Street Art Value Guide for Urban Art Collectors

This blog series answers the question “how to value street art”, and how much popular urban art is worth, including Banksy, RETNA, KAWS, Mr. Brainwash and Shepard Fairey.

What’s the trend in street art value and the urban art market?

The last few years the market has seen an explosion in street art value, but there’s some question as to what constitutes street art vs urban art. For the collector, it can be extremely confusing to navigate these two similar worlds. Here’s your primer for what to look for, who’s making the most interesting urban art, and where you can start your collection.

What’s the difference between street art and urban art?

Urban art is an all-encompassing art genre that includes many different mediums and forms including graffiti, street art, and is primarily inspired by more general ideas like urban architecture or urban lifestyle. Street art, on the other hand, almost exclusively derives its inspiration from graffiti culture and exists only in public spaces.

Another way of looking at this: while there is obvious overlap here, it’s important to recognize these distinctions. Street art historically comes directly from graffiti culture. It still lives in public spaces, using mediums like stencils, posters, stickers, spray bombs, video projections, and even installation pieces. Conversely, urban artists can be found in gallery spaces, museums, or other “more traditional” venues. There has historically been some crossover between these categories, as both often deal with the same subject matter, and urban artists may also create street art. Indeed, many urban artists got their start as street artists before their urban art career.

kaws street art

Will popular street artist’s works retain their value?

A popular street artist’s work will absolutely retain value, and in many cases yield an extremely strong return for a small initial investment. There have been instances where a street artist’s work has sold initially for $192.10 and appreciated to the point that it was worth up to $512,000 in only ten short years.(1) That’s over a 250,000% increase in value. 

Not only that, many street artists have now seen widespread acceptance by the mainstream art community, thus opening up other avenues of urban art in which to invest. Many, like Banksy, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat are now known more for their “traditional” art like painted canvases, screenprints, and photographs than they were for their street art. This can help cement their status in the mainstream art world and help them to retain value past current trends. 

How do I value street art?

You can get a good idea of the value of street art by using the Heritage Auction Urban Art page to view a particular artist you may be interested in. That way you can understand better the range that their art commands. Not only that, you can see other artists who work in similar mediums and aesthetics to understand the context for that work. 

It’s worth noting that like any other investment (art or otherwise) it is so important to do your research before diving in. While you may see artists like KAWS or Mr. Brainwash and the price tag that their piece went for (or is estimated to command at auction), it’s important to delve into what makes that artist unique. Not only does it connect you with the greater scope of their work, but it can also help you make a decision between two similar pieces. 

What are the challenges of collecting street and urban art, and how does Heritage help?

Unlike most other genres of art, many Urban artists are releasing their work through various channels at designated time slots in limited quantities. While the price point is usually accessible to the average person, the challenge is to be able to acquire it. Heritage provides a wide range of artists all in one place and at affordable prices. Many of the artists we sell on a regular basis (KAWS, Banksy, Murakami, Fairey) have large followings at varying price levels (from $100 to millions) and buyers can feel confident purchasing works through us knowing their purchase comes from a trusted source at the fair market price.

Lauren Carpinelli, Heritage Auctions Art Expert

Why Heritage Auctions for valuing urban art?

Heritage Auctions prides itself on transparency for both buyers and sellers. Our experts research the market and put careful valuations on street and urban art for sale. Not only that, our buyer’s premiums are reasonable, and past prices realized for art remains public on our website for all to see.

We publish price guides for artists (see below) and biographical information on our website to educate our clients. All of these reasons combine to make Heritage Auctions website a great resource for finding the value of street artist’s work.

Who are the most popular street artists today?

There are several extremely popular street artists working today including Banksy, KAWS, Daze, Shepard Fairey (OBEY). Most – if not all – of these artists transcend the street artist tag and have produced notable urban art in other mediums as well. Some, like Fairey, whose 2008, “Hope” poster for the presidential campaign of Barack Obama has become so ubiquitous that they are known more for their urban art than their street art. 

So what binds these seemingly disparate artists together beyond their populist medium? Many have subversive styles that parody commercial art while also borrowing heavily from it. Artists like KAWS and Banksy have pulled directly from iconic American intellectual property like Disney or Sesame Street and mixed (or re-mixed) it with a street art perspective to create new work. 

Others, like Daze, have taken street art techniques and aesthetics and re-appropriated them for commissioned murals or canvases to be exhibited in traditional galleries and museums. A recent commercial piece by Daze, Like This Absolut Vodka (1992) sold for $11,500 in November of 2019 by Heritage Auctions

daze urban art absolut vodka

Who are the most popular urban artists?

There are tons of artists currently working in this space. While Keith Haring and Jean Michael Basquiat have historical precedence, here’s a primer of five artists at the top of their game that represent the best of what Urban Art has to offer.   

Banksy

banksy urban art

Arguably the most important urban artist of the last 20 years, Banksy is hugely responsible for the surge in the popularity of street art and urban art for the mainstream art world. His politically-inspired (and mischievous) stencils and graffiti have appeared on public spaces around the world. His films and installation pieces are imbued with that same counter-culture humor and impish spirit, making his pieces accessible and – for the collector – extremely valuable. 

How much is Banksy art worth? 

Read the Heritage Auctions price guide for Banksy urban art.

KAWS

kaws companion

 KAWS uses pop iconography — like The Simpsons or Sesame Street and “remixes” them with his own urban-inspired aesthetics. His proclivity for bright colors and funky cartoonish characters has made KAWS work extremely marketable and has led to collaborations with Nike, Kanye West, and the MTV Video Music Awards. With over 1.8 million followers on Instagram, KAWS represents how this new generation of artists can use social media to help market themselves to a larger audience than ever before. Andy Warhol, eat your heart out. 

How much is KAWS art worth?

Read the Heritage Auctions price guide for KAWS urban art.

RETNA

retna urban art

The most adherent to street art aesthetics of anyone on this list, RETNA creates typographic art influenced by hieroglyphs, calligraphy, and graffiti art. His work has been featured in galleries around the world but is perhaps best known because of his cover art for the Justin Bieber album Purpose (2015). 

How much is RETNA art worth?

Read the Heritage Auctions price guide for RETNA urban art.

Shepard Fairey

The creator of the OBEY campaign, which utilized murals, posters, and most notably stickers, Shepard Fairey is now best known for his iconic “Hope” — a portrait of then-president Barack Obama which was used for his 2008 presidential run.

How much is Shepard Fairey’s art worth?

Read the Heritage Auctions price guide for Shepard Fairey’s urban art.

Mr. Brainwash

mr. brainwash urban art

 The focus of the Banksy produced film, “Exit Through the Gift Shop” Mr. Brainwash is the enigmatic persona of artist Thierry Guetta — both parody (and potential hoax) and seemingly genuine artifact. Working with collage, stencils, and screen printing, his work features intense color layerings and graffiti-inspired imagery. His first solo exhibition, Life is Beautiful sold an estimated one million dollars in artworks in 2008. 

How much is Mr. Brainwash’s art worth?

Read the Heritage Auctions price guide for Mr. Brainwash’s urban art.

How do I start collecting urban art?

We have an ever-growing catalog of Urban artists, with several experts on staff who know urban and street art value. We asked our experts for a better idea of who’s on the come-up when it comes to investing in a new urban artist. Here’s what they had to say. 

How to get started collecting urban art?

One of the best things about Urban art is that it is open to a wider collector base which makes it more approachable than other more elitist categories. Even artists whose work now sells for millions of dollars at auction produce more affordable options which can be a fantastic place to start collecting. It’s important to find work that you have a connection to, attend the gallery exhibitions (along with the non-traditional shows such as ComplexCon and Beyond the Streets) and follow the artist through all of the social media channels. Even if you only put a thousand dollars a year in to artwork, the collection will grow over time. The revered collections we all look at now and envy were not started as investments but instead out of the love of the work, it’s simply about taking the first step.

Lauren Carpinelli, Heritage Auctions Art Expert

Ready to Sell Your Urban Art?

Request an appraisal, research the value of your piece, or sell your street or urban art here. Our experts are passionate, dedicated, and most importantly know their stuff. Stop wondering, more knowledge means more money. 

Where to Buy Urban Art at Auction?

Urban Art is an exciting space for the collector and the general art-consuming public. It’s re-appropriation of popular tropes and commercial nature might lend comparisons to Warhol’s Pop Art movement — but with a vitality and sense of humor that’s all it’s own. If you’re ready to make the jump, Heritage Auctions has some amazing opportunities in the very near future. Check out our full schedule here to find the piece that will breathe new life into your collection. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/24/why-do-investors-like-street-art-because-200-can-turn-into-half-a-million.html

Posted by Heritage Editorial

This article was written as a collaborative effort by multiple experts within the category at Heritage Auctions.

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