Masterworks.io Lets You Own (Pieces of) Your Favorite Artwork

By Elijah Labby Friday, January 15, 2021

The sale of high-level art has long been an activity primarily for the ultra-rich. The world’s most notable artists, from Warhol to Basquiat and from da Vinci to Monet, regularly sell for hundreds of millions of dollars — and, for the most part, the average person cannot participate.

Until now, that is.

Masterworks.io is a startup that allows everyday investors to buy and sell “shares” of their favorite blue-chip art for as little as $20 per piece. The company researches and purchases some of the world’s most valuable art, vetting artist histories and only choosing those that have positive financial returns in the past, opens it up to investments through cooperation with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and holds onto it for three to ten years (though you can sell your shares before then.)

How to Get Started and Secure Your Shares

Practically, what this means is that for a minimum account balance of $1,000, anyone with a Masterworks account can own a piece of timeless classics from the likes of Pablo Picasso and David Hockney.

The company’s track record, so far, is one of success. Masterworks’ website lists recent returns of more than 13,000% for just one of their many paintings and says that sales for blue-chip art outpace the S&P 500 by 180%.

Masterworks’ Increase in Measurement

Masterworks CEO Scott, in an interview with Yahoo! Finance, says the website has seen huge growth over recent months because of stock market volatility and investors searching for ways to hedge their bets in alternate markets.

“From a COVID perspective, I mean, we've just seen an absolute huge growth [in the] number of investors,” he said. “And I think we started at the beginning of COVID with something like 35,000 investors. Today we're at 82,000. So a lot of investors are just concerned about the volatility in the stock market and I think looking for other places to put their money.”

According to reporting from the financial website Institutional Investor, the tens of thousands of new Masterworks members may be on the right track. The website calls contemporary art a “top-performing asset,” and says it has gained in value by nearly 12% annually since 1985.

The Democratization of Investing

Masterworks’s apparent success comes amid something of a revolution in how everyday Americans invest. The democratization of investment has, at least in part, done away with the previous necessity for large amounts of capital and allowed everyone from retail workers to foodservice professionals to buy pieces of a variety of assets, including farmland.

This paradigm shift serves as a stinging rebuke to the Wall Street idea of “dumb money” — any investment not made by a major corporation or financial sector institution. In an article for Business Insider, Jennifer J. Schulp, the Director of Financial Regulation Studies at the Cato Institute's Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives, writes that this is something to celebrate.

“The headlines should celebrate growing retail investor participation in the markets, not deride ‘dumb money’ for investing,” she said. “A focus on education — not taking investment opportunities away — can help individuals to take full advantage of the opportunities the markets can offer.”

Hopefully, Masterworks will continue to inspire everyday people to invest and continue the trend toward accessibility in investing everywhere.

About the Author


Headshot for author Elijah Labby

Elijah Labby is a graduate of the National Journalism Center. He has previously written for Broadband Breakfast, a technology and internet policy website.

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