Last week at TED, the founders of Trust Art showed off an intriguing new business: A stock market for art. They unveiled ten new projects that you can invest in, including a fountain that flows with perfume that was inspired by an expedition to Mexico; a project to encourage New York residents to re-imagine blighted construction sites; and a home constructed solely out of garbage (pictured above).
Here’s out it works. The shares you buy in an artwork will help to fund its completion. From there, it works a little like a (virtuous) ponzi scheme: Investors are encouraged to hype their investment to anyone they know, and they gets assigned a “social capital score” based on their notoriety and the number of additional investors they attract. At the end of the year, the artwork gets auctioned off, at a price set by the combined social capital of all its investors. Thus, the more buzz an artwork receives, the more expensive it can be, and the more it stands to return to investors
Will it work? As it stands, the artists themselves aren’t the luminaries you see earning massive prices at Art Basel. Rather, the selection leans heavily toward social awareness projects. It does pose the problem of whether any art will come out of this that people actually want to own. Still, Trust Art remains a potentially ingenuous alternative to the difficult process of earning public grants.