In 2011, Franco Colombo, President of the Confederazione Italiana della Piccola e Media Industria Privata (Confapi), had the idea of delegating the management of paintings and sculptures hidden in secret deposits of Italian museums to private investors. They became known as Art bonds. The Italian government could issue these Art Bonds with paintings or sculptures as guarantees, given their abundance in Italy.
They would be restricted to artwork that is currently in the basements of museums or artwork that the public cannot see, the so-called invisible cultural heritage. The Italian Uffizi museum exhibits some 1835 art pieces in its 55 rooms, while there are 2300 pieces of art in the museum’s storage. Only 44% of all art pieces are on display. In Brera, for example, for every painting exhibited there is another in storage. Having paintings and sculptures in storage is not very good for Italian culture.
Art Bonds could be a valid way for Italy to find a new funding. This is a new concept, as the only way to profit from Art other than selling and displaying it is through Art Funds). These new bonds would be based on a placement similar to Italian BTPs that are medium or long-term government bonds. Italy could issue Art Bonds (to put on the market pool of artworks) characterised by different maturity in order to have liquidity from private investors.
Private investors have the responsibility to manage and preserve these art pieces until the bond’s maturity. This way, private investors could prepare exhibitions with tickets and earn from these artworks. Given that they have artworks as a guarantee, Italian Art Bonds could potentially have a better rating than the typical Italian government bond and, therefore, be bought by institutional investors that have the possibility to restore these paintings and sculptures. However, critics say it is not a good idea to put rare art in the hands of private investors as it could be difficult for the government to supervise their management and preservation of the art.