Sunday, November 20, 2011

Buyer's Guide Part Deux

©2011 Patricia Scarborough  County Rd 2  5x7 oil on linen covered panel  Available at Graham Gallery
Many of you are interested in buying art.  As I recall, last week's post was about that very thing. With an abundance of venues, styles and opinions to guide you, it can be a bit overwhelming. 
In the same way that you would educate yourself before buying a car or a washing machine, it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into when buying an art piece for your home. And because I like you, I’m going to help you out.
Knowing some of the language can make the difference between leaving a gallery feeling secure in your investment of time and money, or waking up weeks later feeling doubtful.
Let’s come to terms:
Too many artists, gallerists, and people in general use this term incorrectly.  And sorry, just because everyone’s doing it doesn’t make it okay.
©2011 Mavis Penney  "Climbing" 3" x 5.5" linocut
The term “print” in the art world refers to a specific kind of creative work; lithograph, etching, wood-cut or mezzotint.  The artist is deeply involved in the actual creation of these works, which involves cutting, scraping, drawing or scratching on a special surface and then running through a press once, or multiple times. A print is numbered and signed by the artist.  The top number indicates the actual number of the print, while the bottom number indicates the number of total prints made. The notation A/P indicates an artist’s proof, which is generally deemed more valuable since it is used by the artist to make changes or to validate the first printing. It is also generally agreed that the smaller number of total prints gives them more value than if, say, 50,000 of them were made since the printing process will degrade the quality of the print microscopically each time it is run through the press.  This is why those prints closer to 1 are possibly more valuable than those prints numbered higher.
This is where it gets sticky.  Many people refer to reproductions as "prints". I’ve noticed that many galleries and artists are among those mis-using the term. Whereas a print is considered an original piece of art, a reproduction is a copy of an original.  It’s a subtle, but major difference. Kind of like the difference between an organic tomato grown locally, and one of these hothouse vegetables grown in a giant warehouse under fluorescent lighting.  Same thing, only very different. 
In that same vein comes the term “giclee” (zhee-clay, pronounced with your pinkies out).  This is simply a French word meaning ink-jet.  Giclee printing, developed in the 1980’s, uses long-lasting inks on high quality paper for fine art reproduction. Many artists are using giclee printing to reproduce their work for those collectors who are interested in a low-cost alternative to buying an original piece. 
Regardless of the way in which it was produced, a reproduction can be run in unlimited numbers, making them considerably less valuable than many buyers realize.
Reproductions of paintings by Patricia Scarborough. Available in greeting cards by the jillions.


©2011 Patricia Scarborough  Fresh Water  5x7 oil available at the Museum of Nebraska Art gift shop. Only one of its kind. Worth every penney.

This is another term whose meaning has lost its way.  Archival means the ability to be archived, or saved in a special place.  When people use the term in discussing the quality of an art piece, they are talking about its  durability, as in how long one can expect it to hang on a wall or sit on a pedestal before age or the environment begin to take its toll and cause changes.  Many works on paper can be affected by the acid content in the pulp used to make the paper, causing yellowing over time. The main thing to consider is this: How long, really, do you want this thing to last?  If you’re shelling out a large chunk of money to pay for an original piece for your living room, you’ll want to know that in 10, 40 or 80 years your purchase will be as beautiful then as it is now.   If however, you are in the market for something to match the curtains in a guest room, ask yourself if the expense of a durable piece of art is necessary, since you’ll probably be changing curtains in the next decade anyway. 
It’s not a huge issue, since the intent is to communicate quality.  The term has become a marketing tactic used by all but the pure at heart. 

Birdbath by Patricia Scarborough  7x9 pen & ink on typing paper .  The yellowing was caused by acid in both the cheap paper and mat. 

Just like it sounds.  You will enjoy texture and quality of color unlike any reproduction no matter how fancy the name.  Originals are quite often more affordable that you think. Plus, you, and only you, get to hang it on your wall.

I’m not saying do not buy a print or a reproduction of a 2-d piece of art you love (whether it's on fine linen or typing paper). Absolutely not. I am saying that you should simply be aware of what you are shelling out your hard earned cash for. If you are covering a hole in the wall in an apartment you’ll be leaving when you graduate, go for a less expensive reproduction by all means. If, however, you are looking for something that will make you smile for the next 40 years and will be fought over by your heirs, consider the quality of the materials and the way it was produced.
 Buy a Jaguar XJ, or buy a Ford Pinto; they both have tires and steering. One will get you there, and one will get you there in style while your neighbors stand by wishing they were you.

©2011 Patricia Scarborough Spring on the Far Bank 5 x 7 oil on linen covered board  Available at The Burkholder Project.

1 comment:

Hannah said...

Patty--good description of the processes used to create that nebulous term "art." I've noticed that a lot of people do play fast and loose with the term "print'--thanks for returning us to "true" (pinkie stuck out here) meaning of the word!