One of several start-ups that have explored the idea of “fractionalizing” art, Maecenas will divide 49 percent of the value of an artwork into shares, which can then be bought and sold on the company’s blockchain trading platform. Shares will initially be priced at $10,000 each, according to Miguel Neumann, one of the company’s founding partners, who comes from an investment banking background.
The first artwork will be Andy Warhol’s 1980 silk-screen painting “14 Small Electric Chairs Reversal Series,” will be supplied by Dadiani Fine Art, based in the Mayfair district of London. The gallery, which offers a commercial mix of contemporary and older British, American and Russian art, gained notoriety when it became the first in the city to accept payments in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. (The Warhol will be valued at 4.2 million pounds, or about $5.6 million.)
It remains to be seen how many investors will want to speculate in shares derived from works owned by galleries and collectors. The art market, after all, despite its shortcomings, is still democratic enough that people can buy and actually own works for less than $10,000 that turn out to be good investments.
But there are also people, such as Duncan MacDonald-Korth, one of the co-authors of the DACS “Art Market 2.0” report, who remain convinced that the technological integrity of blockchain will eventually transform the art market.
“The stakes are getting so high,” Mr. MacDonald-Korth said in a telephone interview, referring to the skyrocketing amounts being paid for trophy works of art. “The higher the values get, the more incentive there will be for the market to be properly financialized.” He envisages a large-scale trading platform on which investment banks and hedge funds will be able to trade fractions of art in digital currency. “We’re in a special moment in the economics of the art market.”
What this moment will mean for art itself is anyone’s guess.