After a record-breaking year in the Pop Art market, with £36million worth of Pop and Post-Pop prints being sold at auction so far, Pop prints have become more covetable than ever. Charlotte Stewart, Managing Director at MyArtBroker, looks to this sturdy and exciting moment in the market.
Here, in conversation with our Pop Art authenticator, Richard Polsky, and specialist, Toni Clayton, we discuss why the Pop prints market is booming, why Pop Art is still relevant today, and the important factors to consider as a collector.
Read our 2023 American Pop Print Market Report here.
Listen to the complete podcast here:
Richard Polsky: Absolutely. I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a bold statement: Pop Art is the most important movement of the 20th century. As collector Leon Kraushar said, Pop Art is never going to die. It’s always going to be here, and it’s always going to matter. I’m paraphrasing a little, but that quote always stuck with me, and it’s proven to be true. There’s nothing like it. We could talk for hours about why I think people can relate to it. There is a visual joyousness to this work.
Toni Clayton: I think Richard hit the nail on the head. I would say in relation to today, it’s one of the most stable markets out there.
RP: Everyone looks at their times as being somewhat perilous. But Pop Art, once again, reminds you of the joys of the basics of life. It’s kind of like when Andy Warhol would go to the supermarket, and he’d see row after row of Campbell’s Soup Cans or Brillo Boxes. There was a certain pleasure, and I would say a comfort, in seeing the familiar. The whole idea is, we’re surrounded by beauty. That’s what Pop Art did: it reminded us that beauty is all around us.
RP: When an artist dies, especially artists of this stature, the market doesn’t know what to do. It panics. But eventually everyone gravitates to their late work. This is the greatest market curiosity I’ve come across, because it’s the early work that made these artists famous. Ultimately, everyone gravitates to these late pieces because that’s where the bargains are. People went after the paintings. Next thing you know, they go after the prints. Since a lot of them are unique, they became a collecting opportunity. A lot of people thought Warhol’s career fell apart in the 80s, they though he sold out and became commercial, but he was extremely productive late in his career and created some very good bodies of work.
TC: I completely agree. Some people thought Warhol was a bit of a cop-out in the late 80s, becoming this celebrity of himself. But that was his entire thing: 15 minutes of fame. In fact, he started to embody it. People who got interested, as you say, collected from the beginning to the end because they were invested in Warhol himself.
RP: Great artists, as they say, are a step ahead of their time. They just see things we don’t see. Great art allows you to see your world in a different way. It’s about feeling. The hit you get from living with a good picture, it carries you through the day.
TC: I also think it’s the age old saying: collect what you love. After all, you’re the one who has to live with it. As much as people say collect for investment, you’ve got to be a bit clever and think about it. But always first and foremost, collect what you love.
TC: Whether it is a financial investment, or something they just love, you have to listen to what a collector already has in their collection or who they are as a person. There’s a fine balance in the way you work together with them.
RP: When people start collecting, suddenly their lives are a little more interesting. You become an art collector and you join a very interesting fraternity or sorority. Suddenly there’s a little more depth to your life. Next it affects everything. You’re going to want to expand that knowledge you have and see what else is out there. It really does change your life.
TC: It definitely becomes a bit of a community, especially if people are new and need a bit more direction to get started.
RP: Exponentially, the cost between a great print and a great painting by a major artist has widened in the last few years. You can’t touch these paintings unless you have millions of dollars to throw at it. Prints have gone up in value, but proportionally it’s not that bad.
TC: I would say it all depends on the budget and the love for a specific artist or subject matter. If you can go for a mid-range set, because the growth is there and these are really interesting, fun pieces to have. Keith Haring’s Best Buddies has got everything you want: it’s got colour, it’s got his joyful ideas of bringing people together. If you want to collect something impactful, it’s a great place to start.
RP: I like that idea. I’m also fascinated by Lichtenstein’s Mirrors. I mean, how do you paint a mirror? Think about it? Yet the prints have always gone wanting. They’re fun, they’re decorative, they’re not large. There are always going to be opportunities but, as you said, you have to dig a little deeper to think beyond the obvious.
TC: I don’t think anyone saw the Endangered Species series going and reaching the interests that is has at the moment, and the Cowboys And Indians Series. Some of the works aren’t as strong as others, but people are loving them. People are going for the less typical options, and now they’re soaring
RP: I remember when the Endangered Species came out. I think they were $35,000 for the set, and I believe part of the money went to the natural history museums. They were done partially as fundraisers, so there was a lot of goodwill. Plus they reflect our times now.
RP: I’ve always coveted Warhol’s Gold Marilyn Monroe. It’s religious, it’s iconic, it’s gold. It’s like the entire history of Western art is there. In terms of a print, I’m a sucker for the Marilyn’s. If I had one print to live with, it would probably be the turquoise Marilyn print. It encapsulates everything Warhol is about: it’s decorative, there’s a great story being it, it’s a good investment.
TC: Even though I’m not a big royalist, I think Warhol’s Reigning Queens series was very progressive for its time. Especially given this historic moment after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, I would love a pink Queen Elizabeth. It’s pop, it’s portraiture, it’s ahead of its time.