The New Urban Art Era


In our new Inspiring Investments series, Danny Herbert of Tate Ward Auctions discusses the rise of Urban Art with Aston Lark Client Director Julie Webb

Urban Art has become a real force in the art market and despite lockdowns the number of sales, and prices, are growing fast.

Danny Herbert of Tate Ward Auctions in Shoreditch, London, says it has been ‘a perfect storm’ with online bidding at auctions working well during lockdown combined with the influence of social media and affordability.

Danny said: “About 15 years ago, amazing graffiti was perhaps photographed and seen in one Magazine, whereas now a picture can be taken on a mobile phone and shared on sites such as Instagram, reaching millions of people in a very short time.

“The headline name in Urban Art is almost always Banksy – he has led the way because his work has an emotional connection and it’s accessible, although the price of his work has rocketed over the past three to four years. Tate Ward expects a continuation of the upward trend in 2021, although we may see some consolidation in the first part of the year.”

The Urban Art market has a similar ecosystem to streetwear and trainers. Releases (known as drops) are usually heavily oversubscribed with pieces rising in value above the release price with secondary sellers (flippers) quickly reselling, often for large profits.

Tate Ward’s first Urban Art auction in March 2019 saw sales of £750,000 from just over 500 lots while in 2020 their lockdown auction brought in £1.2m from 150 lots.

Danny said: “Overall, in 2020, we sold Urban Art valued at £7.5m and we now aim to hold all auctions with a smaller number of lots but with a focus on quality. We also advise sellers to put their lot at a starting price that will attract a greater number of buyers. A starting price of £5k can be off-putting while starting at £2-3k makes it more assessable and brings excitement and energy to the bidding.”

So how much of an investment is a Banksy?

Danny says: “A decade ago Banksy’s work was edging up 10 per cent a year but in the last three or four years demand for his work has seen some life-changing sales.

“For instance, a woman who bought her 14-year-old daughter The Girl With Balloon print for £49 in 2004 rang me and I bought it from her at £55k.

Another example is a buyer who paid £9k for two prints in 2010, Girl with the Balloon and Laugh Now, who was recently offered £480k. Another set of prints was bought for £250k and went for £1.2m at the end of last year.

“Banksy is a smart businessman, and nobody does marketing like him. Around 2010, to confirm works were genuine, he created the Pest Control certificate of authentication. With the rising prices this became necessary as fakes started to surface and collectors needed a way to confirm the work was genuine. He uses a number of codes and systems within the design of the certificates, one being two parts of a Di Faced Tenner being attached to the certificate and file copy they hold.

“He reinvents himself all of the time whether it’s prints, film, statue, animatronics or music – and therefore remains fresh, topical and relevant.”

Should buyers invest in Urban Art? 

Danny says: “Buyers must be driven by a love for the work. Only a few other Urban artists have truly broken into top tier auctions such as Kaws, Invader and Shepard Fairey.

“Other interesting artists include Pejac, from Spain, who has an environmental theme to his cool work. Tracy Emin, her posters can be bought for £800-900, and Richie Culver from Hull, who found popularity with his work No One Knows Me Like Dawn From The Job Centre. Antony Micallef, who was taught by landscape painter John Virtue, is also an edgy talent.”

Aston Lark Client Director, Julie Webb advises:

Be certain to insure your artwork and get regular valuations because this genre of art is gaining force. Further, as with any artwork, the provenance is important, so retain the Certificate of Authentication and invoices for effective record-keeping. This is an essential part of building a collection as well as buying from reputable sources. Doing due diligence is also a must.

Tate Ward offers clients free valuations and the next online auctions are on February 14 and March 24, 2021. Visit tateward.com
See banksy-value.com for metrics on the Banksy market.

To speak to Aston Lark about your artwork insurance please contact:
020 8181 3169

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