Reading the Fine Print | What Makes a Reproduction Print Collectable?
Part 3 of our 'Reading the Fine Print' mini series.
The world of prints is surprisingly nuanced. For both emerging and established collectors, prints represent a cornucopia of diverse and accessible art. But figuring out the intricacies of prints can be tricky. That’s why we’re tackling some of the basics. In this article, we are looking at what makes some reproduction prints collectable.
What is a reproduction print?
The difference between an original and a reproduction print lies with artistic intention. If an artist intends to create an etching - then no matter how many times it is printed, each print will constitute an original work of art. If however, a work was originally a painting and then photographed to make prints, the subsequent prints are reproduction prints.
Different types of reproduction prints
Not all reproduction prints are created equal. The differences lie with production value, rarity and how involved the artist is. Depending on these factors, some reproduction prints will be seriously collectible.
Take the limited edition archival pigment print of Charles Blackman’s 1956 painting ‘Feet Beneath the Table’. To create this print entailed the artist, publisher, museum and artisan printmakers. First, the publisher obtained a sharp high-resolution photograph of the painting - in this case, Feet Beneath the Table was photographed from the National Gallery of Victoria. The file was then transferred to master printers, who work with state-of-the-art machinery and archival quality materials. These experts also consulted with the artist and his representatives to ensure the reproduction rigorously aligned with the palette of the original painting. Satisfied, Charles himself signs and editions the print.
Are reproduction prints collectable?
Reproduction prints like ‘Feet Beneath the Table’, testify to the skill of a masterful team while also connecting to the artist himself. They also have the potential to be extremely collectable - just consider Brett Whiteley's limited edition offset lithographic print ‘The Arrival’. In 1988, the edition of 150 signed prints were published by Time magazine to commemorate the Australian Bicentenary. Despite being a relatively large edition and only one of a few reproductive runs in his oeuvre, these prints become some of Whiteley’s most valued. In fact, between 2005-2006 auction prices for the ‘The Arrival’ peaked at over $27 000.
‘The Arrival’ gives us a clue about the evolving priorities of collectors. Sometimes, the desirability of an image is more important than whether it’s original according to technique. For artists like Whiteley and Blackman this makes total sense. In this way, reproduction prints can be the highest quality, value and a sweet entry point for burgeoning collectors.