The prints market accounts for only 2 percent of total sales in fine art auctions, while paintings represent 67 percent, sculptures 10 percent, works on papers 20 percent and photographs 2 percent. While paintings dominate the sales, prints represent the most affordable segment of fine art. According to a 2014 Hiscox online trade report, limited edition prints are a popular entry point for online art buyers. A survey by Hiscox reported that 55 percent of first-time online art buyers had purchased a print directly via an online platform in the past 12 months. The online sales market of fine art, which is dominated by prints sales, has grown by 15 percent since 2014. Examining offline sales (physical) at auction houses, we can see the price structure of fine art by type below.Most prints sell in the price range of $1,000 to $10,000 and a significant 24.3 percent sell for less than $1,000. The median sale price of prints is between $1,200 to $10,000.
Prints Market: Sales Trend
The prints market was at its peak in the years 2013 and 2014, registering total sales at auction of $260 million and $320 million respectively. Even the volume of artworks sold shot up in those years when compared with previous years. Since 2014, the prints market has managed to maintain steady sales of about $220 million to $240 million.
Market Share of Prints by Geography
At 57.2 percent, the US accounts for most sales, followed by the UK at 22 percent and the rest of Europe at 16 percent. The sales trend in these three regions have been stable during the past two decades.
Market Share of Prints by Auction Houses
The top two auction houses, Christie’s and Sotheby’s, account for about 45 percent to 50 percent of print sales. Phillips has a small share of between 5 percent and 10 percent and the rest of the auction houses account for about 40 percent to 45 percent. The Chinese auction houses Poly international and China Guardian, while featuring in the list of top five auction houses globally, have an insignificant contribution in the sales of prints segment. Price Bands of Sale at Christie’s and Sotheby’s
In the lowest price bands of $1,000 to $5,000, volume of sales at Christie’s exceeds Sotheby’s by a big margin (78 percent). Whereas in higher price brackets, Sotheby’s volumes are slightly higher than Christie’s. It also important to note that the buyer’s premium rate for both the auction houses for the low-price segment is the highest at 25 percent. As the prices go up, the premium rate goes down.
The current buyer’s premium at the New York locations is as below:
- Sotheby’s: Up to $300,000 — 25 percent
- Christie’s: Up to $250,000 — 25 percent
For the next higher price bracket the 12.5% premium applies. That could be one reason why more prints sell at Christie’s below $5,000.
Top Print Auctions in the Past 5 Years
With a sale of just two lots, “If I live I'll see you Tuesday: Contemporary Art Auction” was the top prints auction to date, realizing a total sale of $12.1 million at Christie’s New York in 2014. The top five auctions listed below achieved total sales of between $11million and $12 million, with a sale over 200 lots.Last year, “Prints & Multiples Including Property from the Collection of Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz, Jr.” was the top auction in the prints segment held at Sotheby’s New York.
Top Artists and Top Artworks in the Prints Segment
Andy Warhol tops the list in the period 2013 to 2017 with a sale value of $197.4 million of over 5,800 prints. Picasso has the maximum number of prints sold (7,730) in this period, recording a total sale of $119 million. Richard Prince’s “Nurse of Greenmeadow” is the top-selling print in the past five years at $8.5 million, followed by Rudolf Stingel’s “Untitled” at $6.8 million. Unsurprisingly, most of the prints in the top 10 are by Warhol and Picasso, given the sheer volume of prints as a part of their oeuvres.
Prints Auctions to Watch For in 2018
Here’s a quick glance into the number of print auctions of 2018. Overall, 2018 has over 1,700 print auctions taking place globally, of which 68 are scheduled in the next fortnight and 288 in the next one month.The top print auctions to look forward to in 2018 are listed below. Other than the top auction houses, print auctions at Swann Galleries in New York and Galerie Kornfeld in Bern are not to be missed.
Art enthusiasts can keep watching this space, powered by the large auction database Blouin Art Sales Index, for more analysis from Blouin Artinfo on today’s art market.
Founder: Louise Blouin