June 10, 2019 by admin
‘Forget the word ‘street’,” says collector Andrew King. ”It’s simply contemporary art. If Sidney Nolan was in his prime today, I bet he’d be painting on the streets.”
King was interviewed in the July edition of Leonard, a monthly publication issued by the Leonard Joel auction house in Melbourne.
Auction houses are becoming interested in street art because examples of this style are starting to appear on the secondary market and selling for prices that would have been unthinkable even five years ago.
”In my opinion, art by street artists is the next big art movement, no doubt about it,” King says. ”Most people just haven’t recognised it yet.”
Leonard Joel was the first to hold a mainstream sale of street art when the Andy Mac Collection appeared on May 6. Mac has been collecting this style over the past two decades.
Bestseller was Freeze Muthasticka, a giant collaboration done on 72 panels at the 2004 Big Day Out festival. The work was so big (30 metres long) it had to be divided into three lots. The first two of these sold for $28,000 (hammer price) each. No doubt this is a record.
The growing interest in this style has resulted in some of the more prominent artists creating work in ”collectable” formats. These are the works now being bought on the secondary market by a new generation of art collectors.
Another major collection was sold by Lawsons in Sydney last month.
It was a litmus test for managing director Martin Farrah. This is new territory for him.
”I’m a bit of a brown-furniture man myself,” he laughs. ”I guess I shouldn’t have worn my tweed jacket that day.”
Regardless, he achieved a reasonable 60 per cent sale rate and discovered that the main buyers, bidding online, were from Melbourne. This is the street-art capital. Although the main buyer was in his 50s, most of those on the floor were thirtysomethings looking for something cool to stick on the walls of their inner-west apartments. This is a cheap way to gain a foothold into the fine-art market.
Or was. Prices have doubled or tripled over the past three or four years.
One of Lawsons’ best results was $4000 for a work by the Die Laughing Collective. Another, which is called Murdochracy, sold for $3200. It was one of the few works to have a provenance. Done on nine panels, it was first exhibited at the Melbourne Stencil Festival in 2005 and again in Sydney in 2006, where it was displayed in front of Newscorp’s headquarters.
It’s unlikely Rupert was the buyer.
Finding out what work has investment potential is pretty much a mystery, particularly as most artists prefer to work under code names such as Ghostpatrol and Ha-Ha.
Ha-Ha, aka Regan Tamanui, was certainly hot back in May. One of his Ned Kelly 2003 prints sold for a $1100 hammer price at Leonard Joel, way above estimates of $250 to $350. Many street artists who decorate walls and railway carriages are disdainful of those who exhibit commercially. Others, such as British artist Banksy, have successfully made the transition.
He was perhaps the first to show that what he once did freely on walls – including the laneways in Melbourne in 2003 – now has considerable commercial value.
In February 2007, one of Banksy’s portable works sold for £100,000 through Sotheby’s in London. Another fetched £288,000 through Bonhams in London the following month. For collectors, this is an opportunity to acquire one of the most exciting forms of contemporary art.
There’s also the possibility that what you buy today could do a Banksy and increase tenfold in value overnight.
The head of art at Leonard Joel, John Albrecht, is cautiously optimistic about this emerging scene. He is now planning to hold an annual street-art auction in Melbourne and is also evaluating a couple of prospective collections at the moment.
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