MyArtBroker Talks: Collecting Andy Warhol

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Rebecca Marsham

Rebecca Marsham, Sales Director[email protected]

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Entering the Pop Art market, as a buyer or seller, can be daunting. After 12 sets of Warhol prints were sold at Christie's New York last week, complete Pop portfolios have never been more desirable. Charlotte Stewart, Managing Director at MyArtBroker, explores how to navigate the Warhol market, and the benefits of working with a private dealer.

With Toni Clayton, American Pop and Modern Specialist, we look to current trends in the Warhol market and what drives them. Whether you're looking to buy or sell, we explore how to get involved in this flourishing market with a trusted private dealer by your side.

Listen to the complete podcast here:

Q: Charlotte Stewart: Let's start with authenticity. We’ve seen fakes getting better and better. How should somebody go about preparing for a sale in terms of authenticity?

TC: The first thing to consider is how the artwork came into your possession. It’s good to have as much paperwork for the artwork as possible to determine its provenance. When looking at the work itself, it’s good to know the edition size and number. Warhol, for example, usually made sets of 10. Once we know the work is part of that set, we see if: it’s signed, there’s a stamp on the back, there’s blind embossing. There are lots of little things to consider, and a specialist is the best place to go for this.

Q: CS: What do sellers need to consider when it comes to condition?

TC: With anything you collect, you want it in the best condition possible, and price will always reflect that. However, it’s important to remember that each work is unique, especially when it comes to Pop Art. For example, a lot of the paper Warhol used was cheap. He wanted everything to work like a machine, and to be as quick and materialistic as possible. It was all about efficiency, so condition can vary. Sometimes this buckled the paper, sometimes fading can happen, and sometimes mount burn can occur when framed incorrectly.

These are old works, so it’s virtually impossible to find a work without at least a little bit of dust on them. At MyArtBroker, we can point you in the direction of a specialist conservator to get works back in pristine condition.

Q: CS: In the light of authenticity & condition, Toni, how do we approach valuations for our sellers?

Toni Clayton: When a seller approaches us, we have a discussion to check the provenance of a work. Before we enter any monetary or market value, or the historical value of the piece, we need to know what we’re looking at and if it’s authentic.

When it comes to valuing, we look at recent market results and our private network. Together, we determine the demand within the market itself, and among collectors we work with. With private sellers like us, you can expect more control and conversation before committing to a sale, rather than putting all your eggs in one basket at auction and hoping for the best.

Q: CS: From a buyer’s perspective, where should you enter the market as a new collector coming into the Pop Art scene?

TC: Going through a private dealer is beneficial when starting out as a collector. With private dealers like us, we talk through your budgets and guide you through the process of starting a collection. We can help find works to kickstart a new collection and help craft the story you want to tell with it. Within Pop Art, Keith Haring is a great place to start. Everyone thinks Warhol is inaccessible, but there’s lots of opportunity in the Pop market if you enter at a lower end.

Q: CS: In recent years, series like Warhol’s Ladies And Gentlemen have surpassed expectation in the market. Back in 2017, the series fetched around $47,500, then in 2019 it reached $90,000, and last week it achieved $170,000. With this particular series in mind, do you think there’s a trend in the market to shift away from the most famous and obvious series?

TC: I think issues and discussions happening in the world definitely shape trends in the market. I think the Ladies And Gentlemen series was before its time. So was Warhol, for that matter. We are seeing parallels between the series gaining relevance and attention in the market, and the social and political issues in our time. You only have to look at Warhol’s Endangered Species series to see that.

Q: CS: What does buying the best in the Warhol market really mean? As an established collector, what works are attractive right now? And what is shaping these trends in the market?

TC: The world around us influences things a lot. We just saw Warhol’s pink Queen Elizabeth II, from his Reigning Queens series, achieve $500,000 just one week after she passed away.

In the wider scope of Warhol, if you have an established collection then it is time to start to look at portfolios. If you’re in a position to, nothing compares to a full set. If you look at Warhol’s Ads, for instance, some of the individual works aren’t as strong as others, but it’s an artwork that was intended to be viewed together. You have to get them together as a whole set.

Q: CS: As a buyer, what questions should you ask from an authenticity point of view?

TC: Just as with selling, there are lots of things to look out for. The best thing to do is ask for as many detailed images as possible, especially if you can’t see the work in person. Also, always ask for a condition report so you know exactly what you’re buying.

Q: CS: How much does condition affect value? How much risk is there in purchasing something that has been restored?

TC: I don’t think there’s much risk at all. You will always be able to resell a restored work. You’ll always be able to gain a little bit more, or at least achieve back what you collected, because the Warhol market is one of the most stable.

Q: CS: Out of any Warhol series, what would you buy right now? What are your predictions for 2023?

TC: I think Martha Graham is a great little set, alongside Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly. I love Warhol’s girls, and it just happens that they’re doing well. The Mick Jagger series is also blowing everybody out the water.

As for next year, I think Ladies And Gentlemen will be up there. I also think Ten Portraits Of Jews In The Twentieth Century, Flowers sets and Space Fruits will continue to gain focus. There is so much potential in this market, you just have to be patient.