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The Lowdown on Investment: Bridget Riley
Editorial / Artists

The Lowdown on Investment: Bridget Riley

16 Mar 2023 | 5 min read

Bridget Riley broke into the British art scene of the sixties and started a revolution against traditional methods of painting at the time.

We take a look at why – sixty years on – she is still smashing it in the contemporary art market.

1. She's a highly regarded artist.

Bridget Riley is considered to be one of the leading figures of the Op Art movement (an abbreviation for optical art).

With her first-ever solo show in 1963, it became clear from the outset that Riley was a certified hit and a force to be reckoned with. By the end of that same decade, she made history when she was awarded the prestigious International Prize at the Venice Biennale – this was the first time a woman had ever received it.

Relying on abstract patterns and stark contrasts, Op Art intends to warp the viewer's perception of motion, depth and form. Riley has spent many years meticulously developing her style, over time embracing kaleidoscopic colours, leaving no doubt about the impact she has had on the art movement.

At 92, she is internationally recognised having exhibited globally, from Asia to the United States and all across Europe. This puts her work at cultural artefact status and therefore escalates its value.

Portrait of Bridget Riley

Portrait of Bridget Riley

Via Paul Mellon Centre

2. She's in high demand.

Riley's limited editions are in high demand and often reach high prices at auctions, making them possibly a worthwhile investment. Popular among art collectors and enthusiasts, this further drives demand for her pieces. In 2023, she is the 7th most followed artist this year on the popular art-selling platform Artsy. Some examples of the most recent auction results for her editions (which all exceeded their high estimates) are as follows:

Bonhams – British Cool

Two Blues (2003) – £9,562.50
Elapse (1982) – £14,025
Serpentine Print (1999) – £10,837.50

Sotheby’s London – Made in Britain
Carnival (2000) – £11,340

Christie’s Online – Contemporary Edition: London

Untitled (La Lune En Rodage - Carlo Belloli) (Schubert 6) (1965) – £16,510

2022 was a record year for women artists at auction with Riley firmly at the top. In fact, the total price of women artists’ works sold at auction has risen by 194% between 2012 and 2022, from $350.6 million to $1.03 billion, according to Artsy.

Just last year, Riley's acrylic on canvas painting, Gala, sold for £800,000 over its high estimate at an impressive £4.36 million.

Bridget Riley, Gala, 1974, acrylic on canvas

Bridget Riley, Gala, 1974, acrylic on canvas

© Bridget Riley

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About Lilac

Bridget Riley

About Lilac

  • 2007
  • Screen print on paper
  • Edition of 75
  • Signed, titled, dated and numbered
  • 80cm x 49cm


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Bridget Riley – About Lilac

About Lilac

As well as working on canvas and printmaking, Riley has created huge murals for institutions including The Tate and National Gallery.

3. There is a limited supply.

With Riley being in such high demand, this makes her work even more highly sought after. Despite a long-spanning artist career and large bodies of work, the supply of her work is limited.

Because they can be harder to obtain, this only further increases the prices.

4. Her unique style.

Composed of geometric patterns, optical illusions, and overlapping shapes – always executed with methodical precision – any work by Riley is instantly recognisable.

Georges Seurat and his pointillist technique were a huge influence on Riley in her early days of painting, however, she also reports taking inspiration from the colour palette of Renaissance painter Titian. Riley takes much care in mixing her own colours to ensure the exact hue and intensity that she envisions.

The accuracy inherent to her work is compelling, visually striking and appeals to a wide range of audiences, from art enthusiasts to fans of design. For Riley, it is all about the viewer's visual experience and to this day, interaction with her art is still a vital component of why she creates.

Portrait of Bridget Riley, 2018

Portrait of Bridget Riley, 2018

Johnnie Shand Kydd

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