The origins of printmaking can be traced back to as early as the 13th century, yet it remains a medium that develops through the advancement of technology. Traditionally, printmaking refers to a hand processed technique, however it has now expanded to include multiple other media including sculptural works, street art, and even NFTs.
The status of street art has undeniably been on the rise for the past few decades. Street artists are finally being recognised for their talents and are receiving accolades from both art institutions and local governments. The artists have also experienced commercial demand, leading them to explore the printmaking process to sell their art.
Keith Haring, one of the most well-known street artists, brought this to the forefront of the art world in the 1980s. He would transform subway stations into his own personal canvases, eventually leading to public recognition of murals as a legitimate form of art. Haring’s editioned screen prints are some of his most iconic works. In July 2020, at Leonard Joel we held one of our triannual Prints and Multiples auctions featuring an important collection of street and pop art. Keith Haring’s Silence = Death achieved the highest result for an edition of this screen print in Australia, and almost equalled the world record held by Christie’s New York.
Haring and other international street artists have influenced some of our top creatives here in Australia. Influences of American graffiti culture of the 1980s are evident in the work of Reko Rennie, such as his edition I WAS ALWAYS HERE (2016), and Message Stick (2011-2013). One of Australia’s most successful street artists, Rone, cites British artist Banksy as an influence. Whilst most of Rone’s commercial works are on canvas or are photographic editions, our November 2021 Prints and Multiples auction featured a rare stencil work. Applied directly to a timber cupboard door panel, this work is still considered a “multiple” despite its uniqueness, as there are other examples of Rone’s work with the same stencil.
These artists have been, and are still, major contributors to the expansion of the printmaking process, making it one of the most popular and globally recognised mediums in the current market. Furthermore, Australia has become a highly identifiable place for street art, with some of our most collectable artists such as Rone, Reko Rennie, E.L.K, and HAHA all beginning with a background in graffiti. Where once street art was destined for the streets alone, we are now seeing the aesthetic making its way into high-end editions and appearing in important institutional and private collections globally.
HANNAH RYAN / Art Specialist
Banner Image: KEITH HARING (1958-1990) Silence = Death 1989 screenprint 84/200, 82 x 82cm | Sold for $60,000