Wall writings and drawings have been around for almost as long as humans have. From cave paintings to ancient Roman curse words scribbled across walls, street art has been accepted for millennia as a form of expression and communication, a way for ordinary people to make their lives, their problems and their interests known to the world.
Nowadays, we might associate street art with the likes of Banksy, KAWS and pieces that sell for millions at auction. While these names are firmly cemented as some of the most desirable blue-chip artists in the world, their popularity among collectors and dealers alike has also worked to spotlight street art as a valid asset class for investors and opened up exciting opportunities in this emerging market.
The Rise Of Contemporary Street Art
What began simply as New York kids tagging their signatures on abandoned buildings and the subway evolved through the 1970s and ’80s into a battle to get noticed through bigger and better tags and would form the basis of many of the seminal styles of street art we see today.
The Golden Age of street art in 1980s New York produced some of the most well-known street artists in the world, with artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Richard Hambleton playing a significant role in the movement. Their work is often credited with breaking down the barriers between street art and fine art, and their works now command prices that can easily run into the millions.
This gradual acceptance of street art into mainstream art circles has meant the increased potential for those looking to invest in up-and-coming names within the scene.
Reading The Market
With street art’s huge investment potential—the Knight Frank luxury investment index shows art values have grown 71% over the past 10 years—it is unsurprising that returns on investment consistently exceed expectations, and auction records are often broken.
When looking to invest in an artist, institutional recognition is, of course, a good indicator of success, but it is also important to research their career and get a sense of their track record. Researching works and shows they have previously completed and the price points their previous works have sold for can indicate how the market is performing around any given artist.
There are some key indicators to look out for when considering investing in a new artist or one you may be unfamiliar with. Do they display consistency with shows, have shows across multiple locations and/or have high-net-worth individuals or brands in attendance? Are the shows carefully curated to showcase their best works instead of simply throwing together everything they’ve ever created?
In addition to factors around an artist’s shows, it is important to consider price trends to get a feel for how the market is performing around any given artist. Slow and steady increases in the price their works sell for is a strong indicator when looking to invest, and it is vital to ensure stability and congruence across the pricing of their works.
Taking these factors into account when researching a potential purchase will help you make the most of your investment and avoid artists that might very well be “one-hit wonders,” lacking a consistent track record when it comes to shows and pricing.
Affordability Of Street Art
One of the most attractive aspects of investing in street art is its sheer affordability when compared with many other movements. While there are, of course, many record-breaking auction sales for established names in the movement, there are also plenty of investment opportunities for those operating on a more modest budget or perhaps looking to start a collection.
High-profile artists often offer prints below market value to make their work accessible to those with smaller budgets. This is also an entry point for those wanting to add the works of highly desirable blue-chip street artists to their investment portfolios.
Street art is still a relatively young movement and, as such, presents a constantly evolving scene where new artists and trends are always breaking through. This is a dream from an investment perspective, but while it presents many opportunities to diversify and expand your investment portfolio, it is important to conduct your research carefully.
Attending auctions, speaking to collectors and visiting galleries are excellent ways to gain additional insight into this rapidly changing scene, so you can feel comfortable with your investments.
The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.
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