The electronic innovation has provided increase to two significant novelties which influence printmaking. Let’s start with the great news. Pcs, ingenious image-creation/modification software and high-quality inkjet units have permitted artists to produce original electronic pictures and printing them with surprising quality on many different substrates. These “electronic designs,” did not enter in to the generally-accepted definition of unique fine-art prints elaborated by the French National Committee on Engraving in 1964, since they did not exist during the time, but today they’ve the best claim to being considered fine-art prints.
Proofs possibly in black and white or in color, attracted from among many plates, conceived and performed entirely by hand by exactly the same artist, regardless of process employed, with the exclusion of any and all technical or photomechanical procedures, will be regarded unique engravings, images or lithographs. Just styles ending up in such qualifications are entitled to be specified Original Prints blue-chip art investments.
The down side of the electronic trend is that this very same engineering will be employed by unscrupulous traders to generate high-resolution copies of present artwork and commercialize them as “fine-art prints.” Some of these operators are intentionally violating the canons of the centuries-old fine-art-print tradition. Others are just ignorant. It’s difficult to inform which can be which. Whatever the case, there is number excuse either for ignoring the tradition or for knowingly violating it.
That insistence upon respect for printmaking traditions is neither vapid moralizing nor luddite nostalgia. Over more than 500 decades of happy history the term “fine-art printing” has received the position of a brand for artist-made serial-original works of art. What these artwork include might be up for discussion, but what they certainly do not contain are artwork copies, whatever the degree of style of the burning methods employed.
What’s at share here are the livelihoods of thousands of modern fine-art printmakers whose useful, special handmade original prints-whether developed with etching instruments or computers-are being unfairly undercut by dealers who, in a traditional example of unethical, disloyal competition, refer for their inkjet copies as “giclee styles” or maybe more brazenly, “limited-edition giclee prints.” As if the practices and terminology of fine-art printmaking were not arcane enough already to the often-ingenuous art-buying community, along come digital sharp operators to confuse them much more with the deliberate usurpation of printmaking’s standard vocabulary. They would have us think this is merely commerce. It is, I publish, simple larceny.
That is not saying that there’s perhaps not a legitimate niche available in the market for inkjet and other forms of art reproductions. No one in her right mind would keep that. It’s just that these reproductions are not fine-art prints, any more than an counteract art poster is. While it’s undoubtedly produced, it’s barely a “print.” To affirm usually in order to commercialize digital reproductions at fine-art prices is fraudulent and ought to be treated as a result in the marketplace, the media and the courts of law.
The problem is more complicated by the multi-billion dollar economic passions in play. All the large inkjet printer businesses have discovered the potential of the giclee market and are fomenting it with a vengeance. They produce billions offering not just the large-format inkjet units used in creating art reproductions, but in addition the inks and papers. They handle to remain largely above the fray, nevertheless, as their communications generally to refer for their printers’utility with regards to “graphic artwork” and “photographic” applications.
I wish to give you an anecdote which will provide you with a notion of the kind of clout the fine-art printmaking community is up against. Two summers before a huge pc company (like a fraction of a million employees worldwide) flew some 60 National art-and-design-world view leaders to a charming European capital in which to stay a five-star resort and critique their new-model large-format inkjet printers. The “preview” contained an extensive three-day program at the manufacturer including the most romantic complex information on the new units, and hands-on exercise sessions. The day workshops were associated with a series of sumptuous foods and expeditions in the evenings. The visit to the factory was used up by an all-expense-paid week-end at the Arles Photography Festival in France.