A Fine Art Print Primer: Fraone’s Tips For Collectors

Andy Warhol, Superman (F. & S. II.260), 1981, screenprint in colors with diamond dust, 38” by 38”, signed in pencil and numbered 193/200 (total edition includes 30 artist’s proofs), from the Myths portfolio, on Lenox Museum Board, with the blindstamp of the printer, Rupert Jasen Smith, New York, and the inkstamps of the artist and the publisher, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., New York, on the verso, framed Sheet. Sold for $206,250 by Sotheby’s New York, Prints & Multiples, April 27, 2017-April 28, 2017, Lot 103, property from a Private Collection; courtesy Sotheby’s New York.



By Gina Fraone

Fine art prints occupy a somewhat odd place in the art market. Because a print is usually something that can be created in multiples, that can lead some folks to conclude that prints are not to be taken as seriously as other artworks, like paintings and drawings. But to the aficionado, fine art prints are held to the same aesthetic criteria as any other art object. Is the technique used to create the object well executed? Is the composition fresh, inventive or timeless? Is the subject of the picture engaging?

Besides there being more than one of the same print, collectors some- times get hung up the idea that the artist may have played only a part in the creation of the print. It bothers some that technicians may have been involved in carrying out the actual printing process. (Of course, some artists handle every aspect of their printing, particularly artists who create digital prints.) Personally, I don’t find this a compelling argument in relation to other forms of art-making. Even when creating unique works of art, artists will often employ skilled assistants and technicians to finish a work or a piece, whether it’s painting the background of a large canvas or casting a sculpture in bronze. The goal is to always make the finest finished product possible.

As an art advisor, one of the most frequent questions I have fielded over the years is about edition sizes. First of all, they want to know, what is an edition? And how much does the edition size really matter to the value of the print?

When it comes to printmaking, the term “edition” means the number of prints made. The modern convention of numbering editions didn’t start until around the late 18th century. Therefore, it would be a red flag to see an edition number on a print that was supposed to have been printed in an earlier period.

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