Arthena Paints an Equity Crowdfunding Plan for Collections of Art

There is a bit more culture in equity crowdfunding with New York-based Arthena on the scene.

The online platform is a way for folks with deep enough pockets to invest in art collections.

Original works of Vincent van Gogh obviously will not be up for grabs—CEO and founder Madelaine D’Angelo says Arthena focuses on contemporary, emerging art. This type of art sees high-value growth, and with more people investing, she says, there should be more liquidity and better returns. Not all art is an investment, but who knows if a piece of art might catapult in fame like George Rodrigue’s Blue Dog paintings? “If you’re putting $10,000 or $1 million into something, it definitely should hold its value,” she says.

The minimum to invest through Arthena is $10,000, and the collections listed on the platform are typically valued between $250,000 and $1 million. Arthena uses data analytics to track the value of the collections, D’Angelo says. She says many members invest in the $30,000 to $40,000 range across several collections.

It is not too surprising to see technology blend with the arts. For example, the folks at New York-based Fractured Atlas developed arts business management platform Artful.ly. There are also places to buy pieces of art online, such as Artistically Connected or Saatchi Art, which is part of Demand Media, based in Santa Monica, CA.

When people think about crowdfunding, sites such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo tend to come to mind, D’Angelo says, but they are geared for making donations or contributions towards the presale of products. That is not the case with Arthena. “They’re not putting money towards building an art collection and getting a poster print in return,” she says.

Users of Arthena invest in collections of art alongside art experts, D’Angelo says, and they get some ownership in return. In addition to seeing the value of the art they invest in possibly increase, she says backers are given access to exclusive gallery and museum tours, as well as lectures on art. Arthena is also working on a program that would let people borrow the artwork they invest in for display.

D’Angelo likened Arthena to equity investing platforms such as FundersClub, AngelList, and Crowdfunder. After the JOBS Act went into effect, she saw the model used by AngelList as a way to bring more investors to fine art.

Arthena went live in May, and its staff operates out of WeWork SoHo, she says. The company graduated from the spring 2014 class of accelerator AngelPad, and last September closed on a $1 million seed round from backers who include Beamonte Investments, Foundation Capital, Aslanoba Capital, C15 Ventures, and 2020 Ventures. Arthena has ambitions to be more than a digital platform. “I think when we get to our A round, we’ll be opening a gallery space,” D’Angelo says.

There are plans for Arthena to expand into other collections of finery such as wine, jewelry, and cars. “Our overall goal is to be the platform for tangible asset investment,” D’Angelo says. Rare books and manuscript collections are also in the running to be added. The expansion into other assets is scheduled for the next year or so, she says.

D’Angelo has spent her fair share of time in the art world, previously working at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer and Sackler Galleries, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. She has also worked as an independent dealer and appraiser of art. Many people take an interest in art, D’Angelo says, yet do not know how to get involved as investors. She sees Arthena as the solution. “I wanted to find a way to tap into this large crowd who wanted to participate, but didn’t have the access or ability to,” she says.

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