“I’ve always had a love of printmaking because of the magic and alchemy of it all. You never really know how it’s going to be until you turn the paper over” – For contemporary artist Tracey Emin, printmaking was her first love. She made her first lithograph in 1986 while studying a Fine Art and Printmaking degree at Maidstone Art College. Her printmaking practice now spans etchings, embroidered screenprints, woodcuts, lithographs and monoprints (unique etchings). She also releases limited-edition photographic prints of her heartfelt and confessional neon artworks.
With such a varied practice, there can be many factors involved when selling Tracy Emin prints. Here are some of the most important.
The value of Emin’s prints varies depending on the type of print, the image and the edition number. Woodcuts are one of the rarest and most desirable types of prints in Emin’s practice – for example, her woodcut It Just Happens, which exists in only three editions, sold for £37,250 in June 2011 – over double its high estimate.
Among Emin’s lithographs, Birds is one of the most sought-after. Emin has said this artwork was inspired by the strength and determination of the athletes in the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Although the edition number is relatively high (300 signed editions plus 30 artist’s proofs), its heartfelt message and connection to a historic event make it popular with collectors. The most expensive Bird lithograph achieved £8,125 in September 2015, more than four times its low estimate of £2,000.
An original neon artwork by Emin can achieve six-figures – her photographic prints are much less expensive but also extremely popular, often flying above their estimates at auction. Emin has released seven different neon prints between 2014-16, all in signed editions of 500. A pair of neon prints sold in September 2017 for £4,000, while a complete set of seven neon prints sold for £6,000 in July 2019.
Provenance is key if you decide to sell your print, as no one wants to risk buying a fake. Emin’s studio issues certificates of authenticity for her neon artworks, but rarely for her prints, so having paperwork to show how you purchased your piece is essential for proving it is genuine.
Emin signs all her editions, so a signature can be another sign of authenticity. For her lithographs and etchings, Emin signs in pencil her signature and edition number on the bottom right corner of the paper, and the title on the bottom left corner. Her digital prints of neon artworks are signed ‘Tracey Emin X’ or ‘Tracey Emin [year]’ in silver ink in the bottom right corner. Her photographic editions are not signed.
The condition of your print will have a direct influence on its value. For your Emin print, check for the common issues that affect works on paper – such as handling marks or tears, particularly around the edges. Works on paper are also at risk of contorting due to changes in humidity and temperature. The paper and ink can also discolour if not protected from sun damage.
Some of Emin’s prints are glued to their backings with double-sided tape. Consult a professional if you need this removed, as any the paper fibres taken off in the process is considered damage and can reduce the artwork’s value.
If your Emin print is in less than perfect condition, it is worth getting an expert opinion to assess if it needs restoration, so you can get the best price. MyArtBroker works with a trusted Emin conservation specialist who performs restoration and we can point you in the right direction if you need the help.
Private sale, auction house or online are the main options for selling your print, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.
Online marketplaces such as eBay look attractive because they have a large, established audience and a small commission rate. But these platforms have a greater risk of fraudulent buyers and time-wasters, and less chance of reaching a dedicated Emin collector. Without expert advice, you may also undervalue your print.
Auction houses are more credible and trustworthy but expensive and you’ll return often less than you imagine. They will appraise your work for free and help you set a reserve price. On the day of the auction, however, there is no guarantee that your print will sell. An unsuccessful sale could result in the piece being ‘burned’, losing its credibility and short-term value. If your print sells, you will need to pay up to 15% of the hammer price in seller’s fees – plus often additional marketing and transport costs.
MyArtBroker can give you the specialist knowledge of an auction house as well as access to a large network of collectors. Whether you’re a new or experienced seller, we can help you with questions about authenticity and condition, how to set a realistic price, and we can supply potential buyers without the confines of dates and cost of auction. We offer any work from the artists we specialise in to our network for free, 0% seller’s fees, no hidden costs.
If you’d like any more advice on how to sell your Emin print, just let us know. You can request a valuation of your artwork any time and we will respond within 12 hours.