I need advise on artwork

I was walking to class the other day and along the route there is a small art gallery. Usually I glance at what is visible in the windows and keep walking. This time, I saw a painting that mesmerized me. It stopped me in my tracks and I haven’t been able to get it off my mind since. I went into the gallery to ask about the piece and the fellow I spoke with said it’s an “enhanced serograph.” I’ve found the definition for it on the web, but haven’t found any advisory information on buying something like this. It’s a numbered piece of 250 that comes with a certificate, is museum-quality framed, etc.

I know nothing about art. If anyone can give me some advise about buying a piece like this before I drop $4,000 on it, I would really be grateful! I’m not looking for an investment or anything that will be worth more money in the future. I’m just wondering if this sounds like it’s outrageously overpriced…

If you need more information to let me know I’m stupid, it’s called Chrysalis and the artist is Debra Sievers.

I could think of no better place than a Dopers thread to get advice!

of Gordon’s Print Price Annual, Leonard’s Annual Price Index, Falk’s Print Price Index (all annual records of auction prices), Lawrence’s Dealer Print Prices, Contemporary Print Portfolio, and the Printworld Directory

The term is “serigraph” and this is just a highfalutin’ term that artists use because a serigraph sounds a lot more expensive than “silk screen print.” An enhanced serigraph usually means something was manually applied, drawn, or painted on top of the print after the silk screening was finished. Sometimes these enhancements are merely a few touches, just intended to give buyers a supposedly “unique” artwork. Sometimes the enhancements are more extensive.
One of the biggest issues in pricing of serigraphs is how many impressions are on each print. In other words, how many separate colors were silkscreened onto the print. Most color printing you’ve seen in magazines etc. are 4-color CMYK printing, but serigraphs tend to use solid colors other than CMYK. I’ve seen serigraphs with as many as 32 impressions, each of a separate color, and these can be REALLY expensive. As you might suspect, some prints are damaged and made unusable due to technical flaws in each impression, and an edition with 32 colors has many more opportunities to wreck prints than a print with only 6 or 7 colors.
I cannot really answer your question about whether the print is worth $4000. I don’t know the artist and I can’t see the print to inspect it firsthand. A good way to measure the value of a print is to check the secondary market, see what that print would sell for if you tried to sell it to a gallery. Unfortunately, this is almost impossible for people outside the art world.
The big question remains: is it worth $4000 to YOU? That is the only question that matters. Buy the print because you LIKE it, not as an investment. Only the blue-chip artists are likely to increase in price over time. And I assure you, you can’t even touch the really BIG artists’ prints for $4000. I routinely see prints by big artists selling at galleries for upwards of $30,000.

oops, i was going to give you some catalogues of prices.

Actually found a picture of it here:
http://www.visionsfineart.com/sievers/detail/chrysalis.html

Though they say its a print run of only 175 and it’s described as a Giclee on canvas which elsewhere I find a price of 4050.00 where they say is “a French word which describes the effects of digital printing ink jets that create a color image on pager. A digital printer called an Iris printer is used to creat the artwork. The original work or art is photographed or scanned into a computer where colors can be corrected and enhanced. The images is sent off to the printer for final imaging. The Giclee has become one of the fastest growing new mediums of our time, and is considered a high quality printing method.”

This is a higher quality then a normal print. I know that Bateman, who probably has a bigger print market than anyone, sometimes puts out a small giclee on canvass edition alongside the normal paper print run which sell for about that price or more. Bateman originals are worth a fortune though and his on canvas print runs are usually under 100. On the other hand one would think the 1000 or so paper copies make it worth less.

She doesn’t seem to be a terribly well known artist but other prices at the same galleries seem reasonable so I am a bit baffled. There is probably a reason though. I don’t think there is much question that its high end for a print.

Personally I would never spend that kind of money for a print. To me they are just high priced posters.

AHA!! If your gallery represented an Iris Inkjet print as a serigraph, they are a bunch of thieving liars, or else ignorant as all hell.
I was one of the first Iris printers in the world, and I regret to inform you that there is NO Iris print in the world that is worth $4000. There isn’t even an Iris print in the world worth $200. Iris prints, despite what everyone says, are NOT archival. If you buy this “giclee” (another highfalutin term designed to give an art-historical cachet to a cheap inkjet print) it will fade away after a very short time on display. Even cheap 4-color posters will outlast any Iris print, even with their new “archival” inks. The whole giclee/Iris archivality issue is something I’ve been battling against for years. It is a fraud. If someone sells you a print for $4000, it damn well better have a longer display life than 3 or 4 years. Even the inks rated for longterm stability, with claims of 50 to 100 years display life have turned out to have lifetimes as short as 6 months. Scitex (they make the Iris printers) specifically says there is no such thing as an archival Iris print, the printer is intended for proofing and the prints are guaranteed for color accuracy for about 48 hours.
RUN away from this dealer. DO NOT BUY IRIS PRINTS as fine art objects. For the kind of money they ask for Iris prints, you could easily buy a real print (like a real serigraph) that will last for hundreds of years. At least a real print will not fade away within your lifetime.
And don’t forget, this edition is supposedly 175 prints. They can crank out as many of them as they want. In the art world, scarcity determines the value of a product (in part). With digital prints, you have no way to determine how many prints really exist. Your gallery says it’s an edition of 250, the net source says it’s an edition of 175, which leads me to believe there are already more than one edition, and at least 425 prints out there already. With a real print, the final print is a “cancellation print” which has a big X scratched across the plate, then printed to prove that no more prints can be made. I’ve seen galleries selling “limited edition” prints that number in the tens of thousands. They are worthless.
Sorry to get off on a rant here, but as one of the original Iris printers in the world, and a fine artist, I feel obligated to defend poor consumers from being defrauded by unscrupulous galleries that misrepresent cheap products that cost pennies to make, and sell them for thousands of dollars.

Thanks for clearing that up, I wasn’t familiar with the term myself but it didn’t seem terribly impressive.

Was the art community as a whole conned by this for a time?

Yep, the con job continues too, and it’s getting worse. More and more people are determined to sell Iris prints at premium prices. It’s a huge con job. Even worse are the smaller prints now being sold as giclee that are made on consumer-grade inkjets like the Epson or Canon printers. I’ve started to see them in galleries at astonishingly high prices. Some of these prints have faded away or developed huge color shifts in mere weeks. It’s sickening to see people defrauded in this manner. For serious money, you deserve the best quality materials and processes the artist could use. They’re selling cheap low-quality prints that cost $4 to produce, into a market that has traditionally been a labor intensive product of highly trained artists. People see the same gallery prices on a giclee and an expensive serigraph, and assume they are the same thing.

Thank you, Ned and Chas.E for all the information. The piece I’m looking at looks the same as the one found on the net, but I don’t think it’s from the same glicee lot that’s on the website. The fellow from the gallery explained serigraph as like a screenprint on canvas. He also said the embellishment on this particular one is “thick” (I think). When I looked at it, it totally looks like an oil painting. He could have sold it to me as a straight up original oil for all I know. I was mostly wondering about the whole payng lots of money for a reproduction idea. Or should I say print? Reproduction is probably a whole different thing…

Anyway, thanks again for letting me know more about what this print stuff is all about. I’m definitely not trying to purchase a work that will become some great investment, I’ve never purchased art like this before and probably won’t again. This one piece, though, is really stunning to me. So as long as I know prints can be sold for even more than I’m paying, I don’t feel so silly. Not that feeling silly would stop me!

But one other thing… Since it’s painted over on the front, is there a way to tell if it’s an Iris print, and not a serigraph, from the back? Even though I didn’t have any strange feelings about the gallery owner (I’m usually pretty good about getting creepy feelings from bad people) I guess it’s a good idea to be able to tell the difference.

I dont see any of those prints in ebay.com

As an art business person, a print like that is not going to appreciate in value. Shucks, I would barely pay $4k for the original.

However, why not just copy the picture to your computer & print it out & make a nice frame for it? Cost $0.00

A few points:

Even if the embellishment is thick, it is usually only applied in spots. This is supposed to simulate thick impasto brushstrokes in oil painting.

Most “fine-art” Iris prints are printed on canvas, but I have never heard of a serigraph being printed on canvas. I am 98% sure that this is an iris print. But there are two surefire ways to tell them apart:

The hard way: Examine the print with a magnifying glass, especially in the lightest areas of the print. Unfortunately, this requires some expertise in knowing what the dot pattern of an Iris looks like vs a serigraph. It is quite distinctive. I could do it, but you probably couldn’t. I wouldn’t drop $4k on this print unless I had it appraised independently, perhaps a local appraiser could examine it for you.

The easy way: put some water on it and see if the ink runs. Iris inks are water soluble. Serigraphs use oil-base inks. Of course, the gallery owner is never going to let you do this. And some Iris prints are overcoated with a plastic coating, so this doesn’t always work.

The problem with this dealer is not necessarily that they are malicious. I tend not to ascribe to maliciousness what can be more easily explained by stupidity. Perhaps they really don’t know the difference between a serigraph and an iris print. Maybe they were duped by the Iris studio too. Ask them about it. Maybe they WOULD let you dampen a corner and see what it really is.

The big problem with this print is that you’re going to pay $4k for it and the moment it goes out the store, it will be worth about $500. This print is just a bad deal no matter whether it’s a serigraph or Iris. It’s overpriced and no amount of pleasure you derive from it will be worth that kind of money, unless you derive pleasure from seeing your money evaporate.

Keep in mind both galaries I found this at described it as a Giclee and the price was the same as you were quoted. I was going to ask Chas if it was conceivable that a different run of 250 was done as a serigraph and sells at the same price. It seems like a very big printing for a relatively unknown artist using such a labor intensive method but thats a guess.

Apparently these look really good because they use high dpi printers. Her usual medium seems to be oil though and I can’t imagine that the print would have the depth that an original oil does. Perhaps the expert can return to advise on how to tell the difference. It would also be fun to hear what the gallery owner sputters when told what you think it might be.

Another question for Chas, does the fact that her originals in similar style and size sell for only 15-20k tell us anything about 4k for a print?

One last piece of general advice. I have done a fair amount of collecting over the past 15 years and I have a general rule that I never buy impulsively. I often returned to visit a gallery several times over a course of months before deciding that it was really something I could live with. My wife was far more impulsive and a number of her purchases are stacked in the basement. This is not a piece of art that would appeal to everyone and you want to be confident you will be happy with it down the road. The odd galery here will even rent a piece.

Is there maybe another easy way to tell if this is an Iris print or a Serigraph? I didn’t look at it that closely since I wouldn’t have known what I was looking at anyway. If I look closely and turn it around, can I pretty much be sure that if it’s on canvas it’s an Iris? What is the medium if it’s a serigraph? Now I’m just curious. I may give this one a pass and look further for a real serigraph that’s priced correctly.

Ned, I’ve seen plenty of relatively unknown artists do small runs of serigraphs, but due to the complexity of producing large color separations, it couldn’t possibly be done for the same price. Well, not unless they’re making an excessive profit already and can absorb the extra expense.
Your advice about impulse buying is true. I recall reading in another recent SDMB thread about someone who worked in a gallery, and routinely sold prints for twice their retail price, to impulse buyers. And this print is in the window, targeted at that very market.
BTW, 20k seems high for these works in oil, unless they’re 10 by 20 FEET or something. I know artists who will paint your whole house with elaborate murals for that price. Hell, for that kind of money, I would do it. But nobody likes my painting anyway.

KitKhat, I can’t think of any easy way for you to tell if this print is an Iris or not, although it seems pretty obvious it is. There’s no way to tell from the canvas, unless you have some pretty specific knowledge of Iris printing and papers/canvases used in those printers. I’ll try to think up some way for you to figure it out. You know, you could always ask them, surely the media would be stated on a certificate of authenticity. Of course, the certificate could be lying too, but the printers would be idiots to put such an easily detected lie in writing.
BTW, you should be aware that prices in galleries are not fixed. A commercial “art agent” who buys lots of art (usually someone who buys art for corporate offices, hotels, etc) would get substantial discounts, as much as 50%. You could always make them an offer. Of course the pricing is at the galleries’ discretion.

I took a look at my reservation receipt (I haven’t purchased yet, just got it off the wall) and the information on this says it’s edition #21 of 252. The gallery owner did say it comes with a certificate, so I’ll make sure to take a look at that before putting any money down. This gallery is very tiny. It’s probably about 500 square feet, tops. I saw the print in the window because you can see all the paintings in the window, so that wasn’t an impulse ruse. I’m trying not to be impulsive. I saw it two weeks ago and only entered the gallery to ask about it when I saw it removed from the wall and replaced with another grouping. The gallery’s so small I’m sure he needs to rotate frequently. There can’t be more than 25 pictures on display.

Anyway, I hate to beat subjects to death. If anyone gets tired of going back and forth on the thread, feel free to e-mail me.

The gallery guy did also tell me that the original oil of this print was $25,000. Dude, I dunno. I’m just regurgitating what I was told. That’s why I keep asking you guys!!

All this information is really teriffic…

A gallery can charge whatever it wants & whatever anyone would pay. However, you can buy right from the artist & save yourself a bundle.

Good idea, except you can’t. Almost all artist’s contracts with print ateliers or galleries include an exclusive representation clause. Even if you never heard of the gallery, and meet the artist and buy a print directly from him, he is required to arrange for you to deliver the check to the gallery and pick it up from the gallery.

“Good idea, except you can’t.”

Great idea, & you can. I have been buying/selling from local artists for years. We sell our art directly to people without going through galleries all the time. A gallery has a markup of about 500%.

You should know that I was born in Carmel, California & they 80 art galleries & the city is only a square mile in size.

Some of the prints on that web site for Debra Sievers are on special, I think there was one 20"x24" for around $25.00 which is fair.

You might drop “Debra Sievers” in the search box at:
http://www.google.com/ & see if you can get better prices.

Okay guys, thanks to you I’ve been prompted to do more research and in my search on google I found three more galleries representing Debra Sievers. I’ve got one contacting the publisher for more information on the editions released and what mediums they’re on. (Since I seem to have found two - one 175 Glicee and the other 252 Serigraph.) And the other gallery director claims to have met the artist personally and runs the gallery for which Debra did a portrait of the owner in San Diego. He’s contacting her directly for me so I can get the real dirt. Well, me being in Chicago and her being in San Diego this is the next best thing I think I can get to contacting her myself!

I’m waiting on calls back in the next day or so. I’ll keep you posted…

Yeah, make sure she is a real artist. Don’t let any gallery tell you she can’t be contacted. Artists love to be contacted. Most anyway. Well I haven’t found any that don’t.

There was a time in Carmel that a gallery (one with branches in SF, SD, too) was accused of selling pictures for which there was no artist for. So they supposedly found him in France, dragged him here & let him do a picture. It wasn’t very convincing & the gallery had to pay customers back something like $750,000… it was kinda funny too.

Sure, there are plenty of unknown artists who will give away their work for almost nothing. I’m even one of them. I’m talking about nationally represented artists. Would you like to see some standard sales contracts I got from California Lawyers for the Arts? They all have exclusive representation clauses.

BTW, standard gallery cut is 55%. Your sales pitch of 80% discounts over galleries may work on your clients, but as an artist, I know the realities of the situation.