Limited edition art prints are valuable reproductions of work of art. But like so many phrases and terms in the art world. It can be hard to understand what the meaning of limited edition is. Below is an easy guide to understand what you need to know.
Before we get to a limited edition definition, we need to know what a print is.
What is a print?
A print is a way for an artist to make a reproduction of their work. Think of posters depicting a work of fine art - that is a print. In fact, almost any reproduction of a work of visual art is a print. That is why many people think that prints can never be worth much money because many of them aren't that valuable. But the story doesn't stop here.
Some artwork is created exclusively in print, i.e. there is no "original" that the print is a copy of. Think of photography or screen print of Andy Warhol. These are the original works that happen to be prints. ( this is also why photo art limited editions are some of the most popular. )
They can also make prints in a way that increases their value. This is why the make limited editions.
What is a limited edition?
Limited edition prints are a special kind of print that holds and can increase in value over time.
A limited edition is "limited" because only a certain amount of prints are made. Prints in a limited edition are typically numbered and signed. Greatly increasing the value of the print. Are signed prints worth anything? Absolutely. And some editions prints come with an artist certificate of authenticity, increasing the value even more.
For example, say a photographer takes a picture of a mountain. From that one negative, she makes a plate to print off several reproductions of the image. She decides her first edition will be 30 prints. She signes each individual print and numbered them (the first one numbered 1/30 because is the first of thirty, the second 2/30 and so on) She then drafts a certificate of authenticity to go with each print.
Et voila! She has produced a limited edition of her mountain photograph. This form of limited print release photography means that thirty people can purchase a high value image of the mountain rather than one.
What are the benefits of limited edition prints?
Printing limited editions benefits everybody. The collectors benefit by having greater access to pieces, and the artist benefits by having more art to sell. And that's why limited edition works.
Think about it. When you buy limited edition prints. You are collecting a valuable work of art but with less initial investment. You get to have a beautiful wall photos to enjoy, with a reasonable price tag, but know you own artwork that can hold and increase in value. Meanwhile, the artist is better supported because their sales volume is increased.
Compare this definition of a limited edition to an open edition, where an artist repeatedly makes reproduction of their work using the same material with no defined "limit" to the edition. Whenever they need more to sell, they simply print more. Because the reproduction aren't limited, there's nothing to protect the value os each print. Thus, open editions are much less valuable than limited editions.
Are there other kinds of valuable prints?
The shorts answer is yes. There are printers proof´s, artist proof, hors commerce, and more.
During the printmaking process, many prints are pulled by the artist or printer to check for quality and test tweaks to the printing process. Sometimes, these trials proofs can make it onto the market. Once the plate is finished and ready to print the limited editions, it is copied into a bon a tíer (BAT) plate, which means is ready for printing.
An artist proof is a print that the artist makes and keeps for themselves. This proof can be used at galleries and art museums later on, even if all the copies in the limited editions are sold to private collectors. These proofs are not numbered but rather numbered EA, for épreuve d´artiste or AP (meaning: Artist Proof) Are artist proof more valuable than limited edition? They certainly can be. Artis proofs are less common as there are far fewer of them and they are not meant for the market. even though occasionally show up there.
Lastly there are printers proof and hors commerce proofs. Printers proofs are given to the printers for free and are often labeled P/P. Hors commerce proofs are made to sample out to sellers who might be interested in carrying out copies os a limited edition and are often labelled H/C or NFS (meaning not for sale).
The verdict on limited editions
As you can see, the reproduction of art doesn't always mean a reduction in value. Limited edition prints are a great way to enjoy art while investing in something. Furthermore, limited editions can be a great way for artists to connect to more sellers and support themselves. Now that you known all the terms and labels, you can confidently shop for limited editions art prints.