Singapore Art Week just ended, and it gave me something to contemplate about young persons’ curiosity about the art world and art market. Both in Singapore and across the world, opportunities to appreciate art as a luxury good or investment product can sometimes be limited to those in the highest income brackets. Many of us experience art fairs, biennales and exhibitions. However, most platforms and spaces for buying and selling art remain playgrounds for the ultra-rich.
I had already reconciled this as a reality both abroad and in Singapore, when I received an update from Feral Horses, the art investment platform looking to change things up.
Feral Horses is the art stock exchange to buy and trade shares of contemporary artworks directly from artists and art galleries. The team is raising funds through Seedrs for its new proposition of micro art investments.
Here is what that means for my fellow millennial art gallery visitors: When you visit an art gallery partnering with Feral Horses, hold your smartphone camera over the artwork's tag. You will get redirected to the Art Stock Exchange, where you can get in-depth data about the artwork and artist, and the option to buy shared of the artwork almost instantly. The onus is on you, then, to manage your portfolio of shares and investments.
Feral Horses rents out the artworks that they manage, and as shared by the team this approach has two major outcomes. Firstly, the works are exhibited rather than hidden in storage facilities. The works gain visibility in the market, and this directly has an impact on art market valuation. Secondly, investors receive 'dividends' from this rental activity, which creates a healthy system of patronage and market activity. I am a fan of research, innovation and enterprise in the art industry. It is tremendously exciting because it contradicts the art world's reputation for being old, stuffy and resistant to change. Here are some reasons to consider art as an investment product, straight from the Horse's (haha!) mouth
1) Art as an investment is an opportunity to invest in something you share values with - sustainability, or womens' rights, perhaps. Whatever the oeuvre of the artist may be about
2) It is a big learning opportunity - before you invest in anything, you have to study the asset and conduct due diligence. You get to study something you are interested in, which is an underrated opportunity for self-development
3) If your disposable income has kept you from building a serious art collection, micro art investments provide an interesting compromise. The solution of investing in shares can bring you closer to that reality, without first discussing a myriad of issues surrounding art collection management (like interior, taxes, insurance etc.)
4) Art is a high-risk and high-potential asset, and investing small sums over a time period can lead to a stronger, more diversified portfolio.
As a millennial who is looking to make sense of the big bad world of investment, being risk-averse comes naturally. we have seen multiple instances of economic crashes due to failed markets. I think this is a very clever and realistic way to address a large market gap, for people who wish to actively participate in the market but do not have the same disposable income (yet) that visible art collectors begin collecting with.
Galleries often create marketing or business strategies based on their understanding of an individual's purchasing power. How much this impacts their interaction with a visitor or prospective client, of course, varies wildly for each gallery across the globe. If a large number of galleries get on board with this initiative, the practice of measuring how deep a visitor's pockets go will be less relevant, and millennials may find a newfound confidence when visiting their favourite contemporary art galleries.