From Russia with love: the first art exhibition bond

A SMALL UK company is planning to launch the world's first "exhibition bond" in a bid to bring thousands of little-known Russian art treasures to the masses.

Cardington, a tiny marketing company listed on the junior Ofex market, is poised to start a City roadshow to drum up support for its plans to issue a bond backed by the proceeds of the exhibition. The debt instrument, which could be worth up to $2m (pounds 1.25m), will be used to fund a series of Russian shows planned for the next few years.

The first exhibition, Treasures of the Tsars. Russian Imperial Yachts, is due to open in Philadelphia in July next year and is set to reach the UK in autumn 2001. The show will bring together collections - from the Central Naval Museum and the State Museum Reserve in St Petersburg - which have never been seen outside Russia.

Cardington has found around $500,000 of the $750,000 needed to fund the event from private sponsors, but it wants use the high-profile show to attract interest for its "exhibition bond".

The UK company plans to market the bond outside the financial community in an effort to entice wealthy art lovers which are keen to invest in exhibitions. "[The bond] should go down well with art enthusiasts as it gives them the chance to invest in something they know and like," the managing director, Judi Scott-Nunn said.

If the bond is successful, it would be used to fund future projects, including an exhibition of lost English botanical drawings that once belonged to Catherine the Great, and a collection of bronze-age gold artifacts from Siberia.

The issue of the bond would be a major step for Cardington. Founded five years ago by Simon Petherick, a former publishing executive, and Ian Shirley, an advertising specialist, the company's focus has been on the organisation of marketing initiatives on behalf of public bodies. It recently won the contract to manage all the events taking place in London's Royal Parks.