The demand for Banksy artworks has never been stronger, but whilst the Banksy market thrives, how does its success compare with the market for other artists? Here we pitch the Banksy market against that of four other Street Art and Pop artists.
In response to Covid restrictions, the art market is moving towards online-only sales, offering more affordable artworks like prints and editions to attract new buyers. Those looking to buy a Banksy are in luck. Over 16% more works by the artist have sold this year than in 2019, the value of his print market has gone up 83% in the last 12 months, but the actual median artwork price of work has dropped as lower value merchandise and memorabilia have swamped the market allowing for collectors at all levels to enjoy the Banksy boom.
But Banksy isn’t alone, affordable artworks for Banksy’s contemporaries KAWS and Takashi Murakami, as well as established Pop artists like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring continue to do well within the prints market in the midst of the 2020 pandemic. Here is a comparison of their popularity, price, and risk from art market data between 2017–20.
Banksy vs Warhol
Popularity: For American Pop Art collectors, owning a Warhol is like owning the Holy Grail. Over 2,000 artworks by Warhol were offered at auction in 2019 and almost as many have been offered this year already. But Banksy’s popularity is rising – over 30% more Banksy artworks have been offered in 2020 compared to 2019.
Price: Between 2017–19, the total value of Warhol artworks exceeded $200 million; this year, it is nearer to $63 million. This is because fewer masterpiece and original works are coming to auction this year due to auction houses’ marquee week sales being hindered by the Corona pandemic – historically, these works were only offered in live sales, with the promise of exhibitions and global tours to show their importance. Although Warhol is still in demand, prints and multiples are now making up most of his current sales – the median price for Warhol’s art has dropped from to $10.7K in 2019 to $2.8K in 2020.
The total value of Warhol artworks exceeded $200 million; this year, it is nearer to $63 million. This is down to fewer masterpieces and original works coming to auction this year due to major auction houses’ marquee Modern & Contemporary Week sales being hindered by the Corona pandemic.
Investment Potential: The Warhol auction market is currently a fickle one. 1,980 works have been offered in 2020 but only 1,305 sold – a sell-through rate of just 66%. MutualArt shows that over 30% of Warhols offered between 2017–20 either did not meet their estimate or did not sell, suggesting that estimates are priced too optimistically, setting lots off on the backfoot. It is worth remembering that auction houses charge a fee to sellers even for unsold lots. As a private broker, MyArtBroker charges 0% to offer works to the market. To find out more about the pros and cons of selling via auction vs private sale, read our guide to Auction vs Private Sale.
The risk for selling a Banksy artwork, in contrast, is dropping. In 2018, 42% of Banksy works either did not meet their estimate or did not sell, but by 2020 it has reduced to 26%. Over 50% of artworks offered in 2020 actually exceeded their pre-sale estimates.
Banksy vs Haring
Popularity: Haring’s artistic career is very similar to Banksy’s: both started out as graffiti artists and both use their art for activism. But over the last four years, sales of Banksy’s art have skyrocketed. The number of Banksy artworks offered at auction between 2017-20 has increased by 222%; in the same period, the number of Haring artworks increased by just 39%. Given that Haring died at the age of 31, his career spanned only a decade and the supply of his works is more limited, however, Harings’ Pop Shop supplied collectors with a wealth of prints and collectables which continue to see high demand for established collectors.
Prices: Like other blue-chip artists, fewer masterpieces and original works by Haring are coming to auction this year, which is reducing the total sales value of his art. Demand, however, is as high as ever, with prints and multiples making up most of the sales – the median price for Haring’s art has dropped from $7.1K in 2019 to $2.1K in 2020. Haring’s top lots at auction also usually fall within their estimates or just above – so while Haring sellers may not enjoy the same unexpectedly high returns as a Banksy artwork might right now, Haring buyers usually pay the price they were expecting to.
While fewer masterpieces by Haring are coming to auction this year, reducing the total sales value of his art this year – the median price for Haring’s art has dropped from $7.1K in 2019 to $2.1K in 2020. Demand is as high as ever, with prints and multiples making up most of the sales.
Investment Potential: According to MutualArt, 55% of Haring’s works did not meet their estimate or did not sell in 2017. This has hovered around 40% over the last two years but has risen to 45% in 2020 – suggesting that estimates may still be too optimistic. In contrast, just 26% of Banksy artworks at auction either did not sell or meet their estimate in 2020, much of this is at the bottom end within merchandise and memorabilia from smaller auction house which do not offer authentication alongside the work offered.
Banksy vs KAWS
Popularity: Brian Donnelly, better known as KAWS, was one of the rising stars at auction before the Covid-19 pandemic. His reworkings of famous cartoon characters totalled $107.4 million at auction in 2019, an incredible 223% increase from 2018 ($33.2 million). This year, with collectors hesitant to offer their KAWS masterpieces at auction, the artist’s sale total stands at $24 million. Demand is still high, however, and almost 1,200 KAWS artworks were sold at auction in 2020 – these are mostly made up of collectable toys and prints.
Price: 74% of KAWS artworks offered in the last decade have been priced under $10K, making him more obtainable for new art collectors and investors. But, like Banksy, the recent demand for KAWS means his art is enjoying a large return on investment. A KAWS painting that sold for $430,000 at Sotheby’s in March 2016 made $3.8 million at Christie’s in May 2019.
Investment Potential: Since 2017, the number of KAWS’s artworks that sold for under their estimate or passed is less than 20%. In the same period, over 50% of his art sold for over estimate; this year, 65% of KAWS lots exceeded their estimates. 26% of Banksy lots sold for under their presale estimate or passed at auction in 2020. Again authentication is the major factor here, with more works offered in the Banksy market without acceptable authentication. Both artists, however, enjoy a growing Asian and Middle Eastern collector base, which means there will be no shortage of demand for Banksy or KAWS in the near future.
Banksy vs Murakami
Popularity: Nicknamed the “Andy Warhol of Japan”, Murakami has collaborated with some of the biggest names in fashion and pop culture, from Louis Vuitton and Supreme to musicians Pharrell Williams and Billie Eilish. His market is historically more established in Asia but is growing in the West – the number of Murakami artworks offered at auction have increased by 217% between 2017-20. This is almost on par with Banksy, who has seen a 222% increase at auction in the same period.
Price: Almost 95% of Murakami’s artworks sold at auction in the last 10 years were $50K or less; of these, works under $10K made up 88% of the sales. His manga-inspired pieces span paintings, sculpture and collectable merchandise, many of the latter were originally very affordable: his limited-edition soft toy for UNIQLO was just $49.90 at retail price. But the market for Murakami is very stable and his median artwork price has hovered between $2,000-3,000 for almost a decade. So while many of Murakami’s pieces are more accessible than Banksy’s, the Japanese artist is unlikely to be as lucrative for a while.
Murakami’s market is historically more established in Asia but is growing in the West – the number of Murakami artworks offered at auction have increased by 217% between 2017-20. This is almost on par with Banksy, who has seen a 222% increase at auction in the same period.
Investment Potential: In 2020, 53% of Murakami’s artworks sold above their estimates – putting him on par with Banksy – but just 16% of his artworks either sold for less than their estimates or passed at auction, a significantly smaller percentage than Banksy’s (26%). Since 2017, between 20–30% of Murakami’s art failed to meet their estimates or sell at auction, but this year has seen increased demand for his work. If the market continues to shift towards online sales and lower-value artworks, Murakami’s art may well match the Banksy trend.