Guide to Editions and Prints
Collecting photographs, serigraphs and multiple prints is an uncomplicated and affordable way to start your own art collection. However, it may be complex to understand how the world of reproduced art such as photography, screen printing, lithography, digital art and other media works.
At Artig Gallery we want to help you understand the world of limited editions, open editions and original prints, so we put together a few helpful definitions and a simple guideline so you can start or expand your collection.
As we all know photography is a medium without an original, unique artwork, the artist is always able to print the same photograph an endless number of times based on a single negative or original file, just like in other disciplines such as screen printing, lithography and other print techniques.
It is rather difficult to establish an economic value to a piece of art that can be reproduced in the future, that’s why the art world has established a system of numbered editions that assures the collector that the piece he acquires has a certain value. The following concepts will help us understand this system recognized by international artists, gallery owners and collectors.
At first, the artist creates the first “original” print, which is a work of art created from a master image transferred to a durable material such as paper, fabric, etc. The artist uses this first image to create other impressions of the artwork. Its artistic and economic value is elevated and may appreciate in the future.
Prior to achieving the “original print”, some artists perform different print proofs, called artist’s proofs (AP). They help the artist to assess the quality of the print and material and let him or her undertake changes or other modifications. APs are not included in an edition count as they are generally reserved for the publisher, and their economic value is lower than the original print's value, but can sometimes be sold as a special AP edition from the artist, usually after selling the edition.
Once the artist decides how the original work should turn out, he or she decides to create a series of copies through lithography, etching, from the master image, in certain sizes, called an Edition. These prints are based on an artistic process, which is why they can retain their economic value over time.
In an open edition, the printmaking process is unlimited, meaning that there can be as many impressions of the master image as desired or as many as the original print material and plate allow. For a collector however, an open edition does not hold the same value as a limited edition.
In a limited edition, the artist decides a fixed number of prints or copies, which will not be changed in the future. The lower the number of copies of the image, the more increases the economic and artistic value. Many artists offer small limited editions between 3 and 20 copies with an elevated collector’s value, in general however the number varies according to the artist, the size and the estimated value of the work.
Sometimes paintings are reproduced based on a photograph taken of the artwork. This type of multiple is called a photographic reproduction print, which may or may not be numbered and has usually less investment potential than original prints.
So how can the collector ensure that the artwork in his collection is part of a limited edition, and that the value of it will remain over time?
The best way to acquire a work that forms part of a limited edition is ensuring the total number of prints that have been done, and the specific number of the print you are about to purchase. In order to establish that, all multiple prints should show, a part from the signature of the artist, a handwritten number of the copy separated by the number of the total edition. For example, the markings “5/10” on a limited edition artwork means that you are holding the 5th prints of a total series of 10 prints in your hand. Markings are usually hand-drawn by the artist with a pencil, in order to avoid any digital reproductions. On the other hand, if the work acquired isn’t numbered, it is possible that the artist reproduces the original image an infinite number of times, lowering or eliminating the value of the piece.