For the last 20 years, subversive street artist Banksy has been re-writing the art rulebook. From the socio-political commentary ever-present in his street pieces, to his genre-defining exhibitions, it was only a matter of time that the global art market was going to start finally taking him seriously.
Banksy has been producing screen prints since 2002, when his official screen print, Rude Copper, was released in a stamped edition of 250. Ever since early 2005, Banksy screen prints have been appearing at auction and have been increasing in value ever since - the only dip being immediately after the 2008 economic crash.
Arguably now the world's most famous living artist, Banksy has always taken joy in poking fun at the art establishment through his work. Indeed the message on his 2006 screenprint Morons (an auction room painting featuring a piece of framed art at auction bearing the words 'I can't believe you morons buy this shit') now appears to have come to pass - at a dedicated Banksy sale at Christies in September 2020, the market witnessed the first Banksy screenprint to achieve over $1m at auction - a rare purple Girl with Balloon Artist's Proof (shown above, photo courtesy of Sky News), which had an estimate at roughly 1/3 of the actual price achieved.
Overall during 2020, price levels increased year-on-year by 228%, with signed prints achieving average growth of 217% and unsigned prints an astronomical 280% increase. To put this in perspective, the average annual yield year-on-year for Banksy prints at auction prior to 2020 was 21%. Banksy print prices are now at a level where he is consistently achieving results well in excess of his contemporaries - the likes of Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein.
However, 2020 was also the year that saw an unprecedented number of limited edition Banksy screen prints head to auction - a total of 412 prints (up from 285 in 2019), an important data point which would indicate that some long-term collectors are not only cashing-in, but also that there are new buyers acquiring work by Banksy.
One other interesting thing to note is the market shift towards unsigned prints during 2020. 5 years ago, on average, the signed:unsigned print price was typically 3:1 - that means that if you bought a signed Girl with Balloon from the edition of 150, you could roughly expect to pay 3 x what you would for a print from the unsigned edition of 600. This measure has now significantly been reduced as the average signed:unsigned edition now appears to be approximately 1.57:1, which would indicate new buyers are more focused on the image itself, rather than whether a work is signed or not.
However, 2020 has since such a seismic shift in his work as new collectors enter the market and investors move funds into market areas that are more predictable than stocks and shares - and Banksy provides them with just that. Indeed, the bellwether for any further growth is likely to be fuelled at Sotheby's Banksy Online auction on 9th March 2021, which will feature a number of editions as well as some very rare screen prints.
With many Banksy prints only available as signed editions (Banksy stopped producing unsigned limited edition prints in 2007) and the most well-known images like Girl with Balloon and Love is in the Air achieving incredible auction results in 2020, we believe that it will be other signed print editions which will see the higher growth in 2021, particularly those editions at the lower price points (<£100,000) such as Sale Ends (V2), Trolleys, Grannies, Happy Choppers, Applause and No Ball Games. In addition, we believe that Laugh Now (another image which Banksy is synonymous with) and Choose Your Weapon (with its low edition sizes of 25 in a broad range of colourways) will also see growth.
Of course auction is not the only place to buy genuine limited edition prints by Banksy. If you are interested in acquiring any works by Banksy that are not listed on our website then please contact us as we have direct access to a number of collectors who have some very collectable (and in many cases rare or seldom-seen) editions. We would like to express our thanks to Banksy Value for the 2020 market data they provided for this article.
*Photocredit: Sky News