Buyer’s Guide: What are editioned artworks?


Mardi Cavana, Rust. Acrylic on canvas, 122 x 91.5cm.

What is an edition?

An editioned work is an artwork made specifically for reproduction on a limited scale. Artists can create editions from mediums as varied as photography, painting and video to the most popular forms of editioned pieces – prints and sculptures. To create an edition, artists work closely with printers and manufacturers through every step of the process, adjusting colours and textures to ensure the final pieces are an accurate reflection of their work.

Numbers and proofs

Every edition includes an artist proof – a final version of the work produced for the artist to approve. Mardi Cavana regularly creates editioned prints of her paintings and she explains the difference. “An artist’s proof is a print the artist will receive to check the quality and colour of the image they’re creating. It might differ from the edition prints slightly but will still be signed by the artist and marked as an artist’s proof or AP. The artist’s proof can sometimes be more valuable than an edition, especially if there is something unique about it, like written notes from the artist.”

Made to last

When it comes to prints, an editioned work is designed to last longer than a mass-produced poster. Editioned prints are usually printed on fine art paper, also called archival cotton rag, which is thicker and less glossy, resulting in the deeper saturation of colour provided by archival inks. When framed and stored correctly, an editioned print can last up to 100 years, maintaining its original quality without the risk of fading or discolouration.

What makes it special?

Officially produced in association with the artist or their estate, editioned pieces are usually numbered and signed by the artist. While their price point is friendlier to your pocket than an original, editions can still contain unique elements that set them apart from a simple reproduction. “I am often surprised by artworks that just work better as prints. The depth of colours on crisp white paper can bring a new dimension to an artwork,” says Mardi.

Collecting editions

Priced significantly lower than an original, editioned works are an affordable investment for new buyers. “I love that editions give buyers access to a quality piece of art in an economical yet still exclusive format,” says Mardi. Modern printing and manufacturing processes remain consistent from start to finish, making each piece identical in quality. This means the value of an editioned work generally remains the same despite being numbered 1 of 50 or 50 of 50.

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