An­thony Smith ruf­fles a few feathers with his view on gi­clée prints

EDP Norfolk - - Inside - An­thony Smith An­thony Smith read art his­tory at the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne and has over 35 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence as a gallery owner and art dealer spe­cial­is­ing in in­ter­na­tional art.

GI­CLÉE: a word you will not hear of­ten but is chang­ing the world of art. Gi­clée prints fall into the cat­e­gory of ei­ther love or hate; you may not have heard of them yet, but be­lieve me, you will.

Gi­clée re­pro­duc­tions are the re­sult of high qual­ity print­ing of an orig­i­nal im­age us­ing photography and ink-jet print­ing, ba­si­cally the same as any high qual­ity print­ing. In fact, ink-jet print­ing is used in shorter run mag­a­zine print­ing. (Gi­clée comes from the French ‘to squirt’).

How­ever, its not the process that I have is­sue with; it’s the con­cept that a re­pro­duc­tion of an orig­i­nal art­work is in any way, shape or form, a fine art print, a print designed to be a print in its own right and hand­made by the artist. Its also the lack of polic­ing or con­trol over the po­ten­tial num­ber of re­pro­duc­tions that could be made as well as pric­ing that are is­sues too. Gi­clées are of­ten pro­duced in their hun­dreds and priced well into the hun­dreds too!

As I dis­cussed last month, a true fine art lim­ited edi­tion print is lim­ited sim­ply due to prac­ti­cal­ity: the loss of the sharp­ness or clar­ity of the im­age in the process of ac­tu­ally mak­ing copies, thus lim­it­ing the amount of copies (edi­tions) that can be made. Gi­clées are of­ten pro­moted as lim­ited edi­tions, but in fact, gi­clée tech­nol­ogy can pro­vide un­lim­ited re­pro­duc­tions with­out loss of clar­ity or colour (if present).

De­spite the ef­forts of those who pro­duce and/or sell them to pro­mote them as fine art prints, they aren’t. They are as re­lated to true fine art prints as photography is to paint­ing, or ducks to dogs! Both have their place but are not in­ter­change­able.

How­ever, this is not to say that re­pro­duc­tion of pho­to­graphs via gi­clée tech­nol­ogy is bad. In this in­stance, it is a boon to fine art pho­tog­ra­phers whose work has to be re­pro­duced.

Gi­clée re­pro­duc­tions of orig­i­nal paint­ings are mar­keted as fine art prints, archival prints, lim­ited edi­tions, and archival dig­i­tal prints sim­ply to gain a ca­chet that sell­ing them as re­pro­duc­tions sim­ply wouldn’t. I have even heard of some say­ing that the artist added a brush­stroke to fur­ther le­git­imise their sta­tus. One could log­i­cally sur­mise that the orig­i­nal work wasn’t fin­ished when it was pho­tographed if an ad­di­tional brush­stroke was needed!

Added to this, gi­clée tech­nol­ogy al­lows the re­pro­duc­tion of an im­age onto any sur­face, so apart from see­ing these re­pro­duc­tions on pa­per, it is not un­usual to see art­works re­pro­duced onto can­vas, a move in­tended to give fur­ther le­git­i­macy to them be­ing a work of art.

Forg­ers are now well and truly in­volved with this process and I have seen wa­ter­colours and draw­ings pre­sented un­der glass that are gi­clée re­pro­duc­tions with the ad­di­tion of pen­cil sig­na­tures, sup­pos­edly by the orig­i­nal artists, be­ing passed off as orig­i­nals. Also, imag­ine a forger pho­to­graphs an orig­i­nal work or even an­other gi­clée and then re­pro­duces it? Re­mem­ber that the im­age is stored dig­i­tally so what are the im­pli­ca­tions if an artist or the prin­ter de­cides to sim­ply re­pro­duce more to sat­isfy a de­mand? These are fur­ther traps for the un­wary.

It would be log­i­cal to as­sume that all gi­clée are just val­ue­less re­pro­duc­tions. But no. Be­lieve it or not, Ger­hard Richter’s gi­clée Cage Grid, one of an edi­tion of 20, sold at Sotheby’s in June this year for £908,750.

Makes you feel com­fort­able? It does me.

Above: Em­rys Parry 3 Black Birds


Joni Smith’s work is at the Fairhurst Gallery

Left: Spit­ting Im­age: 10 Years of Thatcher Com­mem­o­ra­tion Mug, 1989

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