We always like to laugh when the French get something wrong, but we’re sitting on the fence and waiting this one out. Art Exchange, which launched on January 11th of this year, is a Parisian-based company, which, as the name suggests, is a stock exchange for Art. That is – people will be able to buy and sell shares of artworks as if it was any other financial asset, via a secure

Art Exchange’s aim is to allow everyone who has been traditionally excluded from the world of art (anyone who doesn’t have a spare six figure sum lying about) the chance to invest in a market that had been showing considerable growth pre banking crisis. While the upper end of the art market has proved remarkably robust in the downturn, exemplified by the recent sale of Pablo Picasso’s Nude, Green and Bust for a record $106 million, it is a matter of some conjecture whether such growth, if any, is viable at the lower end during the current downturn.  

The exchange is currently offering two works to invest in, on its website. The Premiere of a Play That Will Never Run is by the internationally recognised Italian artist, Francesco Vezzoli, which has a price tag of €135,000. The second work, Irregular Form (1998), an abstract oil painting by the father of conceptualism, Sol LeWitt, is being offered at €110,000. Both works are being floated in conjunction with the respected New York and Paris-based gallery, Yvon Lambert with the hope that the individual shares of €10 will rise in line with the art market, shifting in response to auction results, exhibitions, book releases and other elements in an artist’s evolution that cause the value of their works to rise or fall. 

LeWitt died in 2007 and his most highly valued works at auction have all been three-dimensional structures, the record of $520,000 being set in 2006 for his three-dimensional structure Wall Floor Piece #1. Francesco Vezzoli is a somewhat riskier investment, having little if any previous sales history and being more renowned as an international prankster. His most recent artwork is a trailer for a movie that doesn’t exist.

At the time of writing, a little over a month after the website opened, from the initial offering, there were 944 shares left in LeWitt’s work from the initial 11,000 and 1,220 shares from the 13,500 in Vezzoli’s piece. Of course until all the shares are subscribed there can be no fluctuation, other than downwards in the original value, and until then it will be impossible to ascertain whether the Art Exchange is a project that has legs. If it does start to run, expect the hedge funds to start shorting the likes of Vezzoli and LeWitt, which, surely, was never the point in the first place. But there’s always a price, when those who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing have their say.