"Affordable" art

I’ve put the word affordable in quotes, because I realize that will mean something different to different people. I’ll be upfront here and say that I haven’t got a ton of money to spend - my max expenditure would be under $1000 - so we’re obviously not in the realm of Christie’s, but perhaps a tad better than Art.com. :wink:

Here’s what I’m wondering about:

Is there a substantive difference in artistic and/or true commercial value for 1) a limited edition fine art print signed by the artist, 2) a limited edition giclée on paper or canvas signed by the artist, or 3) a signed artist’s proof giclée on canvas or paper?

The artist in question is very well known and has won awards as an illustrator but within a limited field, so I can’t say he’s world famous. His reproduction artwork is only available through his own web store. (I could never afford an original. :() He offers the various options I’ve listed above with each option getting progressively more expensive (the max price given is for an unframed signed artist’s proof, as a 20" x 30" print, is $595).

I like the artwork, regardless. I would be willing to pay a bit more for something like the signed artist’s proof if I felt more comfortable about the price differential being genuine and not just a number plucked out of the air by a marketing consultant.

For those of you more art-savvy than me, any comments or suggestions that might help me make up my mind?

First of all, a giclée print is more or less an inkjet print. That isn’t to say it’s worthless, and wonderful things are being done with semi-archival inks and specialty papers- the field is growing more and more sophisticated almost by the day. Even so, I say semi-archival because none of the technology/materials involved has been around long enough for anyone to know how well the art object in question will hold up. I would expect a really top quality inkjet print (or “giclée” for the pretentious/marketing minded) to last for decades, where a really top-quality lithograph or etching can last for centuries. That is neither here nor there, since it appears that all the offerings are giclée, and you want this are to have and hang, not necessarily pass down to your grandchildren.

“Limited Edition” is somewhat of a nebulous term when applied to digitally-generated work, since theoretically an unlimited number of physically identical proofs can be “pulled” from a given file- there can be no official striking of the plate* or breaking of the stone. You have to trust the artist when he says that only, say, 50 proofs were created, and that none will be created in the future, potentially lowering the “value” of your proof.

“Artist’s Proof” refers to a small number of prints, not included in the numbering of the edition (so, if the edition size is 50, meaning that the numbered proofs are labeled 1/50, 2/50, 47/50 etc- there are actually 50 + (number of Artist’s Proofs) “identical” multiples of that work.) These are for many reasons considered more valuable, I tend to think in part because of the idea that the Artist has a personal hand in their distribution, either by giving them away or selling them directly, not through a dealer. This makes for an interesting provenance later on. Ethically, the number of Artist’s proofs should equal 10% of the edition proper- so if the Edition size is 50, there should only be 5 Artist’s Proofs. This is definitely something you should ask before you buy if you go for that option.

In answer to your final question, the price differential is most definitely rooted in tradition, not random marketing, but it’s up to you to decide whether that is important or not. You didn’t ask, but I’d go for a print on paper in either case- but that’s just because I love paper and I think that inkjet on canvas is kind of gimmicky. That may depend on the work, though, and of course your personal taste.

Can you post a link to the work? I’ve typed all this out and now I’m curious…
*Traditionally, at the end of a print run, the artist or printer of an etching or lithograph would/will deface the matrix- making a big ugly scratch on the plate or breaking the stone, to ensure that more proofs can’t be pulled by unscrupulous folks down the road.

PS. my credentials= a BFA in printmaking and a general interest in the business ethics of art sales, and a more than healthy cynicism where “marketing terms” are concerned. Don’t get me started on “serigraphs”! I’m sure I’m forgetting stuff and smart dopers will be along to fill in the gaps/call out my bullshit.

Thanks so much for your perspective - it really is helpful.

Here is an example of one what’s being offered:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/5v6rvt (TinyURL because otherwise I’d be scrolling off the page, preview so that you know I’m not rick-rolling you)

In this case, I see that he says there are 100 limited addition prints and 7 artist’s proofs (you need to click on the double down arrows for details), so that conforms with what you’ve written. This particular print is also only available on paper, whereas others are on canvas only… not that that matters all that much to me, though there’s a price differential for that too.

It had to happen. GET STARTED ON SERIGRAPHS! :wink:

Thank you so much for your explanation of how that stuff works.

Just as an aside, my mother has spent her life buying artwork. Do you know what she gets the most comments on and the most enjoyment out of?

A painting of a chicken head she bought at an art show at my high school, 23 years ago. You may be surprised what you find. Art after all, comes from many places.