Artex wants to put Picassos and van Goghs on the stock exchange

Zurich Yassir Benjelloun-Touimi has not worked as an investment banker for years. But he’s looking forward to this IPO more than any other deal in his career. The boss and co-founder of the art exchange Artex wants to put a work by Francis Bacon on the market.

For the painting “Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer” he is aiming for a valuation of up to 55 million euros. The search for investors, the so-called bookbuilding, is currently underway. The IPO could follow in July.

With Artex, Benjelloun-Touimi wants to achieve what no one before him has managed: to establish the methods of the stock exchange on the art market. “The art market has so far been neither accessible nor liquid,” he says. “We wanted to create a trading place that everyone can participate in.”

Works of art, especially in the highest price range for paintings with a value of more than ten million euros, have brought investors returns in recent years that were difficult to achieve elsewhere. Between 2003 and 2015, a buyer of a work by the impressionist Vincent van Gogh could achieve a profit of 460 percent.

However, the lucrative market segment in which paintings by van Gogh and Bacon are traded has so far only been open to high net worth investors. Benjelloun-Touimi wants to change that.

Who is the person you are talking about?

Benjelloun-Touimi founded Artex in 2020 together with Prince Wenzeslaus von Liechtenstein, a member of the small state’s princely family. Both met at a hedge fund in London. “We approach art from very different perspectives,” says Benjelloun-Touimi.

He himself discovered his fascination for art while studying in Paris. The Prince of Liechtenstein, on the other hand, grew up with it. The royal family has been an art collector for centuries. Your family office is also the largest investor in Artex.

Yasser Benjelloun-Touimi

The former investment banker founded Artex in 2020 together with Prince Wenzeslaus von Liechtenstein.

(Photo: Artex)

The company does not comment on the rating. Benjelloun-Touimi is responsible for the operational business, while his co-founder chairs the board of directors. Artex has offices in Liechtenstein, London, Luxembourg and Paris.

How does Artex work?

In concrete terms, the painting IPOs run like this: A special purpose company in Luxembourg buys a work and has its shares listed on Artex. The art exchange is registered as a so-called multilateral trading system with the financial supervisory authority in Liechtenstein. Banking partners registered with Artex ensure that the shares in the special purpose vehicle are offered to their customers.

If you buy a share through your bank, you can see the value of your art investment on a daily basis in the custody account overview in addition to the share positions. The minimum investment amount is 100 euros. Once multiple works of art are listed on Artex, asset managers could create index funds that allow investors to participate in an art portfolio.

Why is that important?

Art is one of the last major asset classes in which common financing methods are still a foreign word. The consulting firm Deloitte puts the global art market at $3.2 trillion.

In terms of volume, it is almost as big as the private equity market. This notoriously opaque and elitist asset class is also increasingly opening up to private investors. Asset managers create liquid fund structures that give access to investors with smaller amounts.

“Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer”

Francis Bacon’s work is said to be valued at up to 55 million euros.

(Photo: Artex)

The gold market last went through a similar development in the early 2000s: Physically backed index funds made it possible for private investors to buy precious metals at world market prices with small amounts and to trade liquidly without large discounts. This brought billions of dollars into the gold market.

With Artex, Benjelloun-Touimi hopes to open up the art market to a broader range of investors and thus also attract new money into the asset class. “Artex can become the same transformative force that ETFs have in the gold market or real estate investment trusts (REITs) in the real estate market,” he says.

What is the industry saying?

Artex has managed to gain well-known sponsors from the high finance and art scene in a short space of time. Among the supporters is Andrea Orcel, head of the Italian bank Unicredit. Diana Widmaier Picasso, art historian and granddaughter of the world-famous painter, sits on the board of directors.

The technology partner is the Swiss stock exchange operator SIX, which also guarantees secure trading. SIX CEO Jos Dijsselhof sees Artex as an opportunity “to democratize investment opportunities in timeless assets and thus reshape the art landscape.”

Who are the competitors?

Artex is entering a business field that has so far been dominated by the big auction houses such as Sotheby’s or Christie’s. Artex contrasts this exclusive and sometimes opaque market with a transparent trading place that is regulated according to the standards of the financial sector. Prince Wenzeslaus von Liechtenstein emphasizes: “Artex operates under one of the strictest regulatory frameworks to create a high level of trust.”

However, Benjelloun-Touimi emphasizes that the company was by no means set up to take over the auction house business. On the contrary: “You will do significantly more business.” The key is that Artex taps into new groups of investors and thus the entire market grows.

What’s next?

After the IPO of the Francis Bacon triptych, further paintings by top-class artists are to come to the stock exchange. Benjelloun-Touimi does not reveal which ones. Just this much: He has in mind creating an index in the future that, like the MSCI World for the world stock market, will broadly cover the market for high-priced works of art.

At the same time, Artex is committed to ensuring that the works of art traded on the stock exchange can be seen in museums worldwide. Because one thing bothers the Artex founder: when important works of art remain locked away as trophies by private individuals.

More: Price increase in minutes – speculation with recent art.

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