Banksy has become one of the world’s most famous working artists. His instantly recognisable style both on the streets of London and across the globe has captured the hearts of passers-by ever since his first murals appeared in the early 1990s.
Banksy’s identity continues to elude us and this has made his work even more desirable to own. In fact, the artist’s prints are some of the most lucrative investments on the market.
Over the past five years, the market for Banksy prints has boomed and many investors have been keen to get their hands on one to diversify their portfolios.
But how does a Banksy stack up as an investment compared to more traditional assets like shares and gold, and alternatives such as fine wine and Bitcoin?
With the ongoing interest in Banksy artworks, we compared the average price of sold Banksy prints against the following eight assets:
Below: Table showing 1-yr and 10-yr returns
Our research reveals that, bar Bitcoin, Banksy prints posted the highest one-year return and also the best performance over the period of a decade. The average annual sold price of Banksy prints was £64,794 in June 2021, a 115% increase on the average price a year earlier.
Since 2011 – when collectors could pick up a Banksy print for just £9,024 on average – the price in June 2021 rocketed 618%. This suggests that early investors in the street-art market could now make large profits with their prints.
The pandemic caused a temporary blip in the Banksy market, when art galleries and auction houses were closed during the first lockdown. Prices fell in April and May 2020, but they have picked up since.
“Art has recovered strongly, and the market has made up all the ground it lost last year during the pandemic. Tastes have got wider – probably due to people being at home more and staring at their walls! – and there is more demand for street art. People want to feel a bit jollier,” says Andrew Shirley, editor of the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, which analyses assets like art, whisky and watches.
“It’s perhaps too early to compare Banksy to Monet, but he is definitely a blue-chip artist. His reputation is certainly established.”
The asset with the highest increase from June 2020 to June 2021, and over the past decade, will come as little surprise to investors. Bitcoin had a fantastic year, with a 283% rise. A decade ago, one Bitcoin was worth $13. As of June 2021, buying one unit will set you back $35,026.
The cryptocurrency’s meteoric rise has been fuelled by the interests of tech companies and investors. Many investors piled into the asset when stock markets sharply dropped in spring 2020. However, the value of Bitcoin is notoriously volatile – in April 2021 the price was as high as $63,000.
What about gold? The yellow metal also performed well last spring as investors fled the stock market downturn and sought a safe haven. However, by the summer of 2020, as lockdown measures eased, the price started to drop back. From June 2020 to June 2021, gold was actually down 3%. As of June 2021, over 10 years it was up 18%.
The FTSE 100 has posted the same 10-year return as gold (18%). As of June 2021, over a 12 month period, it had risen 14%.
However, the Dow Jones delivered much bigger returns. Investors in the US market enjoyed a 34% annual return, as of June 2021, and a 178% 10-year return.
It’s worth pointing out that stock markets do pay an income in the form of dividends. So, the figures only show the growth in the markets, but investors would have received dividends too. In contrast, assets like art and gold do not pay an income.
As of June 2021, the only assets that performed better than the Dow Jones over the past 10 years were Banksy prints, Bitcoin and whisky.
While the price of rare whisky, as measured by the Knight Frank Rare Whisky Index, dropped 4% over one year, and was up 483% in a period of 10 years in June 2021. This makes it the third best performer over a decade since 2011, behind Bitcoin and Banksy.
The surge in whisky prices has been largely due to demand from China, with wine investors keen to expand their collections.
Wine has had mixed fortunes, our research reveals, with the Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 index was 13% in 2021, but nursing a 7% loss over a decade since 2011.
Rupert Millar, Liv-ex’s managing editor, says the wine market suffered due to Covid, Brexit and also the political unrest in Hong Kong.
“Yet quite unexpectedly the market soon found its mojo and has been climbing steadily since May 2020,” he notes. “With restaurants and bars closed, holidays out of the question and generous stimulus packages pumping cash into the economy, people have found themselves with extra money to burn and have been treating themselves to luxuries such as fine wine.”
Watches saw an annual growth of 5% in 2021, and a decent 10-year return of 87%. Collective timepieces have been boosted by a demand for Rolexes, and also rare Cartier models.
So, how did Banksy compare to the wider art market? According to Knight Frank’s art index, which is compiled by Art Market Research, the art market fell 2% over the period of a year in 2021. This compares to a 115% rise in the value of Banksy prints.
Over a decade, the art market was up 71% – but again, Banksy had significantly outperformed, notching up a 618% return. It is clear that Banksy is one of the most profitable parts of the art market.
As mentioned, the pandemic has had an impact. The Art Market Research All Art Index, which tracks the auction value of works by the world’s top 10,000 artists, fell or remained flat for 11 consecutive months after peaking in April 2020.
But from April to July 2021, much of that ground was recovered. In May alone, $2.9 billion of art was auctioned around the world, according to Knight Frank.
As evidenced by the growth in Banksy print prices, street art remains popular. And Banksy has continued to set record prices. In March, Game Changer became the most expensive Banksy painting ever sold at auction when it achieved £16.8 million at Christie’s London, and in October Love Is In The Bin, stole the title of the most expensive Banksy ever sold, selling for £18.6 million, just days after the anniversary of it shredding live at auction four years earlier.
Investing in art can make your portfolio more diversified – plus you’ll have something nice to look at on your wall.
You can buy Banksy prints online, in art galleries or at auction. Make sure the print is in good condition: examine the front and back and look out for tears, stains and creases.
Art investment is a good way of mixing up a portfolio. Different asset classes perform differently in different markets (for example, when shares rise, gold tends to underperform, and vice versa). So, art will likely behave differently to your other investments. Tangible assets like art can also be a good hedge against inflation.
The normal investing advice holds true for art: do your research, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. This means don’t put all your money into one Banksy print and rely on that to make you a profit.
“Many people buy art for passion, and the investment aspect is secondary. Make sure you don’t over-allocate; you will need other investments that you can quickly sell if you need the cash.“
The good thing about art investment is you can enjoy it. Whereas with wine, you may store it in a bonded warehouse and never get to enjoy it,” notes Shirley.
In terms of storing a Banksy print, yes you can hang it up and take pleasure in it… but make sure you follow three simple rules. One, don’t hang it anywhere humid (no bathrooms or kitchens). Two, light can have a damaging effect (try and switch off lights and draw the curtains when you’re not in the room where the print is displayed). Three, if you want to frame it, speak to an expert first (certain frames can damage the print).
If our research has inspired you to explore investing in Banksy prints, or if you have your own Banksy print and want to find out how much your print is worth in today’s market, request a valuation today.