Buyer’s Guide: On the Wall

Ever wondered what a giclée print is? In the second instalment of our two-part series exploring quality versus quantity, Briony Downes breaks down the difference between art posters, limited edition prints and original works on paper.

Laura Horrocks, Colour Play II. Archival print on 210gsm acid free natural semi-textured matte paper, open edition, 84.1 x 59.4cm. Courtesy: the artist.

Art posters

The art poster can range in quality from those slipped into upright racks in chain stores to posters ordered at an art shop. Art posters are open edition, meaning there is no limit on how many are produced. Royalties from art poster sales can provide an artist, or their estate, with recurrent revenue. Art posters can offer the buyer size variations of their chosen print and a wide choice of artists from across history. They can be purchased relatively cheaply but paper quality is usually low. The easily replaceable art poster suits interiors where an original artwork is likely to be damaged over time, for example a bathroom with fluctuating temperatures and high condensation. 

Limited edition

A limited edition print or photograph means only a set number is available and once they have sold out, it will not become available again in the same way. The smaller the edition, the more valuable a print might become in the future. Some printers will even destroy the original print plates to ensure an image remains limited. Editioned prints can be less expensive when compared to an original work on paper, making them an ideal starting point for new collectors and those on a budget. Always make sure a limited edition artwork is signed and numbered by the artist, watermarked or officially embossed by their estate.

Paper and ink

The quality of printed images varies greatly, depending on the paper, the type of ink and printing method. Quality art reproductions will be printed on acid-free, archival quality cotton rag and last up to 100 years with minimal discolouration. When it comes to longevity, a giclée print is the go-to method for reproducing original artwork as it combines high resolution image scanning with a comprehensive selection of pigment-based inks. Most classic art is included in this bracket, like printed reproductions of work by Henri Matisse, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. In comparison, art posters are usually digital prints printed on high gloss paper with a limited four colour printing process. Unlike an original, an open edition reproduction generally doesn’t increase in value, but where else can you buy a Banksy for $150?

Originals

Original works on paper present a visual and creative immediacy, allowing the viewer a direct connection to the mark of the artist. As a result, original works on paper can be more expensive than limited edition prints. Unlike a lithograph or etching, an original can’t be reproduced in multiples and this restricted supply can lead to a higher price point. Artists like Brett Whiteley looked to drawing and painting on paper for the immediacy and space for experimentation it provided. Works on paper can reveal the intricacies of an artist’s style and they are often regarded as an important part of an artist’s overall practice.

Due credit 

Buying works on paper through art websites like Art Edit guarantees the artist will receive a portion of the sale price. On other platforms, look for the name of the artist on the work and in the image captions to ensure the maker is properly attributed. If there is no name attached, there is no guarantee the artwork is genuine. This is particularly true for Indigenous art. If in doubt, always purchase from an accredited Indigenous Art Centre to ensure the artist is credited and has been properly paid for their work.

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