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