Fractional equity, blockchain, and the future of creative work

Amy Whitaker, Roman Kräussl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A core challenge in studying the real return on artist' work is the extreme difficulty accessing private records from when an artwork was first sold and thus relying on public auction data. In addition, artists do not typically receive proceeds after the initial sale. This paper, for the first time, uses archivally sourced primary market records to model returns on art and introduces a novel fractional equity structure for artists. We first model what would happen if the American artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg had retained 10% equity in their work when it was first sold. Second, we model a portfolio return using data from the Betty Parsons Gallery and the Green Gallery. To add a portfolio analysis to the performance of "star"artists, we model the galleries as a fund invested in all of artworks sold, using auction sales as the realization event. We find that the individual Johns and Rauschenberg works would have vastly outperformed equities markets. The gallery portfolio still substantially outperforms the S&P, even including 20% transaction costs. Beyond the art market, our larger conceptual framework for retained fractional equity has broad implications for compensation of early-stage creative work in any field and for potential applications of blockchain technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4591-4611
Number of pages21
JournalManagement Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Asset pricing
  • Innovation
  • Investment
  • Labor
  • Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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