Now, the scope of the following paper will be to clearly highlight when and why a turning point appeared in the art market, and who have been the main actors of these changes.
It is important to understand the process by which art in the streets turned to urban art in the institutions. In addition, there is a need to give value and credit to this movement in the art world.
Street Art and Art Market
The rise of urban art was greatly influenced by the contemporary art market, in the sense that even if museums are not yet ready to invest, corporations and private investors are, as for instance the Galerie du Jour (Agnès b.) that started from 1984 to promote street artists. Among other factors, the UK (Bonhams 2007) and then France (Artcurial 2008) have been catalysts in positioning this genre within the consumer sphere, with precursor sales entirely dedicated to graffiti, street art and urban art.
The Impact of the ‘Brand’
The increasing interest for urban artists is not the same for all of them; a crucial success factor is the importance of the ‘brand‘. Indeed, artist such as Futura 2000, Kaws et JR currently know a great success thanks to the name of the galleries where their artworks are sold, in these specific cases the galleries Jérôme de Noirmont and Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris.
The Valorization of the Prices by the Gallery
Those galleries are central actors of the art market, and help in the development of the marketing strategy; therefore they legitimize the artists to the buyers. Famous names have a huge impact on the increase of the prices. For instance, an artists as Alexöne saw his prices dramatically increased when he left the Galerie L.J for the Galerie Le Feuvre in the 8th Arrondissement of Paris. His prices went from an average of 3,000 euros to 10,000 euros. Moreover, the buyers are not the same anymore, Le Feuvre is a high end gallery and much more speculative.
The Primary Market in France
However, wether we compare the French primary market with the abroad markets, there is an obvious lack in its development. Even if there are almost sixty street art galleries in Paris, none of them are prestigious or as developed as famous names such as Lazarides in London or Jonathan Levine in New York. According to Adeline Jeudy, when a French gallery sells one piece to a French, three are sold to an American. This is due to a difference of attitude towards buying urban art.
Urban Art Vs Contemporary Art
Contemporary urban art artworks has have also migrated to mainstream auction houses such as Bonhams, Sotheby’s and Artcurial. However, there is a shift in attitude towards this movement leading to another important factor: the label “street art”. An artist’s work will have a different value depending on wether he is categorized as a ‘street artist’ or contemporary artist. After analyzing the results from different auctions, it is possible to observe that street artists selling work at contemporary art auctions have, by far, fetched higher prices than any other street artists. The best-known examples are Basquiat and Haring, whose works are sold for millions. Jean-Michel Basquiat is now considered as one of the major contemporary artist of his generation.
To conclude, even if the urban art market experienced a strong increase, it is still far behind the contemporary art market. However, some of the best-known artists of the contemporary art market are from the street. Therefore, that does not exclude a positive future for this movement.