Bellanca’s platform is likewise trying to chart a path between investment and a certain form of patronage or inclusion—a sense of community among co-owners. “We’re in the market to offer a different value proposition; we want to allow people to connect, own, and invest in art more than they are today,” he explained. “On the other hand, we don’t want to think of Feral Horses as a way to coldly speculate on art.”
That said, Bellanca sees more opportunities for gains in a co-ownership model, versus a nascent collector who is buying modestly priced works and hoping the artist becomes the next overnight sensation. “Buying a $1,000 artwork is statistically not going to be a great investment—at least financially,” he said. “In the art market, there’s an inverse correlation between supply and demand, making it very hard for emerging artists to grow in value. But with the model of co-ownership, you can have access to higher-value pieces, increasing your chances of getting a positive return on investment.”
Feral Horses users can currently try to sell their shares at any point in time, at whatever price they choose. The total number of shares available for any given artwork is set in advance by the platform. For instance, a painting by
is broken down into 7,200 possible shares, each offered at £10 (about $12.50), since the work’s estimated value is currently £72,000 ($90,100). With previous Feral Horses artworks, Bellanca claimed that “we saw our users selling in the secondary market for an average 25 percent profit on the initial price.” Prospective co-owners are also offered additional, more tangible perks, not dissimilar to the tiered rewards offered to Kickstarter patrons: books, poster prints, studio visits with the artist.
, a platform established in 2017, is also vying for art co-owners, especially those who might be wooed by hard statistics. In-house editorial poses questions like: “Can
Beat the S&P 500?” (Short answer: Yes.) Currently, the site is pushing a 1979 Warhol work from his “Reversal” series, acquired
by Masterworks for $1.8 million. “Similar” works, the site avers, have enjoyed an 11.25% internal rate of return (IRR). Users are not, as of now, allowed to sell their shares after the initial offering; any profits would only accrue when Masterworks unloads the Warhol at some point in the future.
There are plenty of reasons to be both optimistic and skeptical about this new crop of co-ownership platforms. They all stress a desire to “democratize” the market, but that presupposes a large audience of small-scale investors with hundreds or thousands of dollars to invest in art assets (rather than, say, paying off their student loan debts or mortgages). Otis does add an interesting spin on the existing model by seemingly appealing to a younger demographic—readers of Complex or Juxtapoz, rather than Artforum. It will be interesting to see if Otis’s bet pays off; if a younger guard of collectors will actually be interested in fractional ownership. When a new product drops at the Supreme store in Lower Manhattan, for instance, a line of young buyers wraps around the block. Will Otis be able to capture the attention of this crowd, for whom snagging a so-called “grail” most definitely means not having to share it with anyone else?
An artist like KAWS is an interesting case, and one in which Otis’s distinct focus overlaps with the more traditional white cube. “When we first started working on this, every single person we talked to in the art world said to stay away from him,” Karnjanaprakorn recalled. “He’d be a flash in the pan; he has no support; he’s a street artist; he sold out because he did the collaboration with Uniqlo. People are having a really difficult time understanding why he’s doing so well
as an artist; it’s because he built a global fan base, and he leveraged the internet to do that.”
Otis is hoping to similarly leverage the internet to allow even modest investors to buy into that wave. And if it works for street artists–turned–art market darlings, perhaps it’ll also work for less intuitive investments, from Supreme gear to Incredible Hulk comic books.