Editions in the Art Market or - How Expensive are Art Editions?

May 15, 2015

Editions in the Art Market

Editions some to be a good way for beginners to start their art collection, right? As, in most cases, there is more than one artwork that looks the same as the original, then, by definition, their prices is lower than, say, some unique oil on canvas painting. Of course, editions are limited, they come in series of 100, or 250, or, as we'll see, even more than 2,000. Therefore, editions are not that interesting for forgers. So, to wrap it up, editions are nice, safe and, perhaps, above it all, not-so-expensive way to enter the art market, hm? Well, how should we put it: yes, but not necessarily.

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Sickboy - Walking of The Set

It's Jungle Out There at Editions Market

You just cannot say that editions are easily affordable artworks, that just isn't true for some examples. Take Jeff Koons, for instance. Ok, surely you wouldn't expect that artworks by one of the most popular living artist can be cheap. But, would you expect that his sculpture named Orange Balloon Dog, which came in edition of five (although in different colors), could reach eye-dropping $58.4 million? And would you called that an affordable entrance into the world of art collectors? But, hey, that same Jeff Koons and his Balloon Dog actually can be just that - an affordable sculpture. Just the color is different - his Blue Balloon Dog is much smaller sculpture than Orange Balloon Dog, and also an edition of 2,300. One of them can usually be bought for $5,000 - $15,000 at auctions, probably for even less, if you skip auction houses and their fees. Still out of your price range? Not to worry. You could buy an edition by a famous artist, for just a couple of hundreds: Damien Hirst is one of the well respected contemporary artist, and just recently his The Magnificent Seven was sold for $800 at Bonhams. You never know.

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Nick Walker - Le Corancan

Street Art Editions?

Of course, these under $1,000 editions are not that frequent. For instance, at recent Prints and Multiples auction at Christie's, four works by Keith Haring in one lot named Andy Mouse have been sold for more than a half a million, or $130,000 a piece. Andy Warhol's Superman, from Myths went for even more, $160,000. And on the same auction, Takashi Murakami's Purple Flowers in a Bouquet went for just $1,600. At mentioned sales at Bonhams, Sam Francis' Untitled was sold for just $700, and that is a price that could be paid by almost anyone. Art experts say that price is a result of many factors, but three of them seem to be the most important ones: condition, rarity, and demand. Of course, artists, nowadays especially, are trying to bring the value of their work up in, say, artificial way. Instead of large editions, they produce limited edition of one, which is somewhat pointless: make just an original, then. Also, street artists are picking up, as they, too, are producing prints of their work. This is cool if you wish to own some popular street artwork, and it's even more cool for the artists. But, that also raises a question: is this still street art? How could it be street art, if it's not outside, on some brick wall, but above the couch in your living room? But that's another topic. For the end, we could only pass you the wisdom of experienced art collectors: don't buy what you think you should own, buy what you like. And if your taste matches your wallet-thickness, hey, the sky is the limit!

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Jeff Koons - Balloon Venus Dom Perignon

How to Buy an Edition?

Just recently, at Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale (Session II) at Christie's on May 14, Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn) from 1967 was sold for $2,165,000. His 10 portraits of Mao also went for over a $2 million. Andy Warhol was an artist who produced many prints, but, obviously, that doesn't mean that there is an inflation of his editions, and, subsequently, the downside spirale of their prices. On a contrary, the demand rules when it comes to a value of a piece of art, and when we talk about Warhol, he is (still) one of the most sought-after contemporary artist, and prices of his work are on a constant rise, for years. Jasper Johns is a living artist with the most expensive print - his Untitled from 1983 was sold for $1.5 million a couple years ago. When we look at the latest auction of prints at the biggest auction house, Christie's, we could see that the average price for a print was around $36,000. At the same time, at Phillips, prints averaged around $17,000, with many lots that was sold for bellow $5,000 - there were 15 lots that were sold for $1,500 and less. Those 15 included some big names, such as Roy Lichtenstein, Lucien Smith and Robert Rauschenberg. One of the basic advices, really, is that you should buy prints and any other artwork with your hearth, not with your calculator. You'll never know for sure that demand for one artwork, or one artist will explode and that you'll get rich(er) over night. But you do know what you like, and that should be the first reason why you are buying an artwork. Some may disagree, but hey...

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Featured image: Jeff Koons - Orange Balloon Dog (Courtesy of Christie's)
Also in slider: Alex Katz - Orange Hat, from Alex and Ada, the 1960's to the 1980's, 1990 (Lot 96) (detail) (Courtesy of Phillips)

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