S otheby’s is pleased to announce Editions Hot off the Press, a collaboration with the independent advisor and curator Sharon Coplan Hurowitz and some of today’s eminent print publishers. Sharon, who is a leading expert in the field of contemporary prints, joined forces with publishers and Sotheby’s to bring works from contemporary artists to the Sotheby’s Buy Now marketplace. Our Camila Hori sat down with Sharon to discuss everything you wanted to know about prints and multiples.
Printmaking is linked to hundreds of years of tradition, yet the medium keeps evolving with technology and time.
What are some reasons an artist would make limited-edition prints? Is there unique artistic value in a print outside of the oeuvre the artist is known for?
Printmaking offers an artist the opportunity to work outside of their regular studio practice—to collaborate with a publisher and workshop, to experiment with new ideas, and to use materials and techniques that are both challenging and seductive. It takes a skilled and dedicated artist to make a print. The endeavor is often complicated, unpredictable and humbling, even for the most seasoned practitioner. However, printmaking provides an artist with an important outlet for creating work that complements and enhances their artistic process.
Printmaking has been around for hundreds of years. Can you tell us a little about the different kinds of printmaking? How is a print from a publisher different from a print you could buy at a museum gift shop?
Printmaking is linked to hundreds of years of tradition, yet the medium keeps evolving with technology and time. As a result, the definition of printmaking has expanded and the classification between it and other media has blurred. On a basic level, printmaking is the process of using a matrix (for example, wood, stone, copper plate, screen, etc.) to transfer an image from one surface to another. Printmaking falls within a larger practice of edition-making (that is, multiple impressions), which includes sculptural works and even NFTs.
Are prints signed by the artist?
An artist signature is the sign of creative ownership, authenticity and completion of a work of art. In the case of contemporary prints and multiples, most artists sign their work by hand or opt for a stamp, incised signature or an accompanying certificate. Aside from the artist’s signature, many publishers add their workshop seal (stamped or embossed) to indicate where the work was made.
What is an “artist’s proof”? Could you explain the difference between editions and proofs?
The edition size is the limited number of works created for a given project that are available for sale. The number is determined by the artist and publisher, and the edition number is typically marked on the work. Aside from the published edition, there are additional proofs—including artist’s proofs, printer’s proofs and special proofs—that are made and allocated to participants in the project. The works are made the same way; the difference is how they are marked and distributed.
Print publishers are essential contributors to the art world. They nurture artists throughout their careers and take on projects from inception.
Can you talk about the collaborative nature between the artist and the print studio?
Each artist and publisher collaborate differently, as they bring unique talents, personalities and resources to a project. It’s a complicated and intimate partnership that relies on a great deal of trust, communication and willingness to work together. Ultimately, it is relationship-driven and predicated on the publisher fostering the right environment for an artist to create.
I have been so fortunate in my career to work with the great publishers of our time, to see their workshops and to watch extraordinary art get made. I am particularly excited to share their incredible stories to a broader audience through Sotheby’s Buy Now platform, which directly connects collectors and publishers.
Are publishers considered artists in their own right?
Print publishers are essential contributors to the art world. They nurture artists throughout their careers and take on projects from inception, which can be a risky and time-consuming process even with an established artist. Print publishers give an artist full rein—carte blanche—to dream and create, and they supply the financial support and infrastructure to make it happen.
What is the benefit of starting an art collection with prints by publishers?
Compared to other collecting fields, the print market is still an untapped opportunity for collectors to acquire great works by renowned artists at obtainable prices. Savvy collectors are now crossing over categories to purchase work regardless of media, as museums rethink how they showcase works across disciplines. Ironically, artists tend to work on multiple bodies of work and media at once, and do not think about hierarchy within their oeuvre.
Where can one begin to look?
My advice to collectors is always the same: look at everything that interests you, ask many questions and research what you love. Sotheby’s Buy Now platform is a way to look, ask questions and research all in one place. I am excited to bring together a community of print publishers to a broader audience with my curated selection of editioned works that will change on a rotating basis.
My advice to collectors is always the same: look at everything that interests you, ask many questions and research what you love.
How is the authenticity of a print determined?
When collecting works of art, especially on the secondary market, ensuring authenticity and condition become an important consideration. By accessing works directly from print publishers, authenticity and condition are no longer an issue because you are acquiring the work directly from the primary source. More importantly, you can learn about how the work was made with the artist, as well as the collaboration process at the workshop.
Can the value of a print appreciate or depreciate?
There are many variables that determine the value of a print publication, including the track record of the artist, edition size, scarcity, scale and scope of the project. There is no formula for pricing; it is nuanced and determined by the publisher and artist.
How would you advise framing a print?
If you collect art, you need to be a good steward. Works on paper in general require extra TLC, as paper is vulnerable to the elements. The rule of thumb is to frame your work with archival materials and UV protection. It is important to keep works on paper out of direct sunlight, away from humidity and in a climate-controlled environment.
How do we learn where a print was published, and what are some of the better-known print studios?
You will see a cross-section of publishers on Sotheby’s Buy Now platform—publishers who are legendary and have been in operation for over 50 years, and others who have a younger business and are forging new territory. The unifying thread is that this selection of publishers is making important contributions and engaging artists in meaningful ways.
What would you recommend to someone searching for prints online? If I’m discussing a purchase, what sorts of questions should I ask the representative about the print?
If you are searching for prints online, I would highly recommend spending time on Sotheby’s Buy Now platform. You can browse selections from various publishers and see the different kinds of work being made today. Also, you can find historic works that were made years ago and are available now. Sotheby’s Buy Now platform is about providing access and is a seamless way to buy art.
S haron Coplan Hurowitz is widely considered one of the leading experts in the field of contemporary prints and multiples. She is an independent curator, publisher and the founder of Coplan Hurowitz Art Advisory. She is the co-author of OPEN STUDIO: Do-It-Yourself Art Projects by Contemporary Artists, the author of The Prints and Multiples of John Baldessari: A Catalogue Raisonné 1971-2007 and the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of prints and multiples for Bruce Nauman, and a contributor to the book Letters to Ellsworth.