the art gallery’s school art program to educators in an online capacity this fall, which will also be available to students who are homeschooling.

The MJMAG is planning for the Creatabilities art class to return in November in the afternoons, which is aimed towards individuals with special needs and learning difficulties. The class takes place online, from a distance, with material kits provided to participants with everything they need to take part.

A new art class for seniors aged 55 and up is also underway, in partnership with Senior Centres Without Walls, where participants are given the materials and step-by-step instructions from Schweiger over the phone.

“Everything is over the phone, and so that is for seniors and particularly it will be good for people who are not technologically inclined, with the Internet,” said Schweiger, adding that the first session went very well.

MJMAG is also adapting the pop-up clay sessions that became popular last year with the upcoming launch of Clay At Home, a do-it-yourself craft kit that contains all the materials needed to create a clay ornament. The first clay kit is Halloween-themed and available for preorder right now, with pickup set for Oct. 25-27.

Schweiger encourages people to check out the upcoming calendar of classes, as the MJMAG has been working very hard to adapt programming to the unusual circumstances of this year and there is a little something for everyone.

“I’ve always wanted to work with vulnerable groups such as seniors and individuals with learning disabilities, and so this has really given me a chance to spend time with them online,” said Schweiger. “I feel really good that we have been able to include more community members in our programming, that we’ve never had time to do in the past.”

All of the MJMAG’s upcoming programs are open for registration online only, as the gallery is reducing physical contact where possible. 

More information on classes and what’s coming up can be found on the MJMAG’s website at mjmag.ca.

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