Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Print Editioning

Most art collectors have become familiar with the numbers written at the bottom of prints. These scribbles are edition numbers, referring to the amount of prints an artist chooses to make of a single image. There are two ways to approach making an edition, either with a numbered edition or a limited edition. Numbered editions do not set a predetermined number of prints; whereas a limited edition sets a finite amount of prints that will be produced. Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages. So how does an artist choose which approach to use in his/her art making? And if they choose a limited edition, how do they choose the number of prints to make?

In printmaking, limited editions are necessary due to the nature of production. Printmaking plates (done on surfaces such as copper, wood, and stone) must be inked and run through a press for every print and, in turn, causes a deterioration of the plate and lower quality of the image. In contrast, the purpose of limited editions in photography can cause confusion. The process of using a negative to make a photograph poses no damage to the negative. Since no degradation is caused to the negative, why does the artist only print a limited amount of images?

Usually, these limited editions have more to do with artistic choice than artistic necessity. It's simple: the higher the price of a print, the fewer buyers there will be. The number of prints in an edition greatly depends on the artists intent for the life of the image and how widespread they want their image to be. If a large amount of prints are made, the cheaper they will be and this results in more available buyers. This allows the art to be seen by a wider audience and to sell quicker. But some artists have developed a more finite approach, where they make fewer prints for more money. The artist chooses a set number of prints to make and will not go back on their choice. Some photographers even destroy their negatives after making their limited edition to ensure that no new prints can be made. Once these prints are sold if a new buyer really wants the image they must now buy from a private owner. This process drives up the price even more.

Deciding the number of the edition can be based on a variety of factors such as size, intricacy, deadlines, and how much time making a print will consume. It is important for consumers to understand that an artists puts manual labor into every individual print, and the number of prints made greatly depends on the available time and energy of the artist. Artists are constantly on a schedule to produce work so deadlines become a deciding component in the amount of prints made. The number of prints an artist chooses to make also depends on the purpose they intend for their art. If the intent is to be more exclusive, they will produce fewer prints, but for a higher price per print. If the intent is to provide their art to a larger market of viewers then they will create more prints at a more affordable price. Overall, there is no standard, no rules, and no guide when it comes to editioning prints. Artists must contemplate how they wish their art to be perceived and bought before making their final decision.

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