Urban Art

 The Financial Times has added another art market segment to its The Market series.  This post is on the Urban Art market, and has a brief explanation, need to know, and top tips for the sector.  The usual caveats apply.

The FT reports

Good quality pieces are still obtainable for as little as £1,000

What: “Urban Art” is a loose title that can refer to any form or artwork that has been inspired by the aesthetics of the street, from aerosol graffiti to stencilling and wheatpasting. Although there are several major names associated with the genre – notably Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Eine and Adam Neate – there are also numerous lesser known proponents around the world whose work is gradually becoming collectable.

Need to know: Examples of good quality urban art are still obtainable for as little as £1,000, but the big hitters such as Banksy and Fairey have been embraced by the establishment and their works are now sold at top auction houses and displayed in major museums. As a result, prices have soared in the few short years that the genre has been in the spotlight and, in 2008, Banksy’s “Simple Intelligence Testing” achieved £636,500 at a Sotheby’s sale of contemporary art. Earlier this year, Bonhams sold Fairey’s “Peace Goddess” for a twice-estimate £27,500 and drew a top bid of £32,000 for French street artist JR’s “Street Kid” – again, double expectations.

Top tips: As in all areas of collecting, the experts will advise you to buy the best – but when it comes to Urban Art, what is the best? This is a young and growing area, so followers have every opportunity to build their knowledge as the market develops. Of the major international auction houses, Bonhams has led the way in specialising in the field and its Urban Art catalogues dating back to 2007 provide a useful source of information. There are also many books on the subject, such as Streetworld – Urban Culture From Five Continents; Street Logos by Tristan Manco and Wall and Piece by Banksy.

Pitfalls: The mistake a new collector is most likely to make is to buy a fake but this is easy to avoid due to reliable authentication systems, such as Banksy’s “Pest Control”. In addition, the majority of artists are still alive to verify works. Reputable dealers, auction houses or the artists’ studios are the best places to buy.

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