Steven Sulley – Founder of Woodbury House
It’s not uncommon to see striking headlines about pieces of street art that have sold for millions at auction. The evolution of the art form goes back thousands of years, but the recent explosion in popularity is closely linked to the countercultures of cities such as New York, Paris and London, with artists from this scene such as Keith Haring, Richard Hambleton and Basquiat, bridging the gap. bridges between urban street art and the visual arts that grace the walls of galleries and auction houses.
The interest these pioneers bought into the movement paved the way for contemporary artists to experiment with techniques, materials and styles, with one of the most important aspects of the street art movement undoubtedly being the use of stencils.
The growing demand and popularity of street art, especially stencil art, presents huge opportunities for those looking to invest. So why has stencil art seen such strong growth and what are some considerations when investing in this promising asset class?
The Rise of Stencil Art
The use of stencils is almost ubiquitous among street artists around the world. The rapid development of street art as a movement in the 1970s and 1980s meant that artists competed to place their tags and works in increasingly prominent places in the urban landscape. Stencils made it easy for artists to reproduce their work, increase their visibility and quickly create a design without drawing the attention of authorities.
The famous street artist Blek le Rat, nicknamed the father of stencil graffiti, was a true pioneer of the stencil, covering the streets of Paris with his iconic rat motif. Blek himself cites Richard Hambleton as a major source of inspiration, and Hambleton’s stencilled depictions of crime scenes on the streets of New York are considered equally iconic by many.
The Banksy Effect
While these artists captured the use of stencils in the aspiring street artist’s toolbox, it was Banksy who drew worldwide attention to stencil art. The “Banksy effect” has raised the profile of the entire stencil art movement and contributed greatly to its investment potential.
Banksy is, of course, one of the most prominent blue chip artists in the world, and while his works are beyond the price range of many looking to invest, his popularity has sparked the interest of investors and collectors and opened the doors for other emerging artists. When carefully timed, investments in emerging artists can yield promising returns.
A long-term investment
Street art as a movement grew out of social and political protest against the backdrop of counter-culture movements, and this should be taken into account when investing in a particular stencil artist. What is their story? What stories do they tell through their art?
This is especially important because art is a long-term investment, and with many stenciled social and political messages, they should remain relevant for years or even decades from the first purchase. The most accomplished artists bring discussion and debate to important, timeless topics through their work and contribute to resale value.
Education is the seasoning in many aspects of life, and the same is true of art. Understanding the history and context of stencil art will help you appreciate works you might otherwise have overlooked and help you consider an artist to invest in.
There are three main factors in determining whether you should invest in an artist, especially one who is still relatively new.
• Are they supported by a recognized gallery?
• Are they supported by a recognized museum?
• And finally, do they come with notes from an established art dealer, collector or family?
If an artist you’re considering ticks all three of these boxes, you’re probably making a solid investment. While there are no hard and fast guarantees when it comes to reselling art, aiming for artists who meet at least one or two of these criteria will give you much more confidence in your investment.
It is also important to establish the origin. While the techniques of stencilling mean that works created in this way can be incredibly intricate and difficult to imitate, it is always wise to be aware of forgeries, especially with simpler designs. Origin is key, and the more documentation you have around a work, the better.
Buying from reputable auction houses, galleries and dealers, and where possible directly from the artist, is highly recommended. Documentation, whether it’s images or videos from the artist who created the piece, letters or certificates of authenticity, all contribute to a work’s provenance and will make it much easier to sell your investment.
Stencil art, as an art form that has made its way from the street into galleries and auction houses, can use a huge variety of materials, some of which make maintenance quite a challenging and expensive undertaking – both of which can affect potential returns along the way. line .
Stencil artworks recovered directly from the urban landscapes in which they were created can not only create additional provenance issues (as with Banksy’s Pest Control team refuse to authenticate works that have been “illegally committed”), but may require costly repairs and restoration if improperly restored. It is therefore advisable to opt for stencil art made especially for galleries, especially works on canvas, to maximize the resale potential of your investment.
Stencil art offers a wide range of investment potential and the growing recognition and popularity of the medium has made it more accessible than ever. Given the movement’s rich history, it can be daunting for a novice investor to know where to start, but it doesn’t have to be. By immersing yourself in the world of stencil art through collectors, communities and galleries, you will not only help identify potential investments, but also ensure they maintain their long-term value.
The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult a licensed professional for advice on your specific situation.