Pension Fund for Artists Capitalized by Pooled Artwork

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April 16, 2014; CNN Money

Artists, like the rest of us, have to plan for retirement, and the Artist Pension Trust is an unusual nonprofit retirement mechanism for artists. Established in 2004, the APT involves some 2,000 artists from around the world who have put a portion of their work into one of nine investment funds. Participating artists have to contribute 20 pieces of art over 20 years; in return, they’ll receive annual distributions from the funds (basically pools of contributed art) based on how much of the art sells and for what price.

As explained on the APT website:

“The funds from the net proceeds of each artwork sold are distributed to the artists in the following manner: 72% are distributed to the artists in the trust, with 40% to the individual artist and 32% among the artists in that trust based on the number of artworks they have deposited. The remaining 28% are used to cover the operational costs of the trusts.”

Since the funds or pools are dependent on the contributed art, each of the trusts goes through a rigorous process to select the artists it will support. According to CNN, thousands of artists apply, but only a small proportion are selected for each trust—usually 250, though the Global One fund is apparently designed for 628 artists and is currently in the process of accepting applications.

Overall, APT has 10,000 pieces of art in its collection, with future commitments of as much as 40,000. Much of the existing APT collection is held in storage facilities around the world, but some is loaned to museums and nonprofit galleries annually. The benefit of those displays is that potential purchasers can see the work and may be interested at some point in buying for their personal collections.

Among the artists participating in its pools are Aman Mojadidi in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sama Alshaibi, an Iraqi from Basra living in Tucson, several amazing artists from Myanmar/Burma, including Phyoe Kyi, whose “Outsider” paintings are just phenomenal, and many more from Turkey, including Inci Enviner from Istanbul (see her piece, “Don’t worry, you will not get hurt!”).

Is this a workable scheme? The art world has just gone through a bit of a recession-enforced downturn, so APT is only now beginning to sell some of its collection. How this will go is beyond our expertise, but the reach of APT is interesting.

Our judgment? We’d like to make a bid on Kyi’s “Outsider 1” and “Outside 2,” please. They’re stunning.—Rick Cohen