November 2020

There has been more movement than ever in areas of the secondary prints market since COVID19 hit the market this year. With a recession looming and many traditional investment options at risk, the need for new security in an unstable market has shifted the landscape for both buyers and sellers. 

Art fairs, galleries and auction houses, which were forced to close in response to travel bans and lockdown restrictions, have gone digital with variable results. According to the Financial Times online sales counted for, on average, less than 10% of a gallery’s turnover in 2019. This year, they have counted for almost 30%, and while we still have a month or two to go, there are definite trends that are here to stay, all of them point to a thriving prints and editions market. 


Banksy’s Girl With Balloon AP (Purple) sold for £791,250 last month. © Christie’s

Prints v Paintings for Blue Chip Artists 

Overall it’s the artists who historically performed well in live auctions who are not benefitting as much from the shift to the online market place of 2020. Many masterpieces – the like of original Warhol and Hirst paintings are simply not reaching auctions this year. However, print sales – which makeup a small percentage of auction sales across any artist’s secondary market have flourished in the marketplace. It’s important to note that with blue chip artist market values, such as Warhol, Haring, Hirst, Hockney and Picasso, are routinely held up by masterpiece paintings and sculpture moving through auction year on year, and not the steady ‘behind the scenes’ growth of the private print market which has fully found its feet in 2020 and flourished via alternative and growing online platforms.

We have seen a 30% lift month-on-month in enquiries since March 2020, not only from auction weary buyers and seller’s but also from completely green investors, brand new to the art market. Such trends are encouraging and business affirming to us at MyArtBroker where we have always sought to supply buyers and sellers with a better solution than the expensive and cumbersome process of auction. To find out more about how to buy and sell art read our Guide Auction v Private Sale

Young Green Collectors

Sotheby’s revealed that for their Banksy online prints sale in March, 30% of bidders were under 40 years old and 47% were new to the auction house. There was particularly strong bidding from the Middle East and Japan. According to the Financial Times, art collectors aged 23–38 (“Millennials”) are among the most active buyers at the moment and are the most likely to spend $1 million purchasing artworks online compared to any other age group.

This growing group of young and international collectors may explain the current trend for artists like Banksy, KAWS, Takashi Murakami and Daniel Arsham, who have a strong online presence through Instagram and are often in the news or featured on popular trend websites like Hypebeast. These artists’ strong brand recognition means that fans –particularly of KAWS and Murakami – are stepping up from buying their affordable, limited-edition toys to higher-value prints and multiples, and may one day upgrade to unique paintings and sculptures. That these contemporary artists also mix high art with pop culture, and appear to reject the art establishment, is also very attractive to younger buyers.


Murakami’s Maiden In The Yellow Straw Hat

We have seen first hand in recent months new and younger buyers entering the marketplace, particularly for Banksy prints. Since March we have sold more prints than ever before to buyers completely new to the market, who might have been intending to invest elsewhere in 2019 but instead have come to our brokers for advice on a surer investment. 

Whilst property has long been billed as a passive investment for long-term stability, offering both capital and income growth with obvious ongoing potential in the form of rent, the financial return, with the cost of managing property, according to Nationwide data between 2011 and 2020, doesn’t come close to the year-on-year consistent return that an investor in the right contemporary print market has enjoyed in the last ten years. 

With the Coronavirus pandemic ongoing, and the resulting freeze in any housing market activity, economic disruption and the likely rising levels of unemployment, there is significant uncertainty in property values, as with most asset classes. You can read more about how traditional investment currently and historically stack up against Banksy’s print return, in particular, in our Banksy Investment Guide.

Banksy Leads the Contemporary Print Market

One of the artists with the strongest print markets right now is Banksy. The anonymous superstar of the artworld is enjoying a particularly strong market overall, with the total price of his artworks up by over 40% on last year. Numerous paintings have been speculated to set a new auction record – particularly the recent Show Me The Monet at Sotheby’s on 21 October – which took 2nd place – just below Devolved Parliamentin the list of the most expensive Banksy works ever sold at auction. Devolved Parliament, Banksy’s scathing satire of the House of Commons run by chimpanzees, quadrupled its £1.5–2 million estimate when it was offered at Sotheby’s Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 3 October last year. 

As far as Banksy prints go, since March 2020, Christie’s and Sotheby’s have already held three online auctions dedicated to Banksy’s prints, totalling over £5 million in sales between them. The first of which took place in the first week of UK lockdown and smashed presale estimates. Sotheby’s Banksy2020 online auction, which closed on 18 September, more than tripled its presale high estimate. All 23 prints offered sold for at least double their high estimate. The top lot, Girl With Balloon, achieved £438,500 and set a new auction record for a Banksy print. The buyer had purchased the print in 2004 for £275, said the auction house. Within days, however, Christie’s smashed that auction record in their Banksy online auction, when their top lot – Girl With Balloon – Colour AP (Purple) – which realised £791,250.


Banksy’s Morons

One reason Banksy’s is currently so desirable is that people connect with the image and message behind his art, speculates Yessica Marks, Sotheby’s Senior Prints Specialist, in an interview. This is particularly true for a work like Girl With Balloon, which has been interpreted as a symbol of hope. Additionally, “a lot of Banksy prints you find are in good condition because they’re fairly recent,” Marks adds. The condition of prints is also generally easier to see and understand through a laptop or a phone screen, compared to a painting or a sculpture, making them more suitable for online sales. She is right of course, but there is one further imperative – Pest Control. Banksy’s astronomical rise is intrinsically linked to his watertight authenticity against fakes, as all genuine Banksy prints come with a certificate from Pest Control. This verification provides a sense of security to new buyers across the world, who trust they can buy a Banksy without having to check the work in person. All Banksy works we sell come with a PC certificate which our brokers are expert at authenticating. 

Other Markets: KAWS, Warhol, Picasso and Hirst

Among other contemporary and modern artists, demand is still high. KAWS, who achieved eight of his top ten auction results in 2019, remains hugely desirable. Over 30% more KAWS has been offered at auction this year than 2019. As demand peaks, seller’s tend to swamp the market looking to cash in on their investments, the result is a drop in overall value for KAWS work through auction this year, however this is a result caused by a larger volume of lower value prints and toys flooding the marketplace via minor platforms and auction houses. Even with substantially more KAWS prints and editions coming onto the market, sell-through rates are high, with 80% of KAWS artworks offered at auction selling within or above their estimated price.

Untitled by KAWS 1

KAWS Untitled

The market for established artists is steady, a quick scan on Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips’ prints and editions live auctions in September and October this year show that pieces by Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Keith Haring and David Hockney are selling well within their estimates. None have come close to doubling their estimates as Banksy’s prices have, but whilst prints are more easily tradable online for these established markets collectors are trading as normal with very little fluctuation in frequency. 

The market for Warhol, the King of Pop Art, is levelling overall. One of the highest-selling artists at auction in 2019, has seen a drop of nearly 250% this year – most of this drop is in masterpiece works. According to Artnet, the average Warhol piece sold in May 2019 fetched US$583,31; in May 2020, it was US$24,941. This is largely down to top lots being withdrawn or never consigned to the Modern and Contemporary gold level auctions, seller’s confidence battered by COVID19. Around 60% of Warhol artworks offered at auction sold within their estimate or higher; 40% either underperformed or did not sell at all. However, the Warhol prints market tells a different story, where trading remains buoyant. We have buyers actively seeking several works within Warhol’s most popular print series right now. 


Warhol’s Marilyn (F. & S. II.25)

Damien Hirst is on track to exceed his 2019 auction total, with over 30% more works circulating on the secondary market than last year, Keith Haring has also seen a uplift in volume with collectors looking to cash in on their assets.

At MyArtBroker we list works that are actively being sought by buyers as well as works for sale, offering buyers and sellers complete transparency in the supply and demand in the markets we specialise in. We offer 0% seller’s fees as standard, free valuations in 12 hours and expert advice for any artwork by artists we list, we can do this because we have a small and specialist team that has focused on connecting buyers with sellers of these works since 2010. If you would like discuss the market for any of the artists we specialise in please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

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