The Fine Art of Collecting Fine Prints


For the bibliophile and print lover: Sophie Calle's "The Address Book," 2009. A portfolio of prints at Gemini G.E.L.

by Emily Waldorf

On January 22nd, I attended a panel called “The Fine Art of Collecting Fine Prints” at the Los Angeles Art Show.  The panel was moderated by curator Michele Deziel  and included Collectors/Curators/Writers, Reba and Dave Williams and Kevin Murphy, PhD, Associate Curator of American Art at the Huntington Art Collections.

Here is a summary of the wonderfully knowledgeable and engaging panel’s advice on how to collect fine prints:

  • Prints can be very confusing for the uninitiated, start by developing relationships with dealers you trust who can educate you and look at as many prints as possible.  It is hard to understand the differences between different types of prints just by reading about them, you have to see them.
  • Watch the documentary film All About Prints, produced by Reba and Dave Williams.  It covers the art of printmaking from the perspective of influential curators, collectors, dealers, printmakers, and artists.  Since fine prints are relatively less expensive than original art, collecting them allows you to go deeper and acquire more artists.
  • Buy what you love without hopes of reselling it.  You should feel emotionally attached to the work you buy. If you can, try to find artists that no one else in the art market happens to be buying and you will get much better deals.
  • AbeBooks is a great online resource for purchasing hard to find art reference books.
  • All works on paper are fragile by nature and special attention should be paid to condition.  Be sure to see works outside of the frame and look for foxing, creases and other signs of wear and tear.
  • Prints need to be rotated periodically so that they don’t get too much exposure to light.  Museums rotate the prints in their collections about every four months.
  • Store prints in acid free mats and be sure that nothing touches the surface of the paper.  Even ultraviolet proof plexiglass eventually needs to be replaced and ink colors (especially older ones) can change over time if you are not extra careful with exposure to sunlight.

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