Anyone can easily own a Basquiat painting, a pair of Yeezy sneakers or even a Ferrari -- at least, that's the promise of a growing number of fractional ownership platforms that sell shares of these rare items, starting at just a few dollars.
One platform, Masterworks, in spring 2020 turned the $6 million painting "The Mosque" by Jean-Michel Basquiat into 284,420 shares at $20 each.
With fractional ownership, there's no chance of hanging the painting in a buyer's home, parking a Lamborghini in their garage or storing six bottles of Romanee-Conti wine in their cellar.
But by owning at least a piece of the property -- at least on paper, like the shares of a publicly listed company -- anyone can now directly benefit from an increase in the item's value, just like a wealthy collector.
Whether it's paintings or baseball cards, "it's not a new industry," says Ezra Levine, the CEO of Collectable, a platform that specializes in sports paraphernalia.
"It's not like cryptocurrencies where it was literally invented five or 10 years ago," he said. "It's just that the ways that people can participate in (the market) and experience it, enjoy it, have just dramatically changed in the last six months."
Slugger, the username of a collector who preferred to stay anonymous, made a 500 percent profit on a few shares of a box of Pokemon cards, initially priced at $125,000.
The platform Rally had offered the box via an IPO, similar to the listing of a company on the stock market and also subject to controls by the US market regulator, the SEC.
"These fractional platforms just open up the class to people who can't afford to buy a full (Michael) Jordan (trading) card," said John Schuck, 43, whose holdings amount to about $20,000 in cars, paintings or sports memorabilia.
The concept of shared ownership of physical assets started with real estate. Over the past 20 years, it has expanded to include private jets and yachts, but entry prices have remained high and largely inaccessible to the general public.
The new fractional platforms have drastically lowered prices, sometimes to less than $10 a share.
Such entry prices allow sneaker enthusiasts, for instance, who initially built the "sneakerhead" culture but were priced out, to own at least a part of cult pieces, explains Gerome Sapp.
His platform, Rares, will in June list a pair of the Nike Air Yeezy 1 inspired by musician Kanye West, which it acquired for a record-breaking $1.8 million in late April.
'Purely an investment'
But the emotional aspect of buying is not quite the same, as most shareholders will never actually see the object in person, unlike old-school collectors. Rally opened a museum in New York that displays some of the pieces listed online, and Masterworks has a gallery, but few people plan on visiting.
"The fact that I can't touch it kind of takes away the emotion of it," said Gregg Love, who belongs to this new generation of collectors.
"I don't feel a connection at all to any of these assets," said Slugger. "This is purely an investment and entertainment for me."
Considered a pioneer of this new fractional ownership trend, Rally has seen a major surge in interest during the coronavirus pandemic, surpassing 200,000 users, with about $25 million in assets listed on the platform.
Behind Rally, three competing platforms -- Otis, Collectable and the more art-focused Masterworks -- have more than 200,000 users combined. Many of those users, however, are active on several platforms at the same time.
During the pandemic, remote work, lockdowns and reduced leisure activities provided time and savings to many Americans, especially young professionals, who turned to the stock market or new investments.
"Many people had a lot of money in their account and were looking for a place to put it. We have been spoiled this past year with some of the returns we have seen," said Schuck.
But as wealthy countries slowly emerge from the pandemic, Schuck says he has started to notice a "slow-down" in the fractional ownership market.
Others also point to the effect of a potentially too-rapid increase in supply.
Even though many assets are still priced, sometimes significantly, above their listing value, there is some concern about sharp price swings, which are much more pronounced than in the stock market.
Fractional ownership is still an experimental market, where price risks are very real. Slugger cites "panic selling" by recent investors, even though "nothing has fundamentally changed for the majority of these assets."
For Collectable chief Levine, in the long term, these platforms still offer "a much more efficient way of pricing things" than before.
The platforms increase transparency and democratize access, so that "a lot of people can impact prices, not just... a very select few," he said.
Pablo Picasso's "Woman Sitting Near a Window (Marie-Therese)" sold Thursday for $103.4 million at Christie's in New York, the auction house said.
The painting, completed in 1932, was sold after 19 minutes of bidding for $90 million, which rose to $103.4 million when fees and commissions were added, Christie's said.
Christie's had estimated the painting -- bought by an online bidder in California -- would sell for $55 million.
The sale confirms the vitality of the art market despite the Covid-19 pandemic -- but also the special status of Picasso, who was born in 1881 and died in 1973.
The generally good performance of Thursday's auctions, totalling $481 million, "signals a real return to normal and also a message that the art market is really back on track," said Bonnie Brennan, president of Christie's America.
The painting, depicting Picasso's young mistress and muse, Marie-Therese Walter, was acquired only eight years ago at a London sale for 28.6 million pounds (about $44.8 million), less than half the price offered Thursday.
Five works by the Spanish painter have now crossed the symbolic threshold of $100 million.
Even before this sale, he was already alone at the top of this very exclusive club with four paintings, including "Women of Algiers", which holds the record for a Picasso, at $179.4 million in 2015.
"He was an artist, but he was also seven artists at the same time," said Giovanna Bertazzoni, vice-president of Christie's 20th and 21st centuries department.
She said Picasso's personal life, his aura and his love life still resonate today even though his work dates back more than 100 years.
"It's still incredibly contemporary and speaks to us," she said.
This is the first time in two years that a work has broken the $100 million mark since an 1890 Claude Monet "Meules" painting reached $110.7 million at Sotheby's, also in New York.
On Tuesday, the painting "In This Case" by the American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $93.1 million at Christie's in the first of the major spring sales, one of the two most important events in the auction world.
The year 1932, when Picasso painted "Woman Sitting Near a Window", is often considered the most productive period of his career and many major exhibits of his works have been devoted to that single year.
Women painters also fared well at the Christie's auction Wednesday with several works sold setting artist records.
"We saw incredible prices for female artists across the 20th century tonight," said Emily Kaplan, co-head of the 20th Century Evening Sale.
"Barbara Hepworth and Grace Hartigan achieved new records. Alice Neel, who is having a real market moment and an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, doubled her previous auction record."
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, is officially launching a bid to replace Liz Cheney as Republican House conference chair, hoping to beat out New York Rep. Elise Stefanik for the role.
This article first appeared in Salon.
He told CNN "I'm running" Thursday while passing by a reporter on his way to hear Stefanik speak — though speculation about Roy entering the race had been circulating throughout the Capitol after he penned a letter to his House colleagues earlier this week expressing doubts about Stefanik's candidacy.
The Trump ally and GOP firebrand had been running unopposed, and remains the heavy favorite to win — especially after Trump himself weighed in on the contest late Thursday.
"Can't imagine Republican House Members would go with Chip Roy -- he has not done a great job, and will probably be successfully primaried in his own district," Trump wrote in a statement. "I support Elise, by far, over Chip!"
Cheney was ousted from the role Wednesday over what Republican critics say was insufficient loyalty to the former president. Cheney refused to endorse "The Big Lie," which falsely states that Trump won November's election due to widespread fraud.
"We must go forward based on truth. We cannot both embrace the big lie and the Constitution," she said Wednesday after being voted out.
"I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office. We have seen the danger that he continues to provoke with his language. We have seen his lack of commitment and dedication to the Constitution. And I think it is very important that we make sure whomever we elect is somebody who will be faithful to the Constitution," Cheney added.
The election begins Friday at 8:30 a.m. ET
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