Unleashing the Power of Prints & Editions
Art Market Insights & Investment Strategies

A graphic showing the four specialists on a MyArtBroker panel discussion with the title of the panel in boldGrowth and Potential in Prints & Editions © MyArtBroker 2024
Joe Syer

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

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In a world where ‘Investing in Art’ became the defining trend of 2023, MyArtBroker's latest panel, steered by Managing Director Charlotte Stewart, took a deep dive into this phenomenon, specifically within the domain of prints and editions. Joined by our specialists Florence Whittaker, Rebecca Marsham, and Jasper Tordoff, representing Urban & Contemporary, American Pop, and Modern British segments respectively, the discussion aimed to unravel the intricacies of this unique market segment and the opportunities within it.

The field of prints and multiples, where MyArtBroker has cultivated deep expertise and developed cutting-edge technology, stands at the forefront of employing quantitative pricing techniques and harnessing art market data. Despite a widespread and understandable scepticism towards ‘art as an investment’, the panel acknowledged the unique challenges and opportunities in the art market, especially regarding data availability. Much of the art market's data is obscured within private transactions, creating a significant selection bias dilemma. However, prints and multiples present a distinctive advantage. Their inherent nature allows for a level of comparison and analysis otherwise challenging in the broader art market.

Our discussion delved into the nuances of prints and editions as an investment, leveraging MyArtBroker's specialised knowledge and technological prowess to shed light on strategies, trends, and insights crucial for navigating this fascinating sector.

The Ripple Effect of Original Artworks on the Print Market

While growth in the prints and editions market is driven by the usual propellers of the wider art market, a major influence on their value is the performance of correlating originals.

Florence, speaking from her Urban & Contemporary expertise, highlighted the significant influence of the originals market on prints. Notable instances in both the American Pop and Banksy markets demonstrate this connection. A prime example is the sale of Andy Warhol's Shot Sage Blue Marilyn in 2022, which directly correlated with heightened interest and value in Warhol's Marilyn prints. Similarly, Banksy's market witnessed a surge following the 2018 shredding and 2021 resale of Girl With Balloon as Love Is In The Bin. This event visibly mirrored itself in the pricing and demand for prints of the same work.

Rebecca further expanded on this, noting that major exhibitions and artist stunts also drive print market growth. She referenced Banksy's CUT & RUN exhibition in Glasgow as a catalyst that sparked increased demand and inquiries. These events create a hype around the artist's market, further influencing the dynamics of print and edition sales.

Jasper's response provided a fascinating look at how hype and artist strategies influence market trends, particularly in the case of Damien Hirst. He noted that Hirst's recent collaborations with Heni on limited print releases have introduced a new kind of excitement in the art market. Hirst, renowned for his self-promotion, has managed to stir significant interest in his older works through these limited releases. However, Jasper pointed out a potential downside: the possibility of market saturation due to the frequency of these drops.

The Pandemic's Profound Impact on the Prints & Editions Market

The pandemic period was a transformative time for the prints and editions market, marked by changes in collector demographics, spending patterns, and interests.

The Urban & Contemporary Market: A Surge in Demand

Florence pointed out that the lockdowns led to an introspective look at personal spaces, igniting interest in art for aesthetic and investment purposes. Specifically, in the case of Banksy, a confluence of factors like increased disposable income, high-profile stunts by Banksy, and strong auction performances led to a significant spike in the market. This surge, however, was followed by a market correction as life began returning to normalcy. Using MyArtBroker's extensive data, including private sales, Florence illustrated the dramatic but short-lived growth during the pandemic against a backdrop of steady long-term growth.

American Pop Market: An Expanding Collector Base

Rebecca observed a notable shift in spending power and demand within the American Pop market. The pandemic not only increased the number of collectors, including High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) and millennials, but also diversified the types of prints gaining popularity. Warhol's complete print sets, particularly his Endangered Species, Marilyn Monroe, and Ads series, saw heightened demand. Rebecca highlighted a growing interest in lesser-known sets like Cowboys And Indians, and Ladies And Gentlemen, indicating evolving market tastes as we move into 2024.

The Modern British Market: The Evolution of Hockney and Riley

Turning to the Modern British segment, Jasper shed light on the pandemic's effects on David Hockney and Bridget Riley's markets. Hockney, known for his continual experimentation, successfully introduced iPad-created artworks, with sets like The Yosemite Suite and The Arrival Of Spring experiencing significant demand. Although recent softening was noted, these remain among Hockney's most sought-after pieces. Riley's market, conversely, saw a surge in demand for her works from the 1960s, particularly the Fragment series and earlier black and white works.

The Triad of Value in Prints: Condition, Authenticity, and Provenance

In the art prints market, three factors are paramount to determining value: condition, authenticity, and provenance. They serve as a reminder of the intricate and storied nature of art collection, where each piece carries its own unique history and assurance of authenticity, profoundly impacting its value and appeal in the market.

Condition: The Art of Preservation

Florence emphasised the importance of condition, especially given that some prints might be as old as 60 years. She advised on the necessity of due diligence and encouraged asking any and all questions, no matter how trivial they may seem. MyArtBroker's practice of keeping artworks unframed for thorough inspection of both front and back, including edges and signs of foxing, is crucial. Florence highlighted that a detailed condition report is a valuable tool for understanding the print's state and its impact on value.

Provenance: The Artwork's Journey

The provenance of an artwork, its history and past ownership, is another critical factor. Provenance might be documented as a list or through gallery or auction house stickers on the artwork's reverse. This history not only confirms legitimacy but also adds to the artwork's narrative and appeal.

Authenticity: Ensuring Genuineness

Authenticity is fundamental to a print's value. Florence mentioned that artworks typically come with a certificate of authenticity from a gallery, auction house, or recognised expert. In her field, dealing primarily with Banksy, this often means a Pest Control Certificate of Authenticity.

Rebecca added that in the realm of American Pop, the age of prints can sometimes pose challenges in terms of condition. Older prints may not have been framed to modern standards, hence the importance of full disclosure about the artwork's state.

Edition Size and Its Influence on Print Value

Factors like the position in the edition run and the unique characteristics of trial proofs add layers of desirability and value to prints, transcending beyond mere numbers to encompass aspects of history, rarity, and artistic process.

The Allure of Early Edition Numbers

Rebecca observed a notable preference among collectors for prints that are early in the edition run, particularly the first 10 to 20. This preference is rooted in the belief that these early prints, produced with fresher ink, possess greater vibrancy and, therefore, a higher aesthetic value. This perceived increase in quality for early edition prints often translates into a heightened demand and a corresponding increase in their market value.

Special Editioned Proof Prints: A Case Study in the Warhol Market

Delving deeper into the nuances of edition sizes, Rebecca highlighted the particular allure of special editioned proof prints in the American Pop art market, specifically within the works of Andy Warhol. Trial Proofs (TPs), where printers experimented with different colours, are especially sought after. These prints are not only visually distinct but also carry an added layer of history and rarity. The process of trialling different colours adds a unique narrative to each piece, making them more than just another print in the edition. This scarcity and the story behind these prints often result in them carrying a higher premium in the market.

“I believe that we are temporary guardians of these artworks, which is why it is so important to go the extra mile to ensure that they’re framed perfectly and conserved for future generations.”
Rebecca Marsham

Preserving the Legacy: Caring for Your Prints Post-Purchase

Once a print is purchased, it is crucial for collectors to care for their print to the highest standard in order to preserve the artwork itself and its financial value.

Displaying vs. Storing Prints & Editions

Florence expressed the sentiment that collecting art loses its essence if the pieces are merely stored away, unseen. However, she acknowledged that for various reasons, including security concerns, collectors might opt not to keep original artwork in their homes. An interesting practice among some collectors is to display high-quality reproductions of their acquired prints while keeping the originals safely stored. This approach allows them to enjoy the visual pleasure of the artwork while safeguarding the original piece.

Expert Framing and Conservation Standards

For collectors who choose to display their prints, Florence emphasised the importance of conservation-standard framing. She recommended consulting expert framers experienced in handling valuable artworks. Key aspects of proper framing include the use of high-grade anti-UV glass to prevent fading and ensuring acid-free backing or mounting to avoid discoloration of the print. Moreover, she advised against placing artworks in direct sunlight to prevent damage over time.

The Primacy of Passion Over Profit

Ultimately, the most important factor in buying art is a genuine love and appreciation for the artwork itself. This passion should be the driving force behind any acquisition, taking precedence over potential financial gains. Art collecting, at its core, is about connecting with and valuing the artwork for its aesthetic and emotional appeal, rather than solely its investment potential.

As our specialists reveal, navigating the art market requires a balance of informed decision-making, awareness of additional costs, and, above all, a deep appreciation for the art itself. Whether through galleries, dealers, or auctions, each route offers unique opportunities and challenges, and understanding these nuances is key to a rewarding experience in collecting prints and editions.

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