Thursday, 23 March 2017

Investing in illustration: Interview with John Huddy

Here at the Illustrationcupboard gallery we often get asked whether buying original illustration artwork really is a good investment. So we sat down over a cup of tea with John Huddy, Founder and Managing Partner of the gallery, to discuss the illustration market and discover his top tips on how and what to buy in 2017...

Why is the contemporary illustration market so unique?

The market for illustration goes back a long way, but it’s mostly been for historical illustration. The market for modern and contemporary illustration however is one that this gallery has created. When I started Illustrationcupboard 20 years ago nobody else was doing what I was doing. In fact there weren’t any other contemporary illustration galleries at all or any dealerships in Britain.  

To define and develop a new area of collecting or buying in any industry is incredibly rare and doesn’t happen very often, so this really is an opportunity. There are collectors who come to the gallery and consistently buy a lot of work because they realise the unique opportunity they have to buy artwork at entry level. This is work that’s coming directly out of artists’ studios for the first time ever. It’s not a secondary market, it’s a primary market, and to have the opportunity to create a primary market is a very unique position to be in. 

In time, these illustrators’ work will move into the secondary market. It’s happening already with artists such as David McKee, Shirley Hughes and Angela Barrett; their work is already starting to go through Sotheby’s and Christies and other auction houses. The secondary market will then inevitably develop, there’s no question about that, and then one day there will be a secondary market and no longer a primary market. That’s when you’re into the established art world, like everything else. 

There is a short window of opportunity for collectors, and that is what I find so interesting about this market. In 50 years, I know some of these terrific artists will be seen in the same way that we now look at illustrators from the 1920s. Their works will become classics and I think the prices will reflect that.

What advice would you give to someone buying their first piece of illustration artwork?

Buying is the same, whatever you’re buying. Your instinct is usually correct and your first impressions are usually right. Buy from the heart, buy from the gut and buy what you like. People often ask me, “What do you think about this piece?” and I always tell them the same thing: “If you like it, chances are that there are an awful lot of other people out there who are going to like it too.” And that’s generally true, so you’ve got to follow your instincts. 

What about buying an illustration as a gift?

The best gifts to give people are the ones that you really like yourself. People will appreciate a gift, however small it is, that has been given with consideration, with thought and some passion. People can always see that, I think. A lot of purchases are driven by nostalgia as people want to buy things they grew up with or pieces they know their children will enjoy.  I envy these children. It's such a special thing, to own an original from a book you love, something you will always have and can pass on to your own children.

Top five illustrators to invest in this year?
Alexis Deacon
David McKee
Shirley Hughes
Angela Barrett
George Butler

To discuss purchasing an original illustration or to talk about your collection, call the gallery for a chat on 0207 976 1727 and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

You can browse our collection online at or visit us at the gallery at 22 Bury St, St James’s, London, SW1Y 6AL, open 9:30am – 6pm Mon-Fri, 11am – 5pm Saturdays.

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