The market for prints is thriving, and Maddox’s executive team have decades of collective experience in identifying the rare jewels that represent the very best investment opportunities. We talk to Creative Director Jay Rutland and Artistic Director Maeve Doyle to get the inside story on what to seek out, what to avoid and when to buy.
Many people believe that prints are cheap reproductions of genuine artworks like paintings or photographs, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Although some prints do represent affordable copies of other artworks, most are original works of art in themselves which have never been produced in any other form.
With a turnover of $95.5M in the past eight years and the average sold price at auction rising dramatically in 2022 – up by 31% compared to 2021, according to a recent report by ArtTactic – read on to discover our top tips for investing in prints, with insight from our resident art experts, Jay Rutland and Maeve Doyle.
Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, 1992, Edition of 120
Always take into consideration the number of prints in an edition because it can affect the value of a print. If a print is part of a smaller edition, it is likely to be more valuable.
Investing early can pay dividends, too. David Yarrow’s limited-edition fine art photography is sold on a tiered pricing basis, which means that the cost of an artwork increases the closer the edition gets to selling out. “This is a critical element when investing in David Yarrow,” says Jay Rutland, Creative Director of Maddox. “The earliest investors – those who acquired their artworks first – have achieved higher returns sooner.”
David Yarrow, Pretty Woman, 2023, Edition of 12
When considering whether to invest in a print, it is important to know if an artist normally signs their work. “It’s their way of saying that a piece is complete and a personal mark of authenticity that stops them endlessly returning to a piece,” says Maeve Doyle, Maddox’s Artistic Director. Signatures are by no means essential, however. “Always bear in mind that some artists, such as Christopher Wood, never signed anything,” continues Maeve, “so you won’t find any signature at all, nor would you want to.”
Sometimes, a signature can dramatically increase the value of a print, particularly when a famous sitter adds their signature too. Take one of Andy Warhol’s best-known series of prints of British rock star and Rolling Stone Mick Jagger, the only Warhol series where every print is signed by both sitter and artist. Always in high demand, 99.3% of the 278 prints that have been auctioned since 2010 have sold. Rarer still is the complete portfolio of 10 Mick Jagger prints, which has been publicly offered at auction only eight times in the past 20 years. In June 2020, the complete portfolio sold for $875,000, doubling its estimate and setting a new record for the series.
Banksy, Pulp Fiction, 2004, Edition of 600
If a print includes an artist’s distinctive iconography or images that are highly recognisable as by the artist, it is likely to be more valuable. The most famous example must be Girl with Balloon by Banksy, which is highly coveted by collectors and enthusiasts alike. Unveiled in 2004 as a limited-edition screen print of 150 signed and 600 unsigned works in red, other colour variants were also released as signed artist proofs, with 22 of each.
“Banksy’s Girl with Balloon made art history in 2018 when a print partially shredded itself in front of a live audience at Sotheby’s, shortly after the hammer had come down at close to £1.5 million,” says Jay Rutland. “Re-authenticated and renamed Love is in the Bin, three years later the new work sold for £16 million. It was a brilliant, totally Banksy stunt that has made his Girl with Balloon prints even more sought-after.”
Damien Hirst, To Begin, To Believe, To Belong, To Lose, To Love, To Lure, 2008, Set of 6, Edition of 75
As the name suggests, limited-edition prints are limited to a certain, predetermined number of prints, with smaller editions considered more valuable. Some collectors home in on a lesser-known treasure known as the Artist’s Proof (A/P) – the first print to come off the plate. They many look identical to other prints from the same edition, but artists’ proofs comprise just 10% of the print run, which means they are more exclusive and usually of greater value than regular prints. Even more rare is the Printer’s Proof (P/P), which is given to the printer as a gift.
“An Artist’s Proof, a Printer’s Proof or the print numbered 1 in a series are definitely seen as the most desirable to own,” says Maeve Doyle. “These first prints are the closest to the artist’s vision of their artwork – the most perfect, in their eyes.”
Andy Warhol, Sachiko (F. & S. II.154), 1977, Edition of 7
Just like any other artwork, the condition of a print affects its value and collectability. The fragility of works on paper makes them particularly prone to damage from sunlight, dust, humidity and other elements that can significantly impair paper and colour pigments.
“New prints coming out of the artist’s studio are in mint condition, while older prints are expected to have some damage,” says Jay Rutland. “Take yellowing of the paper as an example. This is a natural result of ageing and shouldn’t affect the value of a print. Steer clear of prints that show major signs of damage, though. Obvious creasing, soiling, tearing or fading will significantly lower their value.”