Art market soars as street art sales rocket

 27 Sep 2017 - 19:12

Art market soars as street art sales rocket
People stand outside the Walled Off hotel, which was opened by street artist Banksy in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, March 3, 2017 (REUTERS / Ammar Awad)

AFP

Paris:  The art market is booming fuelled by rocketing prices for contemporary art with work by street artists like Banksy among the fast sellers, according to a new report Wednesday.

Four of the top 10 most sold artists at auction houses across the world over the last year were street artists -- Americans Keith Haring, Shepard Fairey, Kaws and British-born Banksy.

Last year only Haring -- who died in 1990 -- made the list.

"Vibrant, non-elitist and attractive to the mass media, street art is seducing an increasing number of collectors," Artprice said in its annual report.

"Whether on bits of fencing or traditional canvases, works are changing hands just as much on the social networks as in galleries and auction rooms," it said.

Haring's work notched up sales of near $34 million (29 million euros) over the last 12 months with works by Banksy and Kaws changing hands for around $6 million.

Fairey, best known for his "Obey" and Barack Obama "Hope" murals, watched his work sell for nearly $1 million.

'Art in tune with times'

Artprice said that the "strong demand concerns a whole new generation of artists" which suggests "a clear trend among collectors and positions street art as one of the most dynamic sub-segments of today's contemporary art market".

It said the Brazilian graffiti artists Osgemeos (brothers Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo) "are growing in stature" setting a new record of $310,000 in New York while New Jersey-born Kaws is increasingly generating six-digit results.

"The commercial successes reward an art in tune with its time, whose pioneers, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, were graffiti artists in the New York subway before being acquired by major art collections," the report added.

Indeed Basquiat set a new world record for contemporary art in May when Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa paid $110.5 million for one of his skull canvases, "Untitled".

The sale put Basquiat, who died of a drug overdose aged 27, into the tiny club of artists whose works have sold at auction for more than $100 million after Modigliani, Bacon, Giacometti, Munch and Warhol.

He is also the "biggest" contemporary artist on the art market, with his work fetching $313.5 million at auction last year, Artprice said.

Banksy on the skids

But not all street artists are on an upward curve. Prices for Banksy murals have halved since "Banksymania" in 2008 when some of his work was going for seven-figure sums.

He still remains the fourth most sold contemporary artist in the world, however, just ahead of fellow Brit Damien Hirst.

The report said Banksy was a "victim of his own success", but that he still "sells large quantities of prints (usually for a few hundred dollars), a tactic that ensures his popularity."

Overall, Artprice said contemporary art had become the "locomotive" for a surging art market, which is booming again after two years in the doldrums and a dramatic 10 percent drop in 2016.

Sales rose 14 percent in the first half of 2017 alone.

"Contemporary art regularly enjoys periods of intense collector enthusiasm followed by periods of hesitation," the report noted.

"Over recent months however, the segment has proved that it is now the primary driver of the entire art market."

Artists such as Picasso, Klimt and Egon Schiele "remain the heavyweights of the market", according to Artprice

However, its founder Thierry Ehrmann told AFP that "contemporary art is the most exciting sector of the market... because of its immense financial potential."

And Chinese artists were becoming more and more important. While the British artist Peter Doig and the American Christopher Wool make up the top three after Basquiat in terms of prices, 162 of the top 500 highest prices were paid for work by contemporary Chinese artists, compared to 139 Europeans and 97 Americans.