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What is an Original Print?

Original prints are works of art whose images exist only as, and were created by the artist exclusively for the limited number of impressions on paper known collectively as the ‘edition’. Un-modified printed images of pre-existing artworks (paintings or drawings), even when printed by hand and signed by the artist, are considered reproductions- little more than expensive posters.

The most important factor in this consideration is the degree to which the artist participated in conception and execution of the image. In the collaborative process, the artist is responsible for creating the image on the the plate, stone or block from which the edition will be printed. Once the artist approves a final printed ‘proof’, the entire edition is then printed by hand to match it.

Once the edition and proofs are completed, the artist signs and numbers each impression. Finally, the image on the printing surface is destroyed in order to prevent unauthorized copies being printed at a later date. All unsigned trial proofs and rejected impressions are also destroyed.

Reputable galleries and printshops will provide documents that describe the materials and techniques used, the involvement of the artist, the size of the edition, name of the printer and date of completion. These documents should be signed by both the artist and the printer and are not only useful for investment and insurance purposes, but are also good indications that the print is, in fact, an original work of fine art. The New York Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, article 15 states that print documents or certificates of authenticity are a legal requirement (for works sold in New York State) and outlines strict requirements for the content of these documents.

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