The world of prints is surprisingly nuanced. For both burgeoning and established collectors, this medium represents a cornucopia of diverse and accessible art. It also however, can be complex. That's why we’re tackling some of the basics. Here, we are looking at what makes some reproduction prints collectable.
What is a reproduction print?
The difference between an original and a reproduction print lies with artistic intention. If an artist intends to create an etching, then no matter how many times it is printed, each print will constitute an original work of art. If however, a work was originally a painting and then photographed to make prints, the subsequent prints are reproduction prints.
Different types of reproduction prints
Not all reproduction prints are created equal. The differences lie with production value, rarity and how involved the artist is. Depending on these factors, some reproduction prints will be seriously collectible.
Take the limited edition archival pigment print of Charles Blackman’s 1956 painting ‘Feet Beneath the Table.'Creating this print entailed the artist, publisher, museum and artisan printmakers. First, the publisher obtained a sharp high-resolution photograph of the painting - in this case, 'Feet Beneath the Table' was photographed from the National Gallery of Victoria. The file was then transferred to master printers, who work with state-of-the-art machinery and archival quality materials. These experts also consulted with the artist and his representatives to ensure the reproduction rigorously aligned with the palette of the original painting. Satisfied, Charles himself signs and editions the print.
Are reproduction prints collectable?
Reproduction prints like ‘Feet Beneath the Table’ testify to the power of collaboration; in this case, between a masterful team and the artist himself. They also have the potential to be extremely collectable - just consider Brett Whiteley's limited edition offset lithographic print ‘The Arrival’. In 1988, the edition of 150 signed prints were published by Time magazine to commemorate the Australian Bicentenary. Despite being a relatively large edition and only one of a few reproductive runs in his oeuvre, these prints become some of Whiteley’s most valued. In fact, between 2005-2006 auction prices for the ‘The Arrival’ peaked at over $27,000.
In Australia, the gold standard of collectable limited edition prints has Lin Bloomfield to thank. In 1974, the Sydney gallerist noticed something about Norman Lindsay. As one of Australia’s favourite artists, Lindsay’s work was growing scarcer and rarer - his pool of admirers on the hand, was growing just as fast. This meant that for many collectors owning an original Lindsay was bound to be fantasy not fact. Enter Bloomfield. In collaboration with Norman’s daughter Jane Lindsay, Bloomfield decided to publish three folios of reproduction Norman Lindsay prints.
That year, Bloomfield’s reproductions debuted. Exhibited alongside the original metal plates and all printing materials, these prints were a feat of careful consideration and masterful craftsmanship. Each was embossed with a seal, accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity, signed by Lin Bloomfield and Jane Lindsay, and hand numbered. Plus each edition was capped at 550, a tenfold increase of the edition of original Lindsay etchings.
Today, these facsimile prints are represented in major institutions including the National Library of Australia and National Trust Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum. They’ve also retained their value in parity with the market value of the original prints. While the original edition of Norman Lindsay’s ‘Enter the Magicians’ (below right) sells for up to $22,000, collectors trade fine quality reproductions of the same image (below left) for up to $2,200, trusting in the knowledge that the skill and production values behind their creation will ensure their value for years to come.
Cases like Brett Whiteley’s ‘The Arrival’ and Lindsay's facsimile etchings, gives us insight into the evolving priorities of collectors. Sometimes, the desirability of an image is more important than whether it’s technically original. For artists like Whiteley, Lindsay and Blackman this makes total sense. For admirers of these, reproduction prints represent an accessible avenue into bringing their imagery home. Not only this but reproduction prints can also be the highest quality and value.
To learn about other print types, click here.
Learn about what constitutes an original print here.
Discover our range of prints here.