If you’re new to the art world, you may find some of the terminology quite confusing. If you are looking for some work to hang over the mantelpiece and you’re in discussions with a gallerist, sometimes they may start using vocabulary that you aren’t fully familiar with. It happens to the best of us. That’s why we’ve put together an explanation of some terminology that would hopefully make navigating the art world a little easier.
Multiples and prints have always taken the backseat in the art marketplace. However, in more recent years, these categories have become increasingly popular. With a surge of younger art collectors on the scene, prints and multiples all cater to their budget, more-so than one-off paintings or sculptures. And dealers, gallerists and auction houses are all adapting their shop front to accommodate this increasing demand.
THE PRINTING TECHNIQUE
“A print is an impression made by any method involving transfer from one surface to another”
Some print techniques include engraving, which involve making small cuts in a metal plate which holds the ink. The printed image is transferred when the metal plate is pressed onto paper. This technique can also be done using wood (aptly called, wood engraving).
Stencil art is a printing process that passes paint over a cardboard (or metal) cut-out design and transferred onto another surface. Although this printing technique has been in practice since the 8th Century, it has gone through a revival through the street art movement. Artists such as Blek Le Rat commonly use stencil art.
Another technique is screen printing, which is a type of stencil art. A screen, commonly silk, is stretched taut across a wooden frame. The image appears through the screen and the artist pushes the paint through the screen, where the image is transferred onto another material.
There is also monoprint, which is unique to all other printing techniques because the image can only be made once. Here, the process involves using a reprintable block, like an etching plate, but incorporates detail that makes the image unique, such as a hand-painted design.
Popular artists that practise the printing technique include Andy Warhol, who used silk-screen printing to create some of his most famous pieces of art such as ‘Campbell’s Soup Can’ (1964).
AN ARTIST’S MULTIPLE
Multiples are typically associated with objects, sculptures or installation pieces. The technique is the most accessible form of art on the market, which tends to be reasonably priced and value for money. Commonly used for commercial reasons, artists are able to sell their work without compromising their artistic integrity.
Multiples are usually sold in editions, to ensure that the art holds some level of value. Jeff Koons for example sells smaller versions of his large-scale sculptures in editions. They are more affordable for collectors to purchase but also retain the value of the work.
SO, WHAT’S AN EDITION?
This is where things can get a little confusing. You may have noticed that the term ‘edition’ has been mentioned earlier in this article. That’s because multiples and prints are usually sold in editions, or limited editions.
Every artwork in an edition is identical and most artists will often sell limited editions in number order, to decipher the difference. For example, if the work is sold in an edition of 30, an artist may number the work 5/30. This is called a ‘print run number’. If the artwork is successful and there’s a high demand for it, a gallery may increase the price of the prints as they sell. If this is the case, then edition 30/30 will be more expensive than 1/30 because it was the last of that edition.
Most artists may also sign the print at the bottom right of the piece. In doing this, the artist approves the prints and acknowledges the work as their own (you may sometimes find a second signature, which would be the print maker). A signed piece of artwork holds more value than an unsigned one. So, when looking at edition artwork, it’s better if you opt for a signed version.
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