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Useful Tips on Collecting Prints

When it comes to collecting prints we listen closely. HLAA attended a lively panel discussion hosted by the ADAA (the Art Dealers Association of America) where connoisseurs, conservationists and collectors shared some valuable insider tips.

Esteemed panelists included: Jordan Schnitzer (Collector and publisher), Jacob Lewis (Director, Pace Prints), Deborah Wye (The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, Chief Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books, MoMA), Armin Kunz (Director, C. G. Boerner Gallery), and Terry Winters (renowned artist). Susan Sollins, the Executive Director, Art21 Foundation; Executive Producer & Curator, Art:21 served as moderator. Here are the takeaways from this venerable panel of experts.

The importance of prints
Critically acclaimed artist, Terry Winters urged everyone to treat all mediums equally for there is no hierarchy between mediums. It is about the line, and printing allows specific kinds of lines. It is not just about paint.

There is often a psychological barrier with print reproductions that they do not carry inherent value because more than one image was produced. People tend to think of reproductions as second-class works because they are not original. They have a hard time embracing prints as valuable or collectible objects. However, reproductions are simply a democratic approach when it comes to prints. Even old master printers never considered it as second-class.Specific skill sets are are required involving different techniques and methods such as etching, woodcut and lithograph. Each method has it’s own language so to speak. Picasso defined his prints according to the print maker whether it was Mourlot’s in 1930s, Coulie’s or Cromlink in the 1970s.

The print medium gives the artist independence and freedom to create. Prints often inform an artist’s creative process while expanding their output. James Ensor’s prints were so integral with his paintings that his paintings could not be shown without his prints.Changes in the printmaking field

We are experiencing a phenomenon today where the print market has gained in popularity exponentially. The fact that printmaking ateliers around the U.S. are being filmed by Art21 shows an increased interest in printmaking. This in stark contact where prints used to be disregarded as worthless with prices as low as $50. Now they are widely recognized as important art objects that require complicated techniques, specific materials and methods.  New developments in digital techniques for example, have opened up a whole new playing field where even classical printmaking has expanded.

Q & A:

Q: What are some useful tips on collecting prints?

A: Prints are all about the image. The edition number doesn’t matter in terms of determining value. Look at the condition of the print. For older prints ask if paper well preserved, washed, bleached etc. Know that a Monotype has 2 impressions. Pay attention to the quality of the impression. If the image is printed many times from copper plate or woodblock, it could have been damaged. Compare images, paper quality, condition, and look around as much as you can to gain experience.

Pay attention to details. For example, the margins may have been cut off due to tears. Up until 1950s prints were in albums. Narrow margins may add value because it shows it had a history in an albums.

Q. What are your thoughts about printmakers like Lucian Freud, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg?

A. For some artists paintings are a category of printmaking. Some paintings even come from their prints, for example, because the Bristling factor (raised ink from etching) gives the work more texture.

Q. How does one learn about prints and the different kinds?

The MoMA’s study center is available to the public and you can access an invaluable resource to help you do research.

Q. What period should one focus on when collecting?

A. Older prints are often more expensive so buy forward, don’t buy back. For example, Warhol’s prints were cheap when they just came out. So keep keen eye on contemporary market!

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