The illusive king of street art, Banksy is best known for his iconic stencils, often communicating poignant political statements.
Banksy originals crop up on walls across UK towns and cities, particularly London, Brighton, Liverpool and of course the artist’s hometown of Bristol. Last year the artist put Weston-super-Mare on the map after it became home to Dismaland, an installation by the artist in the form of the world’s first ‘bemusement’ park.
Banksy’s work continues to sell at auction for well above its estimated value – and because he hasn’t released a commercial print since 2009, resale value of his work continues to rise. This has given way to many copycats and wannabe-Banksy investors should be absolutely sure of what they are buying.
Here's some handy tips to get you started:
Is it a genuine Banksy?
It’s vital to ensure the piece you are buying is genuine and authenticated. Banksy now has a team of agents tasked with authenticating his pieces. Before committing to a purchase it’s important to check the piece you are buying has been authenticated by Pest Control. No other authentication should be held as valid, no matter how legitimate it might seem. You can also look out for tell-tale reproduction signs, such as how it is printed, the particular paper used at the time and the signature, as this has varied over time. If buying from a gallery nearly all the legwork will have been done for you. The work will have already been vetted for quality and authenticity so you won’t have to do this, but as good practice, always ask. Remember to keep the certification safe, as you’ll need it when you come to sell on the work.
Consider subject matter?
Some Banksy’s, like any subject in art, are more popular than others and by nature are easier to resell purely based on subject matter. Girl with a Balloon, for example, is easy to resell as its Banksy’s most popular piece with wide appeal. While some of his more political works such as Napalm (Can’t Beat The Feeling) make a genuine statement, it could be said such works in the current market don’t always accrue value in the same way, simply because there is less demand for such images. This should be taken into context though, as with all street art: times change and tastes change. Ultimately the adage of buy what you personally like should always be your starting point.
Make sure the price is right
Often, Banksy works sell for more than their estimated worth, with signed editions fetching up to £80,000 and originals up to £1million. Do your research and make sure you’re not about to pay more than you should be. If you’re buying from a gallery, you have more assurances about the price you’re paying. Bargains can always be had in every market, but at what cost? For every person who claims to have bagged a bargain, there are 20 others who’ve said they’ve been stung. You can see before you buy, you can talk about the purchase with the gallery without obligation. This is not always the case when buying privately from an individual or at auction, where sold as seen can often apply.
Look at it as a long-term investment
Whenever you buy art you should view it as a long-term investment: most pieces won’t jump in value overnight. With that in mind, it’s always worth buying something you really like and wouldn’t mind hanging on a wall at home. With art, your investment is not on the computer, it’s in your home or workplace on your wall: you can enjoy it as it should be enjoyed. When compared to other alternative investments such as wine or vintage cars, art offers a far greater enjoyment factor. The wine can’t be drunk and the vintage car cannot be driven every day and still hold its value. The benefit of investing in a Banksy over another street artist, for example, is you’re buying into a globally recognised, ‘blue chip’ brand. If you like what you are buying and have done your homework, Banksy – and art in general – can be viewed as relatively low-risk investment that’s almost guaranteed to increase in value over time.
Is it in good condition?
Pay close attention to the condition of the piece you want to buy. If you buy from a gallery, it’s likely to be in very good nick but make sure you check for any scratches or any other signs of wear and tear that could affect the resale value. Always try to take a good look at the piece in person before you commit. Visit the gallery or seller, who should be more than happy to show it to you. Be very careful if you’re buying online and only do so from a source you completely trust.
Storage and framing
Storage is very important so always ask the seller about this before you buy. Paint and ink on paper that has been stored rolled could crack when stretched out, so it’s always preferable to buy framed prints and originals. Most art dealers will frame all works over a certain value. The frames themselves are also important: a cheap frame can actually devalue a Banksy so it’s worth considering whether you’d be better off selling it unframed when the time comes to move it on. If your piece is particularly fragile or high in value you may wish to opt for specialist storage where artworks are kept away from sunlight, at low and controlled temperatures.
Get it insured
Accidents can happen; so for peace of mind, make sure your Banksy is properly insured. There are several specialist art insurers on the market who would be able to advise you on the cover you need, and who can help protect you from theft, accidental damage, depreciation and restoration costs following an accident. Also, compared to your standard home insurance provider, they usually offer lower premiums.
Where to buy?
Lawrence Alkin Gallery in Soho is a specialist in buying and selling Banksy artworks, while East London contemporary gallery Hang Up currently boasts the largest UK Banksy collection under one roof, with many original Banskys for sale. For more information, call 020 7240 7909 or visit lawrencealkingallery.com; alternatively, visit hanguppictures.com