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CNBC investigates why investors love street art: “Because $200 can turn into half a million”

“Why do investors like ‘street’ art? Because $200 can turn into half a million”

An article published last week on CNBC confirms something that many street art fans have known for years. Collecting your favorite street artists can lead to a hefty pay day. I personally experienced such a “boost” in value while collecting Shepard Fairey (www.obeygiant.com) prints in the mid 2000’s before he created the famous Obama HOPE poster in 2008. Over a short period prints purchased for $25 on the Obey Giant website rose in value to be worth hundreds and in some cases of early 90’s and ’00-02 prints, thousands of dollars.

Collectors of street art traditionally started out because they love the artist, his/her artwork, and the chance to own something that is typically fleeting that it may disappear overnight (e.g. the anti-Nazi graffiti we found on the 405 fwy the day after the Charlottesville tragedy was painted over in a day). However, as values started to skyrocket investors started to enter the market with hopes of striking it rich. One only has to see Banksy as the prime example of one of the most profitable street artists to collect.

“The art movement has origins in graffiti on walls and public transport, but art investors found a way to buy into those works. Most famously, the piece of the wall where British artist Banksy painted “Girl With a Balloon,” was removed and auctioned for over 73,000 pounds. Property prices for buildings in London’s Shoreditch, which feature such iconic artwork, have soared.”

I have had mixed feelings about the rise of street art having been both a fan (taking only pictures) and a collector buying art in a gallery or on an artists website. On one hand buying art directly from an artist is supporting them and allowing them to make more “free” art in the streets. On the other hand, I’ve heard fans griping about greedy capitalists who are ruining a scene that was once considered counter-culture and uniquely democratic. The main gripe many graffiti fans have is when artwork created in public spaces is ripped down and sold at auction for private gain.

What do you think about collecting street art? Does it belong in the streets, in the gallery, for purchase by collectors, or all of the above?

– M

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