Licence to print money

Forget the old poster you bought at Athena. Limited edition prints from well-known artists look superb and have genuine investment value

Owning an original piece of artwork by Picasso or Toulouse-Lautrec, Damien Hirst or David Hockney is likely to be beyond most people's budgets - or is it? Canny art lovers are buying original prints from top modern artists who are not only fantastic to own, but are also rising rapidly in value.

Owning an original piece of artwork by Picasso or Toulouse-Lautrec, Damien Hirst or David Hockney is likely to be beyond most people's budgets - or is it? Canny art lovers are buying original prints from top modern artists who are not only fantastic to own, but are also rising rapidly in value.

Most of the major auction houses now hold dedicated sales and this weekend, London's Royal Academy will host the largest original print fair in Europe.

First things first, however. 'Print' does not mean a poster reproduction of a great painting. "We use the term 'fine art prints', meaning the artist has chosen a particular medium such as etching or lithograph, because of the aesthetic properties it brings to the final product," explains Murray Macaulay, Christie's 20th-century print specialist.

"We don't sell reproductions: the artist has either drawn directly onto the etching plates or the lithograph stone; they're unique in the sense the image doesn't exist as a painting, though they are created in a set edition size."

A print can be in various forms - including etching, silk screen, lithograph or wood cut - but it is an original work of art which has involved the artist. To be of value, modern prints must be numbered limited editions and signed by the artist. Print runs are almost always in the low hundreds.

Don't be caught out by jargon. An offset lithograph is not an original print - it's a photographic image of an original which is reproduced on a printing press.

The old masters were producing prints as early as the 1600s - Rembrandt was a renowned etcher. The modern market already boasts many iconic examples, such as the screen prints of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol. These were produced in limited editions and sell for tens of thousands of pounds. Picasso was also prolific.

What or whom you buy depends on your taste, but hot modern British names at the moment include Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron and Bridget Riley.

"Bridget Riley was selling for £400 to £500 six or seven years ago," says Bonhams print specialist Alexandra Gill. "We're now selling her for up to £8,000 and prices continue to rise."

Gill says the print market is increasingly strong. "There has been a strong increase in the past couple of years, to the point that we now have specialist modern and contemporary print sales," she says.

Even so, you can still pick up a Barbara Hepworth print for £1,000 or a Patrick Heron for about £2,500. Names such as Lucian Freud tend to push up the cost to about £5,000-£6,000, but compare that with the cost of an oil painting. In Freud's case, his top price is above £4m.

"The most important thing to look for is an artist who is established or beginning to be established in the oil field," says Gill. "Then make sure the print is in absolutely perfect condition."

Macaulay adds: "Condition is critical because prints are often on paper - look out for water staining or foxing, a fungus that grows on paper. It's also important that a print is signed."

From an investment perspective, always buy the best you can afford rather than two less expensive options, as this will hold its value better.

After buying your print, protect your investment by having it framed or stored in acid-free paper/board. If the print is displayed, never put it up in direct sunlight.

Prints are original works of art which, although not completely unique, are very limited in number.

If there is a modern artist whose work you love and you buy wisely, it could turn out to be an attractive nest egg.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

    Market Risk & Control Manager

    Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

    £320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Head of Audit

    To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam