Five key things to remember when buying art multiples
Costing less than an artwork produced in a single edition, art multiples offer a number of advantages. These items, which could be anything from an engraving to a silkscreen print, offer you the chance to own an authentic artwork from the artist without having to sell all your worldly possessions. But there are a few things worth bearing in mind to make sure you don’t make any rookie mistakes.
#1 Multiples are not copies
Worried about finding yourself with a simple copy? Multiples are much more than that. Although the image has essentially been copied, the prints are all completely different and therefore unique. They are created through collaboration between the artist and a printer, who takes great care over the printing process. Prints are produced in small volumes and are all crafted in meticulous detail, with the artist taking part in the process, often right up until the end. The paper or other support on which the print is made is often of exceptional quality.
American artist Jasper Johns is famous for pushing for a higher quality of paper, which is heavier than the standard paper used. His multiples are therefore genuine works of art, ready to take their place in your lounge alongside drawings, sculptures and other paintings, whether from emerging artists or accomplished masters. British artist Damien Hirst made multiples a creative principle, even producing and selling silkscreen prints in his stores.
#2 Several types of multiples exist
It can be easy to get lost in the world of multiples, as there are simply so many different types! The most common are engravings and silkscreen prints. Engraving uses incisions or cuts to produce an image with relief and hollow techniques. The technique was used for Masters of art such as Delacroix, Goya and Dürer, as well as Robert Mangold, Frank Stella and Helen Frankenthaler. They can also be linocuts, a technique that uses linoleum and involves removing blank spaces from the final artwork so the ink is printed on the parts that remain.
Silkscreen printing is closer to the standard printing process, and uses stencils that act as screens placed between the ink and the support (paper, cardboard, metal, glass, etc.). Andy Warhol was the ultimate king of the technique, with his silkscreen prints of photos and popular images achieving legendary status.
#3 Art multiples have special characteristics
An “original” multiple is a unique artwork, as it bears the number of a limited quantity of prints. Each print is given an edition number, commonly expressed as a fraction, e.g., 30/50. The second number indicates the number of prints (in this case, 50).
The more copies, the lower the price of the artwork. Then all you need to do is choose your lucky number if you can! Most multiples are signed and initialed by the artist. Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso sometimes simply used a stamp.
#4 Multiples are accessible
For a first purchase, multiples are a great option. They are generally a fraction of the price of an artwork produced in a single copy. “Every painting should be the same size and the same color so they’re all interchangeable and nobody thinks they have a better or worse painting.” Andy Warhol.
In 2016, a community gallery in a village in Aveyron, Salles-la-Source, sold 20 silkscreen prints from a private collection of the Campbell’s Soup and Marilyn series from the King of Pop Art for under €1,000. Of course, they flew off the shelves.
#5 Multiples need to be looked after
Prints are just as precious as other artworks, even if their price is often much lower. But that doesn’t mean they need to be relegated to the spare bedroom. Instead, they should be cherished and showcased. Your choice of frame for the print will ensure it is kept in good condition.
It can be well worth investing in professional framing of your prints. Also, make sure to keep your piece out of direct sunlight (not on the veranda, for example), in a damp-free room, and, most importantly, never cut the support in order to put the print in a smaller frame. That would be sacrilege!
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