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A company in Liechtenstein says it has come up with a unique way to buy art

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Great works of art are often auctioned off to the mega-rich in lavish showrooms with champagne.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Sotheby's.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Although, a company in Liechtenstein says it has come up with a new way to buy art that sounds a little more like this.

(SHOUTING)

INSKEEP: Sound of a stock exchange, I guess. ARTEX plans to sell shares in a 1963 oil painting on three panels by the late artist Francis Bacon. And it has set up an initial public offering - or IPO - for $55 million.

FADEL: The company says it wants more people to be able to collect art. We asked art critic and author Blake Gopnik whether it's a good investment.

BLAKE GOPNIK: All the numbers you hear about how much works of art go up are really - have to be taken with a grain of salt. There are certainly some works that go up a whole lot. But lately, actually, art hasn't been going up as much as it used to. So it's actually, right now, not necessarily the best investment anyone could have.

INSKEEP: Nevertheless, you, too, have a chance to buy a share in this painting. So is that the same thing as collecting art?

GOPNIK: You don't get the work of art. It's actually kind of weird. It's more like buying - I don't know - shares in a baseball card in that it really has nothing to do with whether Francis Bacon is a good artist or not, or whether this particular work - this "Three Studies For A Portrait Of George Dyer" - is good art or not.

INSKEEP: But what if the whole undertaking, the IPO itself, is art?

GOPNIK: When I first heard about this whole IPO business, I actually thought it might have been an actual work of art.

FADEL: Gopnik notes that Andy Warhol coined the term business art to describe the naked commercialism, the buying and selling of masterpieces.

INSKEEP: And more than 50 years ago, Warhol said he wanted to sell shares of Andy Warhol Enterprises Inc. on the stock market. Now his dream has sort of come true.

(SOUNDBITE OF DECEPTIKON'S "INACCESSIBILITY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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