Art fund to take its place on investment menu

The first mutual fund offering investment in art may soon appear in Russia, but investors looking to diversify their portfolios won’t need to be art collectors.

Before the financial crisis hit, the 30 art investment mutual funds in the world had estimated assets of $300 million. Now Russia is setting up its own art fund with a minimum investment of $16,000.

The fund will invest in objects including paintings, sculptures and icons, photographs, antique coins, and stamps.

Vladimir Milovidov, Head of Russia's Financial Markets Regulation Service, says the paperwork required to establish such a fund within the norms of the regulatory framework, could be completed in about a month.

“By our estimates, it will take about a month to go through all necessary legal procedures. Therefore I think that by the end of August or the beginning of September, in accordance with these documents, we could begin to create such funds.”

But Elena Kasyanova, General Director of the Bank of Moscow Investment Company, says it's still not clear what sort of demand there will be for this type of long-term investment, which is new to the market.

“Experts estimate that last year Russian businessmen had a turnover in Russia of about $1.5 billion. The overall turnover on the art market is $8.3 billion dollars. The turnover is substantial. Demand from Russians is tangible. I think that these funds will have a wide circle of clients among the middle class.”

Market watchers say investors are likely to be people who already have experience with other instruments and are hoping to diversify.