Ultimate pop art – Why gig posters are a sound investment

From The Independent:

The beautiful psychedelic gig posters that helped define the 1960s San Francisco rock scene are no longer a lost, joss-stick-scented tradition. Musicians from Arcade Fire and PJ Harvey to Bob Dylan and Liza Minnelli are using limited-edition posters to accompany shows, as an often strikingly original counterpoint to their music. Just as in the old days, the artists silk-screen print by hand in batches of a few hundred.

The revival began with the artists who rose alongside the late 1980s US indie boom, culminating with Nirvana. Each subsequent generation has become bigger, with refugees from the skateboard, graffiti, hot-rod, tattoo and comics art scenes referencing pop culture. “A lot of the artists we deal with are still playing in bands and connected with music in quite an earthy way,” says Chris Marksberry, owner of the Flood Gallery, London’s first specialist dealer in this burgeoning field. Gig posters hold two aces in the wider art scene: their rock subjects’ enduring potency, and affordability. “Affordability’s something the artists are very conscious of,” says Marksberry. “They’re trying to fill a place in the lives of people who aren’t trying to get into the art world as such, but want something special. It’s meant to be street-level, accessible art. Some of the more popular artists do evolve into other areas and exhibit in high-end places, ultimately. But the gig poster scene will always stay affordable. The top people sell in the US for $75 a piece, and the less established ones for $20-30. The most expensive we’ve sold is a £350 White Stripes poster by Rob Jones. Its usually the artist that makes it collectible.”

“I’m an art enthusiast,” says Ron Vinion, a 60-year-old from Chicago with a 2,000-strong collection. “You get the satisfaction of a good painting, but you can afford a more frequent fix.”

Gig posters’ unusually democratic nature as collectible art does take a battering once it enters US collectors’ hands. California’s D. King Gallery’s most expensive current item is a $5,000 poster from a 1973 Rolling Stones gig. Current, collectable US artists such as Emek ($850 for a 2003 Neil Young print, $300 for PJ Harvey) and Jones’s White Stripes work (up to $500) also leap out from the gallery’s $25-35 norm. Marksberry watched a piece the Flood Gallery commissioned from popular San Francisco artist Chuck Sperry balloon in value. “It was an edition of 50 that we sold at £90 per print, and sold out within half an hour online. The next day they were available via trading sites or eBay for $400, and I’ve seen one for $1,000.”

“A lot of these printers [a term for the artists] really dislike the people who ‘flip’ the posters onto eBay before they even have them in their hands,” Vinion admits. “I can’t see any point getting ticked off, because it’s a commodity. The most I’ve paid is $1,000 for a Willie Nelson poster by Geoff Peveto that was printed on steel, with bullet-holes put through it like a country road-sign. Jim Pollock travelled with [hard-touring US ‘jam band’] Phish and did posters in the parking lot for each show, and some of them are going for I’d say $5,000. But typically, good stuff direct from the artist is $10 up to $100.”

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