The change in demagoguery of buyers, high-tech rich, the trend among celebrities and the phenomenon called Banksy are just some of the reasons for the turnaround. Those who started out as vandals are now artists who are sold for huge sums.
Street art has become increasingly common in recent years and is making the art market accessible to a younger collector audience. Until a few years ago, the traditional art market was portrayed as elitist and detached and intended for a small community of interested people. Despite the exposure of street art, this is not reflected in the prices. But in recent times, a number of price records have been broken for the artists who lead the genre, and this indicates a change in trend and a greater interest in pop and street art.
Rap music, born in the US as an authentic protest of the black community for the treatment of the white establishment, has been identified for many years with the marginalized, young, incapable and also criminals. Today, the genre is at the heart of the mainstream and big stars. Passed by street artists, who began their careers in the 1980s and 1990s as vandals and street painters, are today esteemed “street artists” whose works sell for huge sums.
Street art is not a new concept. For the past two decades of the last century it has been called “graffiti” and has spread from New York to urban centers all over the world. Street art is seen as a tool for political or social critique and its creators have adopted a line mixed with satire to make their messages accessible to the general public. About a decade ago, street art entered the mainstream with exhibitions in leading museums, dedicated tours. Banksy burst into consciousness as the world’s most popular street artist. In 2009, street art auctions were held at Bonhams in London and also at the Tirosh auction house in Israel, but apparently these were ahead of their time. Prices were very low relative to the prices of “institutionalized” art.
But now, as mentioned, the picture is completely different, and this year, for example, a number of street artists entered the exclusive “Eight Digits” club. About a week ago, a $ 25 million painting by Japanese pop artist Yoshitomo Nara was sold in Sotheby’s Hong Kong. Three days earlier, a painting by Banksy was up for sale in London, valued at $ 2 million and sold for $ 12 million, shattering the previous record – $ 1.9 million from 2008. American pop artist KAWS has not been making headlines in the past year, and if by 2018 none of his work has crossed the $ 1 million mark, in the past year alone 22 of his works have sold for that amount, including a whopping $ 15 million record in Sotheby’s Hong Kong. For the avoidance of doubt, these three artists are still alive and creating.
So what caused the change? First, the demographics of buyers. If in the past 60-plus were the biggest buyers in the art market, today the average age decreases as the number of rich people in the high-tech and technology world increases. The young collectors are collecting art that is tailored to their generation – contemporary, innovative and rebellious. This trend does not miss the celebs either – Farrell Williams, Puff Daddy, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are just an example of celebrities who buy contemporary art and raise the profile of artists. Another reason has to do with the fashion industry, which is always looking for cool and groundbreaking trends. In 2012, the prestigious “Louis Vuitton” fashion house launched a line of scarves designed by various graffiti artists with the aim of making the brand accessible and reaching a younger audience. The Roberto Caballi fashion house launched a line of old graffiti-inspired clothing two years later and was even sued by a number of street artists. KAWS designed a limited edition fashion line for Japanese Uniqlo and on the brand’s launch day last June, crowds flocked to stores.
The real estate market is another major factor that uses street art to promote projects or to raise a profile of neighborhoods. Williamsburg in New York and Shoridge in London are ultimate examples of gentrification in young and colorful neighborhoods, which formed the basis for many artists until they became so sought after. In Miami the most talked about neighborhood in recent years is Winwood, a trendy area famous for its large murals, innovative galleries and elegant boutiques. Real estate ventures have raised prices in the neighborhood in the past two years and are pushing artists out. It is safe to say that the Florentine neighborhood in south Tel Aviv is undergoing a similar process, albeit on a more moderate scale. A good example of using street art to promote a real estate project is the Pop-Up Museum TLV project on Namir Road in Tel Aviv. There, a building slated for demolition as part of an evacuation-construction program was converted for a week into a pop-art and street-art museum by 100 artists who painted on the facade The building, in the apartments and in the public spaces.This marketing initiative has gained tremendous exposure.
Anonymity as a hallmark
Banksy has undoubtedly played a large part in the development of the rise of street art and the rise in prices. One can write whole books only about the phenomenon called “Banksy”. This is a British street artist and activist working under the guise of anonymity. Many street artists prefer not to reveal their name since they paint on walls in public space and may be prosecuted for it. In Banksy’s case, anonymity has become part of branding and a hallmark. Banksy has been creating since the 1990s and typically uses satire, cynicism and humor to express his protest on burning issues. From the Brexit, through the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to LGBT rights. In recent years, it seems like not a week goes by without it making headlines because of controversial work or marketing pranks. -Goch.
A year ago, Banksy’s work (which sold for $ 1.4 million in Sotheby’s London) caused a scandal and a lot of media noise, after the work shattered itself in front of the public with the drop of the hammer at the end of the bidding process. It turned out that Banksy had sold the work years ago and installed a kind of remote-controlled crusher in the frame drum. The buyer was given the option to cancel the purchase because the work was shredded, but within 24 hours all the art experts in the world stated that the prank had at least doubled the price.