All About Printmaking

The art of printmaking is comprised of a variety of techniques and materials and has ancient roots in many cultures. A discipline central to the history of art as well as contemporary art, we encounter fine art prints in many--if not most--of our clients' corporate and private collections, and we often get questions about the types, care and terminology surrounding the field of printmaking. While printmaking is an incredibly historic, diverse and deep field of study that can't be summarized in one blog post, here are some responses and resources addressing just a few of the questions we receive the most. 

What is a print? 

The Tate Modern website defines a print as "...an impression made by any method involving transfer from one surface to another." The image is created when ink is transferred onto paper, cloth, or another surface using one of a variety of materials and methods. A printed impression can be unique (monoprint/ monotype) or part of a limited edition of prints. 

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/p/print

What types of prints are there? 

Printmakers use many techniques and often combine techniques to achieve their desired impression. The most common types of printing techniques we encounter are Lithography, Intaglio, Relief, Screenprinting and Digital printing. Within these broad categories are a plethora of techniques and materials. 

You can find some great explanations and examples of different printmaking techniques here: http://www.paceprints.com/techniques

Is a print a reproduction or an original work of art?

Fine art prints are original works of art created using methods and techniques of printmaking. A limited edition results from an artist using the same plate or block to create multiple identical impressions of the same image, and each impression is recorded with an edition number.  

A print is not a reproduction of an existing painting or drawing. 

How should I display or store my print? 

Because many prints are printed with ink on paper, great care should be taken in storing and displaying prints. To prevent common conservation issues such as paper deterioration, discoloration, buckling and fading, prints should always be stored and displayed in archival, acid-free materials, with protection from excess humidity and ultraviolet light. Learn more about our recommendations for storing and displaying artwork here.

What do the numbers and markings on my print mean?

Along with signing and titling their prints, artists mark their prints in pencil with an edition number. Prints are labeled with the impression number and a slash indicating the total number of prints in the edition (ie. 5/10). There are other markings designating the type of impression in an edition, such as A/P (Artist's Proof), B.A.T (Bon a Tirer) or T/P (Trial Proof).

Here is a helpful link explaining different conventions artists use to label a print as well as common printmaking terminology. https://www.nga.gov/gemini/glossary.htm

Happy collecting! 

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Art & Business, In Collaboration

Pablo Picasso painting at La Colombe d'Or

Pablo Picasso painting at La Colombe d'Or

As corporate art consultants, we have the unique opportunity to facilitate relationships between business entities and art communities. Both worlds benefit from a positive relationship; artists gain exposure and financial security through selling their work to corporations, who in turn grow their financial capital and visual identity through their artwork investments.

It’s very rewarding to see examples of art collecting as a fruitful business practice, so during a recent trip to France I made sure to stop by the hotel and restaurant, La Colombe d'Or. Located in the Cote d'Azur hilltop town of Saint Paul de Vence, this establishment has long been known for its symbiotic relationship with artists.

After the hotel opened in 1931, it quickly became a popular destination for artists driven south by World War I. The owner took note of his creative customers and struck up friendships with many of the artists and actors who passed through. An art lover himself, the owner recognized the potential value in artwork and offered many artists free lodging in exchange for paintings.

Alexander Calder sculpture at La Colombe d'Or

Alexander Calder sculpture at La Colombe d'Or

This generous gesture worked in his favor; he grew prosperous relationships with a community of artists and the artwork he was gifted grew tremendously in value. The impressive collection fills the walls of the hotel: the dining room hang paintings gifted by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Marc Chagall. Outside, a large, free-standing mobile by Alexander Calder is perched beside the pool next to a mosaic by George Braque. Hotel ownership has stayed in the same family for three generations, with a continued commitment to art collecting and patronage that persists today.

It was striking to see iconic Modern artworks in such an intimate setting. Outside of the traditional museum setting, the artwork contributed to a welcoming, historic atmosphere. It was a great example of how building an art collection is a positive business practice which nourishes the cultural interests of all parties involved long-term.

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Finding the Right Fit

Steven Cox

Steven Cox

In fine art consulting, unfortunately there isn’t a single comprehensive resource with all available artwork across the board. While the internet allows access to more resources than ever, and we maintain extensive files of artwork options, for each acquisition project we essentially begin with a blank slate for what to present to a client.

Details to Keep in Mind

To become familiar with our client’s style, we go through a tastemaker to learn about their interests; you can read more about that process here. The next step is to find artwork options that work with their design aesthetic, collection goals, and fit the scale needed for their space.

When working with a designer or renovated space, we look for artwork that appeals to our client's taste while complementing the style of its location. Customized details like framing, labels, and display cases are effective ways of making a space look cohesive. Many clients with contemporary interiors will gravitate towards gallery-esqe thin white frames, while more traditional companies may opt for hearty, custom-stained wood frames. The design aesthetic of an office also helps us determine the type of artwork to pursue. A large atrium can be a great opportunity for sculpture, while large open walls are an inviting setting for paintings. If the location is public-facing, we suggest work that will make a memorable impact. For private, employee-facing areas, we focus on artwork that's meaningful to the people who work there, and might be works on paper or prints. 

In the process of finding artwork options, it's relatively straightforward to determine what people like and dislike; the consistent challenge is finding work that the client loves, but still fits their budget and is the right size to balance out their space. Most of the time spent researching includes procuring this information and balancing these factors, and we have a wide network of fine art resources that we call upon to find options that will work. 

The Research Process

The best way to find artwork is by going out into the art world and looking for it. The consultants in our firm are regularly visiting galleries to see new work by new artists, as well as attending exhibition openings. These events are a great opportunity to network with gallerists, artists, and collectors. Investing time into these relationships makes working in the art world enriching and enjoyable, and it helps us access information more easily. We make it a priority to work with art organizations that we've built relationships with whenever possible. 

Another great way to find artwork is by visiting artists at their studio. It's fascinating to see the individual drives and methods an artists uses to make their work. Art consultants are like translators between the art and corporate worlds, and when we visit a studio we learn how best to illustrate what makes that artwork special when presenting it to a client. We schedule studio visits throughout the year to steadily grow our network and artwork knowledge.

Technology is a steadily growing presence in our personal and professional lives, and one effective tool for finding artwork is through resources like Instagram. While artwork is best viewed in person, Instagram provides a quick and comprehensive look into what artists are making and what galleries are exhibiting. We use Instagram for preliminary research and often find new work that way. It keeps us up-to-date on visual trends in our local network and in the broader international art community. 

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Have Art, Will Travel

The site of a recent project in Denver, CO

The site of a recent project in Denver, CO

While many of our clients are headquartered in downtown Chicago, we work on projects throughout the region and country. Corporate art advising often involves large-scale logistics management between offices; many art collections are spread out between numerous offices and storage locations, so we manage artwork movements on our clients’ behalf.

All Our Services, in Any Location

We provide all of our fine art services in any location requested. Because we operate a primarily paperless office, we can work on-the-go with remote access to our project materials. The key components of our projects are managed on digital platforms, including collection inventories, exhibition design, and artwork installation strategy. This gives us the flexibility to manage and update projects while travelling wherever our clients need us.

In a few recent projects, we inventoried 700 artworks in a law firm’s in New York City office; installed a 500-piece collection in Washington, D.C.; sourced historical materials from corporate archives in Seattle, Los Angeles, and St Louis; and organized a rotating artwork exhibition in a Denver skyscraper.

Suburbs, Small Towns, and Cities

We are keen to travel for projects of various scales. We regularly install and relocate artwork for clients with suburban branches in the Midwest: throughout Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio. Our team of art handlers travels with us for Midwestern projects and can provide exclusive-use shipping options for the artwork.

As well as offices, we visit client storage spaces to recommend options for installation. Corporate collections are often full of surprising artworks that can be forgotten in storage. It’s fascinating to comb through stored artwork and archives and find items that will be a great fit for a new space. During this type of project we also make recommendations about work that may need a new frame or conservation. We've recently travelled to Columbus, OH to reinstall artwork in a renovated office; transported artwork from storage in Chicago to Ann Arbor, MI, where we selected and installed art that complemented a newly-implemented design program; and acquired, framed, and shipped artwork for an office in Des Moines, IA.

When on the road for work, we take advantage of the opportunity to see fine art institutions that are otherwise too far for a casual visit. We love meeting with galleries that serve similar communities and learning about local artists that exhibit there.

Site Visits

For multi-phase projects, we prefer to schedule a site visit to learn more about the location. Areas of new construction can change dramatically from the initial floor plans we receive, and it's better to understand which artworks will be most impactful by visiting a space in person. This also gives us a chance to strategize with local project managers, see how the design strategy is implemented, and learn about local artists, galleries, and institutions. 

Working with the Local Art Community

We work with elite professionals across the country and make it a priority to support local art communities wherever we work. During our site visits we schedule meetings with prominent galleries and institutions to learn about notable local artists and fine art movements that are important to that area. Every region has its own distinct history and fine art traditions. When we highlight artwork unique to a specific community, that focus fosters a sense of pride in the people who occupy that office.  

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Fine Art Storage

Art Storage

When to Store Artwork

Corporate entities are constantly changing – whether a company is growing or downsizing, their art collection often needs to be taken off-site while these changes are put in place. With many newly renovated offices, there is a culture shift towards openness and collaboration; this manifests in design features like glass walls, interactive write-on walls, and open floor plans with fewer traditional artwork locations. While these adjustments are implemented, storing artwork gives our clients flexibility to install on their schedule.

During construction and relocations, we assist our clients with short and long-term storage options for collections. We manage the process from concept to completion and coordinate artwork removal with building management and the construction team. From there we transport the artwork to a secure storage facility, designed specifically to protect artwork.

Preserving Artwork

We store artwork in state-of-the-art facilities across the country. Protective measures are taken to preserve the artwork, including climate control options to provide the ideal temperature, humidity, and circulation needed for optium archival conditions.

Artwork remains safely packed in it’s storage area. Custom crates, armatures, and shelves can be built to accommodate the specific needs of a sculpture, painting, or artifact. Archival materials are used to protect against acidity and infestations.

Best Practices for Organization

Storage facilities are expansive, and great care is taken to ensure each artwork is accounted for. We use digital databases to maintain an inventory system that tracks details for each item in storage. This can include barcodes indicating the precise location in the storage area, contact information for the project manager, images, and condition reports.

Condition reports

These reports are a key part of art consulting and managing an art collection. When artwork first arrives at the storage location, a condition report is written as part of the initial inventory process. The reports make note of scratches, color inconsistencies, paint cracking, warped canvases, and other noticeable imperfections in an artwork or frame. Images are taken of the noted nuances when the condition report is prepared and are included in the inventory.

When artwork is ready to leave storage, a second condition report is generated. This report should review the original notes, and indicate the current status of the artwork. These updated reports are especially important if an artwork is being removed for conservation or reframing. Additional photos may be taken and added to the artwork’s inventory record.

Diligently employing these best practices when storing artwork leads to reliable records and an efficient system that keeps a collection safe. Using a professional fine art storage facility protects our clients’ investment in their art collection and makes it easy to manage their assets during office construction, renovation, or relocation.  

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