Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

What is an Original Print (and How Do Art Fairs Define Originality?)

Imagine my surprise when I was cruising through the Huffington Post and came across this article: What is an Original Print? Interestingly the writer, Daniel Grant, even consulted the rules from some of the nation's art fairs including the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair and the Rising Sun Festival of Arts and Crafts and many in between. 

The article defines "print" as "an image drawn or etched or engraved on some surface by the artist..." It also examines digital images, giclees and whether or not "reproductions" should be or are allowed in galleries and also art fairs. Seen this discussion before? Yep, deja vu all over again...

Maybe, but in the current economy many people are feeling less able to afford original art, "but they still like art and want to buy something," said the vice president of the Vero Beach Art Club, which has held an annual Under the Oaks art festival in March since 1952. That festival had been an originals-only event but began allowing reproductions a few years back, "because we want people to be happy." Similarly, the Wickford Art Festival in Rhode Island changed its policies in 2008 to allow reproductions, "because of the way the economy has been going," said Francie Christophersen, who chairs the festival. The rules could be changed again to disallow any and all reproductions, "but that probably won't happen."

Discerning minds may be interested in reading it and weighing in.

Views: 665

Comment by Larry Berman on January 12, 2012 at 9:53pm

I know Daniel Grant and I've spoken to him before. Someone should point him to real world definitions, not art show definitions.

This has been discussed before in the forums, usually in reference to photographers.

From the Glossary of Digital Art and Printmaking Definitions

1. In the context of fine art, an original work of art (as a woodcut, lithograph, photograph, or digital print) where the art object or artwork does not exist until it is printed. The print is made directly from the matrix by the artist or pursuant to his/her directions. Also known as "fine print," "work on paper," and "original print." 2. A physical image, usually on paper, produced by, but not limited to, such processes as etching, lithography, serigraphy, relief printing, photography, or digital methods. Prints are usually, but not always, produced on paper and in multiples. Traditional, photographic, and digital processes can be used to produce prints.

Larry Berman

Comment by geri a. wegner on January 13, 2012 at 9:57am

while  I understand the concept of "original print"  it still sounds like "jumbo shrimp" to me.  

Comment by Stephen and Bonnie Harmston on January 16, 2012 at 12:28pm

I rarely want to write into this site mostly because we live in the West and the reviews tend to be about shows in the East but this time I think I need to say something. We are printmakers, "fine art" printmakers, or in the words of geri, I guess jumbo shrimp makers. The distinction here is that for every piece of art we sell in our booth the piece presented took between 1 - 4 months to produce and is only created in editions of 25 to 50. We hand cut rubylith film stencils with an exacto blade for every single color that gets printed, have to make a new screen and hand print each and every color on each sheet of paper for as many pieces are in the edition. Whatever doesn't get messed up is in the final edition. We own 6 screens so we have to wash out the screens continually to make the next screen. We CAN NOT reproduce our work again. They are indeed all originals. Most of our work is done with between 14 and 25 colors so that means we are printing BY HAND 25 colors on 50 sheets of paper and then they are done. It is an extremely labor intensive process and we are always challenged to explain how they are different from  giclees since they are numbered. We have had to sit next to other artists at booths and listen to them explain giclees as "better" or no different, you name it. We do not sell reproductions so for us we appreciate those shows that continue to enforce these requirements even though I know it makes it tough for everyone. I appreciate the shows that make the extra effort to educate their patrons about the artists that will be at their shows and the types of work they are producing. If we lower the bar then we risk making art shows no different than any other retail establishment and most of the artists that I know are so talented that that would be a shame to do.

Comment by Dean Russell Thompson on January 16, 2012 at 2:59pm

I wasn't going to respond, but I have been thinking about this (as I have been working in my studio, printing an edition).

If the comment was made in jest, it still represents a fundamental bias: print = reproduction.  For some time I didn't refer to my work as 'Original prints' as I thought it was unnecessary: hand pulled prints of this type ARE original.  I have found the bias to be too wide spread, however.  I spend the majority of my time during shows explaining what a print is, and how it differs from a reproduction.  I have a little sign that says 'What is an Original Print" that sits at the front of my booth.  A lot of people read it and act surprised.

In terms of the original question, I understand the desire of artists in other media (notably painters) to have reproductions, for just the reasons stated.  But if they are informed (and/or honest) those will be clearly marked at "Reproduction".  The artist should explain to their customers that a 'glicee' is, in fact, an injet reproduction.

The shows that I apply to state in their rules that this marking these as reproductions is required: whether it is properly enforced is a different question.

Comment by Larry Berman on January 16, 2012 at 3:42pm

To continue to confuse the issue. A giclee or ink jet print is only a reproduction if the original already exists. There are some mediums, like digital art or photography where the original doesn't exist until it is printed.

I think that the word print is more widely misunderstood than giclee. If an original exists, only the word reproduction should be used, not print.

Larry Berman

Comment by Dean Russell Thompson on January 16, 2012 at 4:21pm

Regarding photo and digital, you are absolutely correct.  

I am not so sure about giclee not being misunderstood.  If I were working in photo or digital, I think I would stay away from it.  But that is just me.  The important thing is to be clear with one's (potential) buyers.

Comment by geri a. wegner on January 16, 2012 at 10:37pm

Before the printmakers stone me for my comment, I was  referring to inkjet prints or giclees usually sold at art festivals by painters or water color artists.   I meant no disrespect towards the art of printmaking.  

The use of the word reproduction would go a long way towards alleviating the confusion.

Comment by Larry Berman on January 16, 2012 at 10:40pm

Actually I loved the jumbo shrimp comment. Made me chuckle.

Larry Berman

Comment by Dean Russell Thompson on January 17, 2012 at 12:12am

Touchy bunch, aren't we? ;-)


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