Why do investors like ‘street’ art? Because $200 can turn into half a million


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A Banksy artwork opposite the French embassy in London, criticising the use of teargas in the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp in Calais.

“The very best guys do something different in the gallery as what they do on the streets. And in my 15 years, all I’ve seen so far is it going from strength to strength,” Lazarides told CNBC’s “Capital Connection.”

Banksy might be the face of those million dollar street art sales, but Lazarides pointed out that famous mainstream artists also emerged from the streets.

“You had Keith Haring and [Jean-Michel] Basquiat — people forget that they were graffiti artists and they would sell for tens of millions of dollars,” he said. A Basquiat painting sold at a record $110.5 million in a Sotheby’s New York auction earlier this year.

“When we started 15 to 20 years ago, we got chased off every single building. Nowadays, they’re welcoming [us] with open arms,” Lazarides said.

And the trend is not going anywhere, said Didier Jaba Mathieu, a Colombian graffiti artist who has participated in graffiti performances all across the world, and recently exhibited his work in Singapore.

“Forty years back, in the 1970s, people would say, ‘Graffiti is a trend.’ It has been a trend for 40 years and it is here to stay,” he told CNBC.

But art lovers worry the commercial aspect might be compromising the message behind the art — and Mathieu said there’s an intentional branding at work.

“Street art is just a more sellable word; it sounds better than graffiti, which is associated with counter culture,” Mathieu said. “Street art is on everyone’s mind, but what graffiti writers are doing in the streets — that’s the true essence of the art form.”

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