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


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


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


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


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.