market
microsoft

(edition of 5)

proposal
Market is an experimental project designed to test the potential for interface between financial markets and art markets.

Here’s how the project will work. I begin by purchasing 10 single shares of stock in the DeBeers Corporation, 10 shares of Philip Morris, 10 shares of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and requesting an individual stock certificate for each share. I sign, date and frame each certificate. Next I offer the 30 certificates as ‘new work’ at a price 5 times their market value (that is, the market value of one share of stock at the close of the trading floor the afternoon before the opening).

At first it might seem like an insane proposition… the collector is basically paying a 400% mark-up for a signature, a frame, and the little red dot that confirms his/her (money’s) role in the glamorous and decadent world of commercial art. A stupid investment by standard objective reasoning, but then standard objective reasoning is not what makes great stockbrokers or great art dealers. So perhaps there is something to it? Buying stock is an investment. Buying art is and investment. Buying the two together could have great advantages, right?

It is a hedge. A lot of art is not worth the paper it’s scribbled on, but if this piece fails as art it could still succeed as stock. It is still "worth" something. Conversely, if the company wavers, the object of art may still hold its original value. It may even mature slightly. A Picasso print and a Microsoft stock certificate are both, after all, merely decorated pieces of paper—devoid of any objective worth, yet arbitrarily assigned enormous value.

Consider the extreme scenarios: If the stock climbs steadily, it might surpass the original value of the art object, ensuring a return on the investment even if the project is deemed worthless as a creative undertaking. Even an art expert can never be sure that an investment in a young artist will bear fruit, but this piece comes with a built-in insurance policy.

If a company collapses catastrophically (Enron seems to be an irresistible example in this case)… the certificate may still mature nicely as an art object. Negative press, scandal and loss of public favor are, after all, assets in most art markets. By buying one of these pieces you are also bolstering the reputation of the young artist and, in turn, influencing the value of his entire oeurve (artist is to artwork as corporation is to share).

So why DaBeers, Philip Morris, and Pfizer? They are all corporations with luxury products and bad reputations… they pretty much guarantee a return. If high-profile villainised companies fail enough to devalue the stock, the inevitable fanfare and sensation will only drive up the value of the art. Besides, there is a certain theoretical resonance to the idea of a luxury product, a financial acquisition, and an art investment being squished into a single super-status symbol.

Another interesting question is what will happen if I continue to sell stock at 5 times its market value. What if this becomes a sensation in the art world (crazier things have certainly happened) and I continue to sell hundreds of shares of a stock at exorbitantly inflated prices? I am not an economics expert, but surely this could eventually have consequences within the corporation.

These are just some thoughts about directions this project may take as I continue to work on it. Special thanks to Ted Maloney, Peter Vassilev and Will Bunting for their insightful contributions to this idea.