In recent weeks, a hot topic amongst artists I know has been the proliferation of methods and means of creating reproductions of original art work. Here we're talking about everything from one-of-a-kind monotypes to color Xerox copies made from snapshots taken by the artists themselves. Retail prices can range from figures in the thousands of dollars to less than ten dollars. Artists, even those who can sort through the myriad technologies and have a keen knowledge of the advantages and shortcomings of each process, nonetheless feel threatened and dismayed at what all is happening out there. And given that fact, the worst part seems to be the consensus that the buying public has largely given up on understanding the qualitative and
Here is a case where the technological terminology of printmaking has become so esoteric that confusion arises and anarchy reigns. Most of the problem is the term "print" itself. At one time, the only "real" print was the hand-pulled, signed, and numbered editions by artists themselves. And if you want to be a purist, ANYTHING else is a mere copy regardless of the kind of machine that produces it or the quality (archival or otherwise). Years ago, when artists first began to see their work mechanically reproduced, my guess is there was probably somewhat a feeling of mixed emotions on the subject. Naturally some artists were quick to exploit such developments while others must have cringed. Worse, that was THEN, this is NOW. With the dozens of methods now available to reproduce original art images I see no prospect of the general public coming to grips with the good, bad, and ugly in this area.
My own experience has been that the customer looks first at the content (subject, style, artist's competence, etc) , then the price, then the size, then the colors in deciding whether to purchase ANY type of artwork. And in the case of print buyers, the price perhaps takes on even greater importance. Even if we assume that each process is going to be accurately labeled and marketed, (which is by no means a safe assumption), now, as never before, I think we have to say, "Let the buyer beware." Anyone who is going to get into buying printed "art" work of any kind had better know what they're doing or they have no room to complain. I may sound cynical, but my feeling is that the average buyer of this sort of thing is merely looking for a pretty picture to hang on the wall for a few years until they tire of it or redecorate the den. Because of this, and as I pointed out in the beginning, it's the ARTISTS who get so prickly about the distinctions involved in printed reproductions.