wed 27/05/2020

XXI presented by ARTCELS, HOFA Gallery review - art as investment | reviews, news & interviews

XXI presented by ARTCELS, HOFA Gallery review - art as investment

XXI presented by ARTCELS, HOFA Gallery review - art as investment

Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Banksy and more come together in a depressing investment portfolio

The 'XXI' virtual exhibition has been put together as an investment portfolio, and it shows(ARTCELS / HOFA Gallery)

When New York artist Adam Parker-Smith said “I feel like so many of my ideas start out as jokes, for better or worse”, he may not have anticipated featuring in an exhibition that looks like the mother of all art-world pranks.

When New York artist Adam Parker-Smith said “I feel like so many of my ideas start out as jokes, for better or worse”, he may not have anticipated featuring in an exhibition that looks like the mother of all art-world pranks. Parker-Smith, Damien Hirst, Banksy, KAWS, and Jeff Koons are among the 20 artists included in XXI, advertised as “the world’s first asset-based contemporary art exhibition”, launched online this week by ARTCELS, a new digital broker for blue chip art investments, and hosted by the Los Angeles branch of contemporary art dealers, House of Fine Art (HOFA).

By now you might have expected some mention of the work itself, or the narrative thread that ties together this unprepossessing selection of works arranged by artist, on lo-fi virtual walls, and includes three Banksy prints and some tiresome spot-painted skateboard decks of Damien Hirst’s. Well, they were all made in the 21st century (hence XXI), and by and large they are all vacuous. The selection is disappointingly familiar, and no wonder – many of the pieces here are multiples made by artists responding to demand, with Jeff Koons’s shiny red Balloon Rabbit, itself a reworking of a much larger original, one of an edition of 999 (pictured below right).

Red Rabbit by Jeff Koons (ARTCELS / HOFA Gallery)Paintings made in collaboration with skateboard manufacturer Supreme serve as uninspiring vehicles for George Condo and Robert Longo, artists long past their best, and while Los Ne El Barrio, 2019, by street artist Retna is an original work, it still looks ubiquitous. Above all, XXI is an investment portfolio of artists selected not for their originality, or brilliance, but for their potential to yield huge returns.

Founded by commodities trader Gijs de Viet and HOFA co-founder Elio d’Anna, ARTCELS launched in February, offering 1000 shares while exhibiting the XXI portfolio at HOFA’s London gallery. With shares priced at USD 500 (£390), ARTCELS pitches its investments at at younger investors attracted by the rocketing value of the contemporary art market, but lacking the confidence or knowhow to negotiate this notoriously treacherous territory alone.

Though the art market remains largely unregulated, and has more than once been unfavourably compared to the used car trade, ARTCELS shares sold quickly enough that a further 400 were released in April, with a waiting list now in operation. The high demand for ARTCELS shares just as the C19 storm hit reflects the state of the art market more broadly at the moment, with online art marketplace Artfinder this week reporting a doubling of online demand since the virus outbreak, and recording April as its most successful month in its seven year history.

Certainly, plentiful graphs and charts on the ARTCELS website attest to the historical resilience of art investment in turbulent times, with co-founder Gijs de Viet describing fine art as the single best performing asset class over the last 100 years.

One senses that ARTCELS investors are not primarily interested in art, but even so, the opportunity to bask in your fraction of a KAWS Companion has to come as part of the deal. And that, partly, is the reason for the current virtual exhibition at HOFA online which, while aimed at potential investors in the American market, is also, says Elio d’Anna, a chance for existing investors to “continue to enjoy their art investments during the pandemic.”

Given the trust issues endemic in the art world, the virtual exhibition performs a sort of habeas corpus, the low resolution rendering (the fault of C-19-related practical difficulties) making it unsuitable for anyone wanting to look for enjoyment. For investors, one suspects, the more important object is the digital token issued with each share, each one containing the  vital proof of ownership and authenticity that make the difference between junk and jewels.

Above all, XXI is an investment portfolio of artists selected for their potential to yield huge returns

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