museum quality giclee?

May 13, 2009

I recently saw advertised on an artist’s page “museum quality giclees” for sale.  The original was a mixed media painting with collaged papers.  I called immediately to find out why the artist would consider a reproduction of her original as museum quality.  She assured me the copy looked as good as the original (not for sale) and most people could not tell the difference.  The giclee was printed on the best ink jet printer using archival inks and rag paper so the copy could stand the test of time and it retails for $750.

Really? I find it hard to believe that just the materials used qualify a piece of art as museum quality. Plus the fact that museums generally stay away from reproductions, much preferring to collect original art and artifacts.  But the idea that most people could not tell the difference is the part that disturbed me the most of what she said. 

The term giclee actually means spray of ink, from an ink jet printer, onto paper or fabric. Looking closely at a giclee will show a smooth finish without brushmark or nuance of tool or medium (most certainly not showing any collaged aspects.)  You can see the weave of canvas or textured paper…sometimes those pesky marketers of reproductions add painted areas or a varnish with strong brush strokes, thus making the “work of art” embellished and more valuable, at least in the pricing, which brings me to the next point about giclees.

Giclees of paintings will be worth less than you pay for them.

A giclee or digital print of any medium other than digital images like photographs or computer genaerated art is just a poster, a copy, a reproduction, a poser, pretending to be something it is not.  Yes, there is a place in the market for posters, offset lithograph prints and reproductions,  they can be found in department stores everywhere.  Numbering and signing them does not increase their value. and please do not be fooled by language and inappropriate prices to the value of these giclees.  They are not considered fine art and most artists and collectors feel that they actually devalue the original. 

However, there are museum quality digital images produced on the same ink jet printers, using the same inks and papers, but they are originals or editions of images designed and created for the medium used.  And limited editions are very collectible and valued by museums as long as they are hand-pulled originals, which will be the next topic of suzsaysthisaboutart blog.