Historically, the world of fine art investing was only accessible to an exclusive class of billionaire collectors. We are talking about the top 1% of the top 1% here. But over the past few years, the Masterworks app has helped open this market up by offering everyday investors the chance to own fractional shares in multimillion-dollar paintings.
It’s safe to say their fractional ownership model is a total game-changer as it now allows everyday art lovers to participate in this lucrative asset class for the first time in history, with payouts exceeding $25 million in 2022 alone. To date, Masterworks has acquired several paintings by renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and has offered a few of these to its community as investment opportunities.
For example, one Kusama painting that Masterworks acquired for $1.21 million sold just 1,067 days later for $2.25 million, with returns of 18%. This gain over a short hold period is exceptional even by art investment standards. Another Kusama piece Masterworks offered investors netted a 13% return in just 801 days after being acquired for $3.11 million and sold for $4.5 million.
What does the Masterworks acquisitions team see in Kusama’s work that makes them so confident about its ongoing potential for high performance returns? Let’s take a closer look at why favoring Kusama may be a masterstroke by Masterworks.
The Creative Genius of Kusama
At 94 years old, Yayoi Kusama has built an astounding career spanning over 70 years. After leaving Japan in the 1960s for New York’s art scene, she pioneered her iconic infinity net paintings and polka dot motifs.
Kusama’s work across painting, sculpture, film, and immersive installations cements her influence across artistic media. Her art exudes this infectious sense of whimsy and imagination that’s made her a contemporary pop culture icon. Polka-dot covered pumpkins? Rooms enveloped in tentacle-like inflatables? What’s not to love?
Some of her most famous works are the Infinity Mirrored Room installations. She uses mirrors and LED lights to create the illusion of endless space. These rooms have drawn massive crowds at museums and galleries worldwide. Another cool series is her Obliteration Room works. The rooms start all white, but get covered in dots as visitors add stickers. Kusama’s ability to make viewers part of the art has propelled her into the cultural spotlight.
Kusama’s paintings are particularly scarce and coveted amongst collectors and investors. Her tactile, pop style masterfully combines colors, shapes, and textures to evoke surreal fantasy worlds. Kusama’s unique ability to convey psychedelic environments and dreamlike atmospheres creates an unmistakable aesthetic appeal.
Collectors are drawn to her conceptual vision and technical skill, which bring her mental visions to life on the canvas. This high demand pushes her paintings to continually break auction records, underscoring their blue-chip status.
Why Kusama Fits Masterworks So Well
Masterworks has an extremely rigorous vetting process for acquiring art. Their team of experts analyzes a variety of metrics including artist reputation, past sales data, intrinsic quality, art historical importance, and growth potential.
Kusama’s works clearly fit the Masterworks criteria for pieces poised for significant gains over time. The platform looks for works that represent strong value in relation to an artist’s broader market. Their goal is to identify underpriced or underappreciated pieces primed to catch up to an artist’s true market level.
Masterworks also vets condition, provenance, and exhibition history, preferring works with an impeccable record indicating care and proper stewardship. These factors provide downside protection while the upside comes from the artist’s trajectory and demand for their work.
As such, Masterworks uses proprietary data analytics built on top of its own research database to forecast future appreciation. In the platform’s October 2023 investment prospectus for Infinity Dots (HTI), a 2001 piece by Kusama, the data team reports that Kusama is the world’s fifth best artist to invest in today, ranked by Sharpe Ratio, which measures potential returns against risk.
Historically, Kusama paintings have commanded resale prices as high as $8.8 million, so the initial offering of Infinity Dots (HTI) for $3.9 million seems like it has strong likelihood to pay off. Moreover, according to ArtTactic, auction transactions involving works by Kusama totalled over $68 million last year.
Kusama’s Lasting Legacy
Even as she enters her 90s, Kusama keeps creating radical new work that will go down in art history, while her obscure early years have contributed to her artistic mystique. The timeless appeal of her dots and trippy worlds means demand for her art has a strong likelihood to stay strong for the foreseeable future.
Given the scarcity and huge cultural impact of Kusama’s output, her paintings seem poised to keep appreciating as her story continues unfolding. As such, Kusama’s trailblazing vision and enduring influence make her work a perfect match for Masterworks’ fractional investing platform. By opening up access to pieces by this creative icon, Masterworks offers rare financial opportunities for art lovers and investors alike.