Can't afford a Francis Bacon at over £60m?

Buy a lithograph instead....

For people looking to furnish their homes with top quality artwork without having to re-mortgage their house, investing in signed prints can be a more accessible way to get involved in the art world. With reports of a Francis Bacon oil painting estimated to sell at Christie’s for over £60m, many people think that owning artworks by global names is well out of reach.


It is well known that in 1987 Andy Warhol signed copies of Interview magazine; usually costing around $2, following the addition of Warhol’s signature, they were sold off for $50 apiece and that is the key element of investing in a signed lithograph or etching. Value is all in the signature and the rarity of the item, or how many copies were made at the time. Many artists have got on this bandwagon, including Francis Bacon, Lowry, Chagall, Warhol, Hirst, Richter and Picasso. Not all lithographs or etchings can be worth huge amounts in value, however the ones which have fewer copies and signatures of artists who are 'de rigueur'can be sold for tens of thousands. The key here is all about the involvement of the artist at the printmaking stage. A lithograph or an etching requires the artist to draw an image either with a crayon or greasy pencil or engraving onto a metal plate respectively and they are then reproduced in limited numbers. Lower edition numbers are more valuable and sought-after, so for example, a Bacon print may have been repeated only 100 times, whereas many Lowrys had a print run of 850, making the Lowry lower in value. The lower the edition number and the more clear the signature, the more desirable. 

Patricia Durdikova, Valuer, Cheffins comments:

“Buying prints  is a great way for younger people to get into collecting art. With values ranging from a few hundred pounds for a signed Mary Fedden signed print and then up to £10,000 for a Bacon, there is often something for everyone. The key artists of the 20th and 21st century are the ones to watch and the key is all about edition number and the signature. If you are looking to decorate your house, are interested in art but don’t have a spare £20 million in the bank, these types of prints can provide a way to invest for less.

For those fed up of High Street pictures or posters or standard photographic images printed onto canvases but can’t afford an original oil, owning a limited edition signed print really is the next best thing. As regards growth in value, some prints will not necessarily provide healthy returns so this is not so much something to buy in order to double your money. However, you can get lucky, for example signed Lowry prints which were previously only making around £200 - £300 are now selling for up to £3,000, depending on the image. A number of more modern artists have also taken this approach including Gerhard Richter who sells reproductions of his works in a partnership in the Tate and Damian Hirst who produced a series of limited-edition lithographic prints entitled For the Love of Comic Relief in 2003. This was a limited edition restricted to 50 and each piece was sold for £2,500.” 

Cheffins recently sold a number of lithographs signed by L.S Lowry. With a print run of approximately 850 copies, they sold for between £750 - £3,000, depending on the image.  A signed lithograph  by Francis Bacon titled Oedipus and the Sphinx recently sold through Cheffins Fine Art Auction for £8,500. It is from a limited edition of only 150.

Three Picasso etchings from the famous Vollard series bearing the artist’s signature were also auctioned by Cheffins and fetched £5,500 for Le Repos de Sculpteur IV; £5,500  for Le Repos de Sculpteur devant le petit torse and £4,200 for Modele contemplant un Groupe sculpte.   


For further information on lithographs please contact our team of Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers on 01223 213343.

Francis Bacon Lithograph



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