With the recent advent of Banksy's CUT & RUN exhibition in Glasgow sparking interest in his market, Charlotte Stewart and Florence Whittaker sit down to discuss the maverick artist. Here, we delve into what happened to the market since its boom in 2020, what's happening now, and speculate what Banksy might do next.
Since his meteoric rise to fame, Banksy has been synonymously one of the best kept secrets and one of the best success stories in the contemporary art world. In this episode of MyArtBroker Talks, we take a deep dive into stories from the Banksy market: shrouded in mystery, yet gripping the public eye on a global scale. From the pandemic to the present day, Charlotte and Florence assess market trends, Banksy's ‘hero’ portfolios, how to buy and sell in the market, and why Banksy has held tightly onto his position as the nation's favourite artist - despite his ceaseless anonymity.
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It is no exaggeration to describe the nature of the Banksy market during the COVID 19 pandemic as a ‘boom’. As both Charlotte and Florence observe, people had more time to look at their walls during the national lockdowns and reassess exactly what they wanted to hang in their homes. With cancelled plans and certain individuals having more disposable income, many looked to the art market - specifically the Banksy market - as both an asset and a visually stimulating addition to their homes. Thus, demand skyrocketed and the Banksy market experienced phenomenal and fast-paced growth.
Where the rest of the art world struggled, Banksy's market emerged as a unique and exceptional success. While this is clearly due, in part, to the universal appeal of Banksy's socially-conscious subject-matter, Charlotte pins the success largely to Banksy's authentication body: Pest Control.
Unlike many other major blue chip artists, who require keen eyes on the artwork in person to authenticate, Banksy's Pest Control has always operated remotely. Without being in front of the artwork, Pest Control has consistently produced certificates of authenticity (COAs) for discerning collectors with photographs and clear information provided.
As Florence equally observes, this was also the reason why online platforms like MyArtBroker succeeded. Where the in-situ auction model wasn't ready for a crisis like the pandemic, online art sales picked up the pace as collectors increasingly sought to procure pieces without leaving their homes.
Since the peak of the Banksy market in the pandemic, we have witnessed a correction in the market. Indeed, the sheer boom of Banksy's market was atypical to the rest of the market in this period. Florence remarks that the ‘crazy heights‘ of the market were ‘ultimately unsustainable‘, arguably having too much of its own success.
As we revealed in our Five Year Print Market Report, however, this correction is not necessarily a cause for concern. When markets become overheated like Banksy's clearly did, corrections are to be expected and are indicative of the market potentially maturing for the long term.
Halfway through 2023 and since the market correction ensued, we have seen the Banksy market slightly segment. The unsigned prints - which experienced a colossal 232% YoY ASP increase in 2020 - have come down in value quite significantly. However as Florence notes, this is mainly because this segment of the market was the most overinflated.
The heroes of Banksy's portfolio, on the other hand, have not experienced quite as much volatility thanks to their special place in Banksy's output. Interesting Artist Proofs (APs), low edition numbered works, unique colour-ways, and hand-finished works have remained resistant to value fluctuations due to their rarity and covetability.
Since Banksy's market shows potential signs of maturing, many collectors continue to invest in the street artist's extensive collection of prints. For enthusiast coming into the Banksy market for the first time, both Charlotte and Florence impart advice on how to navigate the market as a prospective buyer.
As is the case when looking to purchase any artwork, Florence advices that your first point of call be: buy what you love. Collectors need to decide what works they gravitate towards, in terms of subject-matter and colour-way, in order to buy an artwork which fulfils their needs. The second thing to consider is market value. Of course, collectors will want to know that their work will retain or grow in value. By coupling both your love for a work you resonate with and choosing the incredibly popular Banksy works, you afford yourself to invest in something you can enjoy and see retain its value.
For comprehensive advice on how to buy a Banksy print, read our Expert Guide to Buying a Banksy.
Likewise when it comes to selling a Banksy print, due diligence and patience is essential. As with buying a print, condition is everything. Both Charlotte and Florence confirm that a Pest Control COA is crucial. Banksy's authentication body will produce a certificate with the title and dimensions of the work, the edition number, and declare whether it is a signed work or not. By registering your Banksy print with Pest Control, you are added to a ledger keeping track of each owner of the artwork. This is the easiest and most reliable way of authenticating a Banksy work. Although authentication can sometimes take between six months to two years, a Pest Control COA assures confidence and can ultimately bolster the value of a print considerably.
For comprehensive advice on how to sell a Banksy print, read our Expert Guide to Selling a Banksy.
Despite corrections to the Banksy market since late 2021, certain iconic ‘hero’ works from Banksy's portfolio have remained resistant to fluctuation. During this episode, Charlotte and Florence discuss some of their best-loved Banksy works which continue to perform well in the market in 2023. From these hero portfolios, Choose Your Weapon emerged as a particular favourite. The print, which pays an art historical homage to Keith Haring's Barking Dog, was first released in 15 colour-ways - with one hand-finished white print which, unsurprisingly, commands a higher price. As with any print, these rarer colours and hand-finished prints are special pieces which are highly sought after because they rarely come to auction.
Likewise, Banksy's Rats are also a firm favourite of Charlotte and Florence's. As the pair observe, Banksy is synonymous with the rat. An animal which we perceive to be vermin is Banksy's most championed subject, making his Rat works some of his most covetable. Collections like Welcome To Hell, Gangster Rat, and Love Rat are just some of Banksy's hero works depicting the playfully subversive rodent. These works hark of Banksy's heyday long before the press caught onto his artistry, making them highly desirable to collectors that want slightly less commercialised works.
Of course, collectors should always consider their own personal taste when it comes to acquiring an artwork. However, the universality of Banksy's works make them enjoyable and relatable for a broad audience. Imbued with Banksy's sardonic wit and wry approach to the art world, his hero works are emblematic of Street Art's ironic yet voguish presence in the market.
Banksy's market performance is deeply intertwined with his activity. Truly deserving of the title, Charlotte dubs him the ‘Master of PR’, always working on something to draw attention to the voices in society that need to be heard. From his poignant murals of solidarity in Ukraine, to his eye-opening critique of domestic violence in Valentine's Day Mascara, to his ode to the NHS in Game Changer, Banksy has always been on the right side of history. These drama-imbued stunts have a direct correlation to market uplift, with media buzz and headlines in the mainstream reminding audiences of Banksy's ceaseless engagement with current affairs.
Likewise, Banksy's subversive exhibitions have the same effect on market interest. Florence herself visited CUT & RUN, the artist's first exhibition in 14 years, and remarked that the show was ‘almost like Banksy had organised his own retrospective’. The GoMA exhibition lays Banksy's stencils, tools, and process bare - pointing a finger at the lacklustre nature of the unauthorised exhibitions Banksy has long scorned. While the exhibition has been extended in Glasgow, Charlotte suggests that she had anticipated something else when the exhibition was first announced since Banksy rarely does anything that doesn't directly benefit a charity or make a major statement. Indeed, there is perhaps more to come from CUT & RUN yet.
Essentially, the world of Banksy is a world of ‘maybes’. Maybe CUT & RUN will be the anonymous artist's final exhibition. Maybe it will be the catalyst of a travelling Banksy retrospective. Maybe Banksy will create a new mural tomorrow. Maybe he won't. Banksy has teased and provocatively kept the art world on its toes for decades, and the continued popularity of his prints is a testament to that.
The joy of Banksy is the air of uncertainty which surrounds him. Shrouded in mystery, he pops up when you least expect him to. As Charlotte and Florence observe, you never know what he's going to do next, but he surprises and delights all the time. One thing is certain: Banksy might keep his next move close to his chest, but the art world will always revel in the mystery - whatever it may be.