If you are in the market to buy a Roy Lichtenstein print, here are a few pieces of advice before you start your search, to make sure you find the right piece at the right price.
Looking to sell a Lichtenstein print? Read our dedicated Roy Lichtenstein Sellers Guide.
Lichtenstein first began experimenting with printmaking during his studies at the Ohio State University in the 1940-50s, but he didn’t produce his first fine art print until On in 1962 and his first portfolio of prints, Ten Landscapes, until 1967. At first, his prints tackled different subjects to his paintings: the former was simple objects and scenes, while the latter was preoccupied with pop culture, female portraits and cartoon strips.
But as Lichtenstein’s paintings moved away from comic strip inspirations and became more inspired by fine art subjects like masterworks, still lifes and nudes, it merged with his prints. By the time Lichtenstein produced his final Nudes series between 1993 and 1997, his prints and paintings had arrived at the same subject.
“I feel I sort of reset myself when I’m going to do a print. It’s a different activity from the painting,” Lichtenstein once said.
Why invest in work by Roy Lichtenstein?
The importance and legacy of Roy Lichtenstein today is beyond doubt. His pervasive influence on the market and creative spheres of the art world makes him into one of the most significant and decisive figures, as well as collectibles. A few examples of his lasting presence are the Tate Modern’s large-scale Lichtenstein retrospective in 2013, and the Whitney Museum’s show of Lichtenstein entablatures in 2019.
Lichtenstein, alongside his peers like Andy Warhol of the American Pop Art movement remain one of the most stable and lucrative fragments of the art market. Among Lichtenstein’s impressive recent auction performances is the sale of Nurse (1964) for $95.4 million as one of the most expensive paintings of all time. This work was inspired by an image from a comic book dating from the 1960s.
Which Lichtenstein print to buy?
The market for Lichtenstein’s prints remains strong and engaged, but as with all markets, trends and certain periods may fluctuate.
Most popular are his iconic screen prints, woodblocks and lithographs. In particular his works featuring the Ben Day dot pattern and the comic-book strips remain the most sought-after, from the reproduction of his famous Whaam! diptych to Nude with Blue Hair from his late Nudes series. Also incredibly popular is his Haystack series, inspired by the paintings of Claude Monet and published by Gemini, one of Lichtenstein’s most famous publishers.
As general advice, you can explore important aspects such as provenance, seller’s past clients or personal collection, and look online to discover other collections that hold work from your edition. To discuss the market further with one of our dedicated Lichtenstein brokers, don’t hesitate to get in touch with MyArtBroker to be connected with one of our specialists.
How to make sure your Lichtenstein print is the real deal
As a buyer, a crucial aspect to consider is the purchased artwork’s provenance and authenticity. With historical artists like Lichtenstein and his contemporaries like Warhol who had such a prolific output, it’s important to obtain documentation with a history of provenance – this will include authentication, records of previous ownership and the artwork’s exhibition and auction history.
Paperwork pertaining to the provenance of any Lichtenstein print should also tell you of any changes in how the work has been framed and how the piece has been altered or retouched over time. Without such thorough documentation, the print risks losing its resale value. In all cases you should do your research or ask an expert to do it for you. MyArtBroker is one such intermediary that can help you authenticate a work you are looking to buy or sell.
In the case of a print by Roy Lichtenstein specifically, looking at the edition number is a good way to check authenticity. This number, usually in the bottom corner of the print, is the easiest thing to smudge for forgers. It is recommended that you cross-reference this edition number: if it is, for example, 14/200, but records show that particular edition is already in a museum, the print you want to buy is most likely a fake.
Lichtenstein worked with a number of printers during his career, including Italian dealer Arturo Schwarz for his lightswitch print On; Esman, who published Ten Landscapes; Gemini, who published the Cathedral and Haystacks series; and Graphicstudio, who produced the Brushstroke Faces series. If the print you want to buy can be traced back to the right printing workshop, it is more likely to be authentic.
In general, when you purchase a work from a commercial gallery, it’s their responsibility to provide you with such documentation, including a condition report and a certificate of authenticity signed by the gallery director. Auction houses provide information on provenance etc. in their sales literature. For expert advice, the Lichtenstein Foundation is a good resource with the largest collection of the artist’s works, however MyArtBroker’s team of experts is also prepared to help you navigate it all, so start a conversation with us.
Checking the Condition of a Lichtenstein print
Any print’s condition is another key aspect since it will determine value. It is the seller’s responsibility to prove that the work you are looking to buy has been kept in pristine condition, or to hire experts to restore a damaged piece if that is needed. Aside from documentation regarding the condition of the artwork, there are a couple of things you can check for.
Prints are highly sensitive to deterioration once exposed to humidity, sunlight or too much heat. If you notice anything like creasing, molding, wrinkling, foxing and folding marks, the print hasn’t been stored well and the previous owner should restore it.
Also check the aging of the paper; many works by Lichtenstein have darkened due to age since they are older works. Looking at the margins of the print is also useful for noticing whether the edges have been mounted before – you will be able to tell the edge is lighter where it hasn’t been exposed to light.
Always keep all relevant documentation on authenticity, provenance and receipts and invoices referring to your print’s purchase to justify its value – no gallery or individual will buy a work from you in the future unless it comes with these records.
How to value a Lichtenstein print
The market is changing all the time. In order to get a precise evaluation, it’s always advised to consult a professional when it comes to historical works, such as a museum or MyArtBroker’s experts. However, there are a few basic facts that can help you navigate market prices.
The edition number is always a good indication, since lower editions are always going to be more in demand. Lichtenstein’s most coveted works are his signed and numbered low edition runs of screen prints and woodblocks from his Pop Art period. However, some of his most famous works don’t have any edition number, in which case it’s best to seek professional guidance.
Another good indicator is subject matter – more iconic motifs and certain artistic periods within Lichtenstein’s oeuvre are going to be more sought-after than some lesser known works. Examples mentioned above are Lichtenstein’s Ben Day dotted works and comic strips.
Always keep an eye out for auction and primary market performances – these prices will determine the value of the secondary market. For instance, even in times of global health and economic crisis in 2020, Lichtenstein performed outstandingly at auction: his painting White Brushstroke I sold for $25,417,000 with Sotheby’s in June 2020, whereas his painting Nude With Joyous Painting fetched for as much as $46,242,500 in July 2020 with Christie’s. Masterpiece from 1962 was sold for $165 million in 2017 as one of 15 artworks with the highest value ever. Kiss III (1962) sold for $27,189,427 at Christie’s in 2019.
Both condition and provenance affect value drastically. If the print you want to buy has an extensive exhibition history for instance, demonstrating it had been exhibited in a museum show and owned by a prestigious art collector, the price would and should reflect that. In general with famous and canonical artists such as Lichtenstein, you should be prepared to pay the price for originality and quality.
Where to buy a Lichtenstein print?
If you’re interested in purchasing a Roy Lichtenstein print or starting your own collection, don’t hesitate to contact MyArtBroker to have access to our entrusted global network of clients, specialists, market experts and gallerists.
Buying through an auction house is a traditional method. But on the day of the sale, there might be a relatively high risk of the artwork either slipping out of your hands to another buyer, or the price creeping much higher than its original estimate. In the case of Lichtenstein this can be very common. Buyer’s fees are also very high, normally 25% of the hammer price.
There are also online marketplaces like eBay. However, there is a huge circulation of fakes – the credibility of these online markets isn’t very substantial among more prestigious collectors and buyers and so once again, you’re taking a high risk of purchasing an inauthentic work. Use a professional to advise you if you’re looking to go down this route.
Third option is going for private online platforms, like MyArtBroker. This is a safe choice both for the inexperienced and the knowledgeable collector. With our network of expert brokers, we will assign you a personal specialist to give you advice on pricing, authentication, condition checking and delivery, and connect you with all relevant fields of the Pop Art market.
For in-depth, expert analyses of the market performances of specific Roy Lichtenstein or other Pop Art prints, reach out to us, and we can provide information on how certain factors might have influenced the trajectory and what the optimal time for a purchase might be.