Collector’s Handbook: How to Collect Art Prints?
Art Prints are unique medium within the art world, each with its own story and character. These pieces are not mere duplicates but are part of an exclusive lineage of artistry. The creation of a print involves the meticulous making of a plate, a process that is both time-consuming and rich in technique. Each impression made from the plate is considered an original work of art and a limited edition, making them highly collectible and sought after.
As a collector, you're not simply buying a piece of paper; you're investing in a slice of artistic heritage. Each print is a culmination of the artist's vision and the painstaking process that brings it to life. This guide aims to navigate you through the nuances of building a sophisticated print collection and diversifying your collection.
Is a print simply a duplicate of an original piece?
While printmaking does involve the replication of an image, it's much more than a mere copy of an original. Fine art prints are distinct creations, born from a collaborative effort between the artist and the print studio. Printers — the craftsmen who collaborate with artists to produce a print edition — are not only skilled technicians but often artists themselves.
Fine art prints aren't produced in mass for just commercial sale. Instead, a finite number of prints, known as an edition, are made, with clear paths for their initial sale through the artist, a gallery, or a publisher. Hence, they stand as genuine works of art, as significant to the artist as any drawing or paperwork.
Then there are giclee prints of original paintings or drawings, which aren’t really Art Prints! (Giclee is just a fancy word for artwork printed on an inkjet printer.)
What motivates artists to create prints?
Artists may be drawn to the collaborative environment of the art print studio, the innovative possibilities the medium offers, or the ability of prints to chronicle each phase of their creative journey. Art Prints can serve as an alternative artistic outlet to an artist’s main method of working.
Check out the wonderful prints from:
The Hamburger Kunsthalle Museum Collection: https://www.hamburger-kunsthalle.de/en/prints-and-drawings
Originals vs. editions and multiples — essential knowledge?
An 'original' art print is essentially a unique piece since it's typically produced as a limited set of impressions, collectively called an edition, with each print bearing an edition number written as a fraction — for example, "5/30". The right side of the slash shows the total edition size, while the left indicates the individual print's number.
Artists might also craft a limited set of artist's proofs, marked A/P, which are similar to the standard edition. These too can have fractional numbers indicating their count. Additional proofs, like state proofs, trial proofs, or color proofs, may be created during the image development process or to test various compositions. These proofs might be unique due to variances in color, paper type, or size. Andy Warhol, for instance, sold his trial proofs as distinctive color variations separate from the main edition, and they've become highly prized within his print market.
When the image is finalized, a bon à tirer proof is created and signed, ensuring the rest of the edition matches this standard. Traditionally, this proof is kept by the printer.
(Bon à tirer" is a French term that translates to "good to pull" or "ready to print." In the art world, particularly in printmaking, a "bon à tirer proof" is the final trial proof that the artist approves, setting the standard for the quality and appearance of all subsequent prints in the edition.)
Is a print 1 more valuable than a print 100?
Not at all. Each art print is made one by one and given a unique number, but the first print marked “1/100” is just as valuable as the last one marked “100/100”.
There's this false belief that lower-numbered prints are better, which isn't true. This misconception goes back over a century, when artists used copper plates for printing. Copper is soft, so as more art prints were made, the plates would wear down a bit, meaning prints with higher numbers might have less detail than the first ones. But now, with modern techniques, all art prints in an edition are of equal quality.
APRE Art House defines an 'original print' as a limited-edition print by an artist that aligns with other prints listed in their catalogue raisonné, or matches other verified examples of the artist's work. We work closely with our artists to ensure the prints originality and quality. Our entries detail how we've determined a print's authenticity, providing the artist's name, work title, print type, and creation year. We also explain the numbering and whether it's from the standard edition or a proof.
(A "catalogue raisonné" is a comprehensive, annotated listing of all the known artworks by an artist either in a particular medium or all media. The term is French, meaning "reasoned catalog" or "critical catalog." It typically includes details such as the title, date, medium, dimensions, and the current location of each work. Catalogues raisonnés serve as definitive reference books for collectors, scholars, and art dealers to authenticate works by an artist and to get a more complete understanding of an artist's body of work.)
Does the printmaking studio influence the price and quality?
APRE Art House also notes the studio where an art print was produced. This is verified through our artists who generally have their own print press, or at times, may use an external one. These studios range from large-scale operations with extensive equipment to small setups. For modern master’s, collectors often follow specific studios, collecting many of their prints, recognizing the studio's historical importance in printmaking and the quality of work produced there.
Some studios mark their prints with a blind stamp as a seal of production authenticity.
Are all prints signed, and what if they lack an artist’s signature?
Most art prints sold at APRE Art House are signed, but not all. Even Warhol and Picasso sometimes used stamp signatures, and some portfolio editions were only signed on the title page. An initialed art print also retains the same value, all the works from APRE are directly sourced from the Artist Studios and thus we can verify the work’s originality.
How significant is the paper choice in prints?
A true art print specialist's expertise is shown not only in their knowledge of techniques but also in their fascination with paper. Our records mention the print's paper type and any watermarks.
The paper selection is crucial in printmaking as it can affect the final image's appearance. Some artists prefer thinner papers, and some prefer a higher GSM to work with, lending the paper’s visual quality to the overall work. The condition report that we provide also addresses whether the print retains its full sheet or margins.
To read about GSM: https://www.solopress.com/blog/tutorials/what-is-gsm-paper-weight/
What role do prints play in a broader collection?
Art prints can diversify a collection, offering insights into an artist’s broader practice, often reflecting themes and designs found in their other works. They are the perfect entry points for young collectors and retain their value just like other mediums of art.
At APRE, we present a curated collection of art prints. Our experts are well-versed in the subtleties and complexities of printmaking, providing insights that enhance the appreciation of each piece. Our artists like Anandamoy Banerjee, whose work was a highlight of our 2022 exhibition "Singing The Body Electric," blend classic printmaking techniques with serigraphy and digital methods. Similarly, Chhering Negi and Shripad Gurav infuse their prints with local narratives and personal experiences, showcasing the versatility of printmaking as a conduit for contemporary expression and cultural dialogue.
To wrap things up, art prints are a great place to start if you're new to collecting art. For newcomers, they provide an accessible entry point into the art collecting world, allowing you to familiarize yourself with different styles. And for the seasoned collector, art prints can add breadth and variety to your collection, introducing new dimensions to your existing array of artworks. They embody both the essence of the artist's vision and the tangible skill of the printmaker, making each piece a valuable component of any collection. So, no matter if you're just beginning or have been collecting for a while, prints are a smart and fulfilling choice that can be added to your collection.