ArtMan: Start your art collection – Prints


Prints can be as cheap as chips. Shop clever and land yourself a great investment, says Kevin Wilson

Where’s your spare money, in the freezer? Wherever it is, think about what it’s doing. Earning a nice little 2.7 per cent a year?

That’s a bit boring. Why not put your money in art?

In my previous column, I advised finding out what sort of collector you are before you part with your money. You may not want to commit all of your savings and collecting can be daunting if you are new to art.

Limited editions

A simple entry into collecting is prints. Prints have been growing in popularity every year and you can pick up a good one from £50.

Many different techniques can be used to produce prints. Many artists choose to produce signed limited editions of their work. It increases their market and gives them an extra revenue stream.

These signed limited editions have existed since the 19th century and this gives you the chance to buy a print by a well known artist for a fraction of the price of an original.

On a limited edition print you should see two figures, the left one indicates the edition number and the right one indicates how many are in the edition, so a figure of 3/50 means this is the third print of a limited edition of 50 prints.

A smaller edition number is usually worth more than a larger limited edition. If there are only 10, each one could be rarer than an edition of 500. But there are many other factors in play such as the size and quality of the image.

More is usually paid if you see the letters AP, which stands for artist’s proof.

Where to buy?

Print shopping is so much easier now on the internet, but if you are serious about collecting, it is always better to have a look at the work in the flesh. Treat your print buy as if you were buying a car, especially if it is a similar price. Look at the condition too. Prints can be flimsy things.

Popular artists can have their prints snapped up on the same day as the release. A recent Banksy print, Choose your Weapon, was announced on a website and within minutes a queue had formed the night before the doors were opened for it to be sold.

Many people were disappointed not to get their hands on the special edition charity print and that’s understandable – once you had the £500 print in your hand it could increase up to 10 times the harder you squeezed it. Non Banksy lovers launched it on eBay immediately for £5,000.

Banksy's Choose your weapon

From £500 to £5000 in a minute, Banksy’s Choose your Weapon

London’s newer galleries are chock full of hot prints. Problem is, many galleries have stuck-up staff who walk around as if they’ve a skinned lemon stuck internally somewhere and talk to you like your parents did when you were caught in bed with the neighbour… just me then?

A great place to print browse is Pure Evil at 108 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4RH. Affordable new artists mix with mid-range urban artists alongside the Pure Evil’s own work. Charles Uzzell Edwards is one of the more approachable guys on the London art scene. Charley (AKA the artist Pure Evil) is non-pushy and this leaves you wanting to buy.

Pure Evil Latex Bunny Woman

Pure Evil Latex Bunny Woman 13 Colour Limited Edition of 20 £300

The Chelsea set have a local, more mainstream gallery at Dominic Guerrini, 18 Redburn Street, London SW3 4BX. It has a broad spread from classic to contemporary artists. Guerrini’s is well placed for those who like to lunch at the Bluebird restaurant with a plate of quails egg salad then nip down the road for a slice of Frances Bacon.

Frances Bacon Study

Frances Bacon Study for a self-portrait.1982 limited edition of 182 Lithographs £12,500 at the Dominic Guerrini gallery

So How much should you spend?

If you are new to collecting choose carefully and do your homework before you set foot in the shop. Choose something that you can resell at least for the price you paid for it. Look at auction results and see what the prints have gone for previously and ask a consultant if you are investing a large amount.

Don’t always trust the gallery staff; most will tell you your bum doesn’t look big and what you’re looking at is the bargain of the year.

Neither of which would probably be true.

A cautious punt?

Bridget Riley Movement in Squares 1961

Bridget Riley: Movement in Squares 1961

Bridget Riley was born in 1931, one of the pioneers of Op Art (which makes use of optical illusions), her prices have dipped from possibly earlier over pricing. It may be a good time to have a careful flutter on some of her works as they are reasonably priced now and she is nearing the end of her career. Prices soon start to rise again. Pioneers of any movement are long, long remembered and prices usually steadily increase as the world looks on.

So ignore the short-term dip and invest, but only for the long haul.

Median Price Index*

Year                                £
  2007                              43
  2008                              46
  2009                              27
  2010                              22

* Based on an investment of £100 in 2000 – how your investment would have performed per year, figures are estimates and should be used as a guide.


Kevin Wilson is an international arts consultant, curator and collector. He advises on collections, investments and projects. His clients range from the historical royal palaces, international corporations, to private individuals and collections worldwide.