The Art Print Market Recap 2023

A screenprint by Jean-Michel Basquiat showing anatomical studies in white ink against a black background, with a spine depicted in yellow-gold with a crown at the top centre of the composition.Back Of The Neck © Jean-Michel Basquiat 1983
Joe Syer

Joe Syer, Co-Founder & Specialist[email protected]

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In 2023, the art market underwent a significant evolution, with a particular focus on the realm of print sales. A significant surge in print sales this year showcases the market's resilience in the wake of economic uncertainties, emphasising its increasing appeal and asset sector status.

Download The Art Investment Report: Growth & Potential in Prints to discover more.

During H1 2023, esteemed international auction houses effectively showcased and sold a remarkable collection of over 6,000 prints and multiples. This momentum continued throughout the year, as the print market witnessed an additional 3,500+ print sales in H2 2023, further shaping the overall market landscape.

2023, as a whole, stands out as a significant achievement, hosting a total of 56 print sales conducted both through live auctions and online platforms. What’s particularly intriguing is that, despite initial concerns surrounding the art market’s stability in 2023, the segment of print sales not only thrived but also exhibited a remarkable surge, recording a 107% increase in auction activity compared to the preceding half-decade.

This surge not only emphasises the escalating prominence of the print market but also highlights its ability to withstand economic uncertainties. Even in the face of prevailing macroeconomic challenges that have affected the broader art market, these market fluctuations have presented unique and exciting opportunities, particularly within the print market. Here, a diverse array of high-quality, investment-worthy prints has become accessible, through the advent of auction and online sales, often at a fraction of the cost associated with more traditional art forms.

Accessibility & Investment

The print market exhibits distinctive qualities, marked by its dual attraction: accessibility and investment potential. In the year 2023, a significant trend emerged as the print market experienced a dominant presence of male blue chip artists, spanning both the American Pop and Contemporary sectors. Notably, there was a robust demand for complete sets with matching edition numbers, leading to fierce competition and remarkable sales.

Renowned artists like Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Damien Hirst, and Keith Haring fetched prices ranging from £500,000 to £1 million, disrupting the conventional dominance of paintings.

While prints have historically held lower values compared to paintings, the average price of high-demand prints in 2023, especially complete sets, exceeded modest expectations. This phenomenon underscores the print market’s increasing investment appeal and its emergence as a high-value sector within the art market.

Graph showing the total print sales in 2023, with volume of sales by artist, against the total hammer price (£) of sales in 2023Total Print Sales 2023 © MyArtBroker 2023

Moreover, two global art market reports released in 2023 provided valuable insights. The UBS x Art Basel Global survey confirmed that the primary motivation behind art acquisitions remains personal enjoyment, closely followed by financial interests.

Similarly, the 2023 Art Finance report by Deloitte x ArtTactic highlighted that investing in art has become more accessible, with 79% of collectors relying on rapid advancements in art technologies for accurate and informed decision-making. These developments are pertinent for two reasons.

Firstly, they underscore the role of technology in the print market, with MyArtBroker’s innovative tools such as MyPortfolio, the Trading Floor, and the groundbreaking MAB100 print index, the first of its kind, catering to finance-driven incentives in art collecting. An essay dedicated to MyArtBroker’s technological advancements in 2023 is included at the end of this report.

Secondly, these reports underscore the significance of transparency for new and young investors in the art market. While MyArtBroker’s technological tools contribute to transparency, the print market itself stands out as the only art market sector that inherently provides transparent comparables, aiding in determining true market value due to the nature of editioned prints.

Dispelling Myths

Understanding the true value of investing in prints requires a clear grasp of what they represent. Contrary to the common misconception that prints are mere duplicates, it’s essential to recognise their substantial artistic and historical significance. This market report has been meticulously curated, featuring not only the most sought-after artists, but those who have made groundbreaking contributions to the realm of printing innovations.

For instance, Warhol demonstrated his artistic prowess through innovative screenprinting techniques. In 2023, some of his most coveted prints on the market were his Trial Proofs (TPs), each showcasing the intricate printing process through unique colour variations. Likewise, Lichtenstein’s entire aesthetic drew inspiration from one of the most historic printing methods — the Ben-Day dots used in newspaper printing.

Haring transitioned his street murals to paper, while Basquiat’s estate introduced a modern innovation by producing posthumous prints—replicas of his most valuable paintings—often fetching significant sums ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Hockney, renowned for perpetual innovation, ventured into digital print production, while Hirst revolutionised the print and editions market by basing edition numbers on demand.

And we mustn’t disregard Banksy, the unorthodox street art icon, who has left a considerable mark in the print market. His politically charged prints underwent an unparalleled and rapid rise to prominence.

The roster of artists featured in this report not only comprises prominent blue chip names but also includes individuals who have left a profound imprint on the prints and multiples market, each serving as innovators in their own right. The misconceived notion that prints are mere inexpensive reproductions, devoid of artistic merit and unique value, has been resoundingly dispelled by their thriving presence in the challenging art market landscape of 2023.

The Growing Embrace of Print Markets

The print market has emerged as an exhilarating force within the 2023 art market landscape, and there’s no expectation that this dynamic market sector will fade into obscurity anytime soon. This resilience is underscored by the recognition of its value by leading mega-galleries, including Hauser & Wirth Editions, Utopia Editions by David Zwirner, and Pace Prints by Pace Gallery, all of which demonstrate the sector’s increasing prominence.

Furthermore, dedicated sections at prestigious art fairs like Frieze mirror the market’s expansion and its pivotal role in broadening the collector base, offering works by renowned artists at more accessible price points.

The print and editions sector has blossomed into a vibrant and substantial component of the 2023 art market. With its unique combination of affordability, investment potential, and artistic integrity, the print market is not only reshaping the landscape of art collection but also exerting a significant influence on the future trajectory of the art market as a whole. As we eagerly await the final figures for 2023, it is clear that the print market’s performance is poised to become a landmark development in the realm of art and collecting.

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