British artist Bridget Riley is best known for her Op Art works, where she uses colour, patterns and shapes to create optical illusions. She started creating these artworks in the 1960s and now, almost 60 years on, their popularity shows no signs of slowing down: in 2021, three Riley paintings sold for over £2 million at auction.
While her paintings can sell for millions at auction, Riley’s Op Art prints can be bought for a fraction of the price. Joe Syer, MyArtBroker’s Head of Urban & Contemporary, discusses where to find Bridget Riley prints for sale, his experience of the market and what to look for when you buy.
Riley’s prints are available in a variety of colours, design compositions, paper sizes, edition sizes and eras, spanning the 1960s to 2020s. They are all independent to her paintings – not reproductions in a small format – making each edition works of art in their own right.
“Among Bridget Riley’s most popular editions on the market right now is the Stripes series from the 1970s,” says Joe Syer, MyArtBroker’s Head of Urban & Contemporary. “We also get enquiries about her Rhomboid series from the 1980s, such as New Day and Fête, and also for her more recent prints like Rose Rose from 2012, created to commemorate the Olympic Games in London.”
“Generally, the older the edition, the more covetable they are because of their rarity. Her early monochrome prints, such as the Fragments series from 1965, are hard to come by on the market. But in my experience of Riley prints collectors, they do actually love the work, how graphic it is and how it can sit in any room. It’s not just about investment for them,” adds Joe.
So far since 2000 Bridget Riley print sales have totalled £4,906,192. 76% of all Riley sales on the market are prints.
The market for Riley’s prints has been on the rise over the last few years. According to a leading online art market database, the average price for a Riley print increased by 34% between 2020 and 2021 (it is worth noting that a couple of exceptionally large Riley prints bolstered the average price).
Riley’s prints are also attracting a growing international audience. In 2020, the UK was the largest market for her prints with 81% of sales, while the US had 10% and other countries accounted for 9%. In 2021, the UK’s market dominance decreased to 79%, while the US had grown to 7.5% and other countries to 13.5%.
The cost of a Riley print depends on many factors, including its physical size, when the series was made, its rarity and edition size, as well as its condition and provenance (such notable previous ownership or if it was exhibited in a notable exhibition). But the average price is going up: from £4,886 in 2018 to £6,881 in 2019, to £7,442 in 2020 and £10,482 in 2021 – 40% increase in price on last year.
For new print collectors just beginning to build their Riley portfolio, the artist’s smaller curvilinear pieces from the late 2000s such as Places For Change, Start and About Lilac are all affordable.
“Riley doesn’t issue certificates of authenticity as standard, like Banksy’s Pest Control does,” explains Joe. Instead, proofs of purchase from the seller are vital, such as a receipt from the gallery or a certificate from the printer. The more indisputable the paper trail of previous ownership (provenance), the more likely the print is authentic and legitimate. If the print is in the original frame, ask to see the back – it may still have stickers or labels from the gallery it was sold from.
“If the print is sold with its original packaging, like a box from the Tate, that can also strengthen its authenticity,” Joe adds.
Riley’s prints are printed on high-quality wove paper, which is less vulnerable to damage. It is still important, however, to carefully check the condition of a print before you buy, as any damage can reduce the value and return on investment of your print.
Signs of damage could include tears or scratches on the paper, brown spots caused by iron in the paper or mould spores (also called ‘foxing’), faded colour or yellowing paper due to light damage, or warping of the paper due to changes in humidity.
If you have questions about the conditions of a Riley print, contact MyArtBroker and we can put you in touch with a professional restorer for their recommendations.
The quickest way to buy a Riley print is on the secondary market, for example through private collectors, or via an auction house or a private broker like MyArtBroker. While Riley has released new editions in recent years, you need to be in the right place, at the right time, to acquire a new print before they sell out.
Online platforms, such as eBay, allows you to buy directly from a private collector at a low fee. But these marketplaces also run the risk of fake prints and scammers, so buying through them should depend on your level of confidence and knowledge of the market.
Auction houses have an established reputation for trust and expertise. Their specialists can advise you on the authenticity, condition and history of the Riley print you want to buy. But on the day of the auction, you may lose your print to someone willing to pay higher or end up going far above the estimated price range in the excitement of the bidding battle. Auction houses also charge a buyer’s fee – around 25% of the hammer price – and require you to pay for your own shipping. As a buyer, you are also restricted to the auction house’s set calendar, which prevents you from buying when you want.
MyArtBroker offers a safe and simple solution to buyers, with the ease of an online process and the expertise of an auction house. Your personal broker will work with you to find the Riley print you want at the price you’re willing to pay. We will then search our global network of collectors, handle authenticity, check the print’s condition and arrange shipping after the sale is complete. Get in touch with us if you are interested and we will talk you through the process.