‘Tea Stain’ by Gavin Turk – Fantastic Artwork, Bad Investment

‘Tea Stain’ by Gavin Turk – Fantastic Artwork, Bad Investment

I recently came across a limited edition print by Gavin Turk which was being sold by White Cube gallery entitled ‘Tea Stain’ which basically consists of a round tea coloured stain from the base of a tea cup on a white piece of paper. There are those that would immediately dismiss this artwork as another piece of rubbish modern art but I have to admit that I personally find the concept rather intriguing.

turk_mama.jpgTea Stain by Gavin Turk

According to the White Cube website, “This work by Gavin Turk further explores the complex ideas surrounding authorship and the concept of the artist as ‘creative genius’. With each tea stain – a unique mono print – Turk asks the viewer to examine not only the way that an artist is seen to be a creator of objects venerated within an art historical context, but also the ways in which the simple motions of the everyday can become amusing or important.” Apart from the obvious comment on the issues of authorship and artist as ‘creative genius’, tea has many different cultural, social and historical associations which are universally relevant and should evoke some sort of response in almost everyone. Although the artwork consits mainly of blank white paper, it is the simplicity of the work that forces the viewer to generate their own understanding and make their own interpretation of the work thus increasing the relevance and level of interest for each individual viewer.

As much as I like ‘Tea Stain’, there are unfortunately several factors that make this work a bad investment, such as:

1. The work is an edition of 1000 which is way too big to have any value as an investment. With 1000 of the works on the market there is never going to be enough of a demand on the secondary market to produce an increase in their value significant enough to categorise the work as a good investment.

2. ‘Tea Stain’ was originally released in 2004 since which half of the edition has sold. That means that is has taken over three years to sell only half of the edition which means that it will either take another few years for the edition to sell out or it won’t sell out at all (which is quite likely considering that the original enthusiasm for the work has worn off and the price for the work has increased).

3. The price of the work was raised from the original 75 pounds to 120 pounds which is an instant turnoff. For 120 pounds I could purchase a limited edition etching from the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition which would most likely be an edition of less than 50 and would be a much better investment.

So in conclusion, great work, bad investment…

Nick**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectables for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

18 Responses

  1. i should make my own tea stains! properly stains would be more obvious with black tea… am sipping my teacuppa.com white tea..probably wont stain much!

    rather weird art

  2. Hi Mary,

    It is rather weird but in the art market weird often equals controversial which often equals popular!!

    Nicholas Forrest

  3. Couldn’t agree more. Was thinking of buying at
    £75. Discovered it had risen to £120 (with an edituion of 1000!) and thought, that takes the biscuit! So 6 year old son made his own tea stain, signed it and gave it to me for Christmas. It doesn’t have Turk’s signature,
    but I’d already bought the half eaten biscuit at the car Boot Art Fair ’06

  4. Hi Ian,

    Good decision, the biscuit is definitely a better investment. Go the car boot sale!!!!

  5. visit my website http://www.worldofsteg.co.uk and tell me if my outsider art which i leave on the street is worth anything, i do have a gavin turk coffee stain picture which i swapped for a sigur ros cd

  6. Hi Dr. Adol Steg, great website and I like your artwork. Keep up the good work.

    Nicholas Forrest

  7. I have an original Gavin turk ( not a print)called Tea Chain ie several tea stains linked which is signed. does it have a value and is it worth keeping? Purchased in a newspaper charity auction

  8. Hi Spencer,

    Gavin Turk is a fantastic artist who is highly desirable and in demand. All the tea stain works are technically originals because each stain is different so there is really not much separating your work from the 1000 other tea stain works other than the multiple stains on yours. For this reason I would value your’s higher but not by much

  9. A) I think the tea stain was partly made so everyone could own a piece of Gavin Turk’s work. It doesn’t make sense to sell it for bugger-all so £120 is a very good price, investment or not. If you think 1000 is a lot look at Martin Creed, you can buy a screwed up piece of paper for £100 and this edition is unlimited.

    B) If you want to make an investment, you aint really going to make much on a work that cheap, even if you have it for years are you? If you want to make some money back you gota get risky with big cash.

    C)The person with the multiple stains, yours is worth more like £1000 because the editioned work discussed is a single stain in a specific place. There are very few unique versions of this work. It should have a unique title.

  10. Hi Seb,

    Thanks for the comment.

    My responses
    A. I consider 120 pounds for a tea stain rather expensive. Surely turk could have put a little more effort into the work even though it might be a work for the masses.

    B. You can just as much money percentage wise from a $10 work as you can a $1,000,000 work so no, you don’t have be risky and spend big cash

    C. The multiple stains are worth more but it is still just a stain. All of the 1000 tea stain works were slightly different by the way so they are all technically unique. Still just stains though.


  11. Hi Nick

    Thank for reply

    £120, not expensive for a Gavin Turk work. The effort involved in production means nothing when referring to conceptual art i’m afraid, if thats what you mean. Have you ever heard of Marcel Duchamp? The tea stain is a solid idea, a classic, one which has deep meaning and continuity, full of rich homages to art world discoveries.

    Yes I do understand percentages Nick. But why look at this as an example of bad investment? As you say in the last 4 years the tea stains have gone from £75 to £120, thats a fat increase i’d say, and that means all the people that did buy one have made a great investment. It means Turk’s work is going up in value. Whats the bad vibes man?

    The multiple stains are still just stains, yes, and the edition is all unique, yes, but there is a specific reason why the ‘unique’ tea stains exist. They are within the context of Gavin Turk’s oeuvre and have a reason for being which is unlike the edition, they all have individual elements going on, for whatever particular message, which make them individual thoughts, individual pieces.


  12. I FEEL SAD

    I feel sad for those people who weirdly are talking about their 6 yrs old kid who is able to make a tea stain on paper.
    What are we talking about here?
    God! Where have those people spent the past 100 years?! What did they look at? Listen to?…


    I feel good looking at the Tea Stain by Gavin Turk I purchased a few years ago at the White Cube Gallery.
    Why did I purchase this work? There are so many prints by so many artists produced since ever… What kind of print still “needs” to be made on the day of today?
    I found very right and so refreshing to see an artist issued from what they called “The Young British Art” making simple tea stains on paper.
    What better and more ironical a young British artist could create than a stain on paper from his mug full of breakfast tea? I find all the irony and interest from all the “Young British Art” movement resumed in this simple Tea Stain.
    Even if Turk made 1000 of them (and thanks God for that otherwise I would never have been able to purchase one) it is one of my favorite work by this great artist.


    I do not care much about knowing today if that was a good investment. That is not the approach I have with collecting art. However, we all know that limited editions are very rarely a great investment if thinking short term investment.
    Let’s look at it an other way: This kind of series gives the opportunity to some art collectors (like me) to purchase an original piece signed by such a great artist without spending millions and millions, doesn’t it?


    I considered purchasing some more Tea Stains by Turk but they are no longer available on the White Cube’s website.
    Does anyone here knows if they are totally sold out or simply on hold for a moment? (putting them on hold from sell being sometimes a strategy to artificially raise up the value on the market).

    Thanks and Regards,

    PS: Please forgive my broken English. English not being my first language…

  13. Эээ, объясните, пожалуйста, а то я че-то не совсем въехал в тему, это как?

  14. Хорошая статья, как и все предыдущие. Буду теперь и дальше следить .

  15. I think I saw the tea stain (and you can also take the biscuit) on their site – in dev still I think…

  16. Большое спасибо. Давно такое искал 🙂

  17. I just love this piece, and have proudly bought it. I have it framed in my kitchen and enjoy the arguments i have with people who at first don’t understand cause there mealy looking and not questioning.

    Cause by i’ve mastered this conversation down to 5 mins and am always content at how my guest will leave with a greater knowledge of the evolution of art in the last 160 years ( Gustave Courbet ,as they always start from the notion of “its not a constable”))

    The tea stain is a great example of where art is, and of Turks authorship work, has a perfect composition and sits silently knowing in any space.

    Can’t remember what i paid for it, but if it was 120 I’m still very happy, its one of the simplest but contains all the triggers of my favarite subjects, so i don’t care what it costs. i am greatly proud that i can relate to this tea stain due to my understanding of arts twists and turns in history.
    Some one who’s mind wouldn’t open to such a simple concept would not bother me. In fact i can’t even hear the voice of such a flat lander.

  18. thanks for posting this. it can help a lot. great job!

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