How to Handle Fine Art Reproductions

There is tremendous confusion surrounding giclee fine art reproductions, both among the art buying public and the artists that produce them. It is my personal belief that early on publishers of giclee prints whether they were big established producers or individual artists, made fundamental fopas. They equated giclee prints with the production of other fine are reproductions. They are not the same, and in my opinion, should have never been marketed in the same way. Actually, a giclee print today is by far a superior product than any other form of fine art reproduction (not to be confused with fine art printing; see my previous Monday blog). That is why it has taken over the industry.

However, a serigraph fine art reproduction takes an enormous amount of up-front money to produce. It takes many craftsmen to produce all of the separate screens used in the printing process. There may be as many as 90 or more screens, one for each color, produced for a single image. Setting up the all these screens for the final printing takes so much coordination and time that the only way this process can be cost effective is to do the entire printing at one time. That means an investment of a minimum of $30,000 and a tremendous gamble that the choice of image will be so popular that the edition will be sure to sell out.

Conversely, giclees can be printed one at a time. There are no storage costs involved. The image can be test marketed before large amounts are spent to seriously promote it. Best of all they can be printed safely on both paper and canvas substrates. Serigraphs made with many layers of inks cannot be safely printed on canvas. One of my paintings, which was reproduced as a serigraph on canvas had to be recalled from the market because of cracking. Thank goodness I was not producing my own prints at the time but was being handle by a fine art production company.

Because giclee printing does not involve the same up-front investment or high-stake gamble than other forms of fine art reproduction, I believe that they should have never been priced in the same way. I think producers should have been satisfied with a smaller profit margin. This would have made giclee prints even more popular with the art buying public and given them greater level of confidence. I understand what dealers were trying to do. They were trying to convince their clients that giclees were as good as serigraphs and therefore, should cost the same. This practice has gradually led to uneasiness in the buyer’s mind. Frankly, the public has caught on to this incongruity, and I believe that our industry’s credibility has been damaged.

When artists ask me how they should price their giclee prints, I explain that it depends on how many prints will be in their edition and whether or not they plan to use embellishing. See my next blog for a detailed breakdown of these variables and how each effects the pricing.