Roy Lichtenstein produced over 350 print editions in his lifetime. This prolific output is testament to the artist’s talent and dedication, and the market for his work – still very much alive today – demonstrates his undying popularity. His works are iconic, becoming symbolic of the rise of Pop Art and the movement’s fascination the age of mechanical reproduction. As with selling a work by any artist there are specific things to take into consideration when taking your Lichtenstein to market.
Here’s the lowdown:
What’s it worth?
As a coveted artist with a narrative running throughout his career, selling a Lichtenstein print offers huge potential from a relatively short term investment. Earlier works from any artist’s career are often the ‘hand touched’ pot of gold a collector might be looking for and in Lichtenstein’s case it is his Pop Art that he is most coveted for. All works on paper can be drastically de-valued if blighted by creases, tears, folds, abrasions, and stains caused by careless handling or crowded storage. It is also good to know that measurements of a print should not change from one to the other in the same edition, and should generally be documented within the artist’s graphic work.
Condition and Attribution
As with any print the important place to start is by looking for a signature, without this it can be very hard to authenticate the work and therefore the work won’t hold its value. However, any surviving publishers of his work could potentially authenticate for you.
Secondly, look at the edition number, smaller runs will naturally demand higher prices as there are less in circulation. Yet it’s not always as simple as this as some of Lichtenstein’s most famous work was produced without edition numbers.
The edition number is also how a Lichtenstein work can be checked for authenticity, for example if you find particular work and its listed as edition number 16/200 – but an established institution list’s it within their collection, then what you have found is almost certainly a fake.
Pay particular attention to the edition number, it’s the easiest thing for forgers to smudge, if its not in good to excellent condition in this area, avoid it.
His most coveted works remain within the signed and numbered low edition runs of his screenprints and woodblocks from his Pop Art period
Look out for any aging of the paper; a lot of Lichtenstein’s work has darkened due to age. It’s often worth checking the margins of the print. You should be able to see if and where the edges have been mounted before, as there may appear a lighter edge where light exposure hasn’t altered the colour. It is always worth taking expert advice if you are concerned – the Lichtenstein Foundation has the largest collection of his works and is a great resource.
Don’t underestimate the role of a museum curator if you need more help. If there is a specialist in terms of provenance, artist knowledge and conservation technicalities, without any financials motivations, i.e. a completely objective starting point, contact a museum or public gallery specialising, in Lichtenstein. It is their job to relay information to the public and maintain the legacy of the artist; their online archives might also disclose haven relevant information to your piece. The Tate Modern for example has a substantial collection of Lichtenstein work including his notable 4m wide diptych, Wham (1963)
Specialist art schools that work in collaboration with national museums, somewhere like Camberwell College of Art, have dedicated teaching specialists, who may, with a work such as a Lichtenstein, volunteer their knowledge as an exchange for an educational tool for their students to be up close and personal with.
A recent retrospective of the pop art works at Tate Liverpool (2018) have reignited a UK interest or resurgence for the emerging collector or investor looking at Lichtenstein’s pop art work.
What are collectors looking for?
In terms of collecting the coveted Pop-Art series, collectors tend to invest in the larger editions of the screenprints (in the central numbers of the series i.e. 150/300) and it’s often a good idea to hang on for a pending retrospective to reignite collector engagement. For a quicker turnover, the later career lithographs and woodcut or screenprints at mid-to high edition numbers are also popular.
Much of what collectors are looking for depends on what their collections are lacking, many of the known Lichtenstein collectors, James and Lisa Cohen, Donald Marron, for example, are also collectors of Abstract Expressionism, from which Lichtenstein evolved and was heavily influenced. Whilst earlier works following his short spell during WW2 in the army might be worth hunting down for a broader portfolio, and to gage interest from those outside the Pop-Art limitations. Equally, progressive patrons such as Agnes Gud of New York, collect and support art in the philanthropic sense and hold an eclectic collection from artists at the forefront of new artistic movements.
The collection of 95 works belonging to Miles and Shirley Fiterman of Miniapolis heavily featured a number of prominent Pop artists such as Lichtenstein and Warhol was recently set to fetch $60million this year across a number of international sites, and situates the top market for Lichtenstein prints very much in this milieu.
As with all prints and multiples, the ‘artist’s proof’ is often the more collectible of an edition, simply because there is a lower number of these available, possibly 1-10 in a series of 100-300 ‘editions’. Signed and numbered, it’s psychosomatic that the aspirational collector will want the lower number of the edition to the latter number, 1/100 being preferable to 90/100, and this is often reflected in the slight difference in price at open sale or re-sale (as opposed to private gallery sales of full edition) – when as an original work of art as a whole, the artist intended each to be as equally individual and unique as the other; but the artist proof is simply that, and the small availability of these will situate the estimate higher within the series as a whole.
Trends can come and go, but with major collections and collectors, style is coveted at all points. Exhibitions, retrospectives, television series, films around the genre – these are all good opportunities to revisit the markets and explore where your prints sit in the resale value. Don’t sell if the market is saturated. Keep the investment until it is coveted.
Also, with print in general, lifetime impressions are generally the more valued as they are printed through the artist’s life, but don’t wholly discount posthumous prints if the series was never fully run in the artist’s lifetime. These can be excellent quality, and if a desirable and hard-to-reach, then they have good potential on the secondary market.
How to Sell
Our Fixed O% Seller’s Commission
Knowing where to sell your artwork is important; this will depend on your own level of confidence and expertise in the art market. Auction houses will appraise your work for free and help you set a reserve price. On the day, you might be lucky – or not at all. You may be up against similar lots that have the potential weaken the appeal of your piece. The auction house will also take a substantial sales fee.
Selling privately through a site like MyArtBroker is a safer bet for the inexperienced. You’ll gain access to a network of clients and the brokers involved will know their tastes and how much you can realistically sell the piece for. They will also discretely market the piece too, helping your chance of selling at the right price. Our fixed 0% seller’s fee, with no hidden costs, means it’s completely free to offer your work to market.