Be Smart About Art

Will reproduction prints or the licensing of images de-value originals?

written by: Susan Mumford Dec. 3, 2017 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan's weekly blog post 1214 views

Will reproduction prints or the licensing of images de-value originals?

Having been asked this question more times than I have fingers or toes to count, not to mention that ‘value’ is a subject of great interest, it’s high time that this blog series, now five years of age (time flies when having fun!) addresses the question.

There are two specific instances that come to mind when artists have asked me about creating reproduction images: Once while delivering a workshop on the ‘pricing of art’ at Photofusion in Brixton, and another time at the National Open Art show on the South Bank. For the former, a photographer had been invited to license an image for publication in a print magazine, the image of which had already been used in a limited edition fine art series. For the latter, a draughtsman had sold an original pencil drawing (that incorporated painstaking detail and many hours of labour) and was keen to create a limited-edition reproduction print run to continue to sell.

The simple answer to both instances is this: You hold the copyright (unless you’ve agreed otherwise and have signed the dotted line to accept) and are able to do what you please with the image.

As for the more complex response…

It’s paramount that you’re clear about the varying propositions and corresponding values (including differences therein).

In the case of the photographer, the fine art piece had been printed using a particular darkroom process on a specific type of paper and had been placed into a carefully selected frame. The print run was limited according to the edition number. Each print was signed and numbered by the photographer.

Having that same image presented in a magazine stood to get the image as well as the photographer increased noticeability (in other words, raising brand awareness). If anything, such familiarity would help to increase the value of corresponding fine art prints over time. There needn’t be any concern about the image going into a magazine as potentially de-valuing the fine art print, for they are such radically differing propositions.

In the case of the draughtsman, the original pencil on paper piece had been sold. Creating a limited-edition reproduction print series meant that he could provide wider access to the work. Similarly to the photographer, this stood to help to increase awareness of the piece itself, as well as the maker, presenting potential to increase value of the collecting-worthy original work. What’s important is that the draughtsman makes a clear distinction between the two offerings, which can be achieved by the text that accompanies the print run on the website, in galleries and on certificates of authenticity, not to mention physical attributes, such as making the reproduction prints physically smaller than the original drawing.

Moreover, many buyers of reproduction prints aspire to acquire originals. Having a print is a regular reminder of the artist, which is set to prompt the owner of the print to check out the maker from to time, potentially resulting in the acquisition of an original when budgetary circumstances change.

If you’re still uncertain, how about testing the concept over a specific period? You can gauge responses and reactions.

p.s. Transparency with buyers of original works can go a long way to keeping happy clients. Why not let them know that you’re going to help get their piece more exposure?  


Add your thoughts and own experiences below in comments! 


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