Saturday, July 6, 2013

Gicle`e or Not Gicle`e, THAT Is The Question

As I noted in my last posting, my wife and I went to the Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach, CA. After seeing the Sawdust Festival we wandered over to the Art-A-Fair. After lunch we decided to wander on into town and see more of the galleries. I guess two festivals wasn't enough for me.

The first gallery we stopped at had a special exhibition of Dr. Seuss art, something that I had never seen before. In retrospect I should have known that someone had to illustrate his books and it was him! It turns out that Mr. Geisel, like Thomas Kincade, never, ever sold his original works of art. He left that to his family to distribute after he was gone. It turns out that he illustrated his books but he also painted for himself. Most of those paintings were never seen until after he died.

It turns out that you still can't buy the originals ... any of them. What you purchase, and some have a price tag in excess of $20,000 each, is a giclee, or for those not in the know, a copy of the original often printed on canvas. Two new prints are released each year.

Once a photo of the original is made, the resulting giclee can be any size. I don't know about you, but that seems rather expensive for a copy don't you think? Of course you are assured the money goes into a charity that supports this or that and that each one has a limited number of copies (500 seems to be a popular number). Thats a lot of money for a copy.

Art by Thomas Kincade
I guess that Thomas Kincade, "The painter of Light" paved the way for famous artists to start using giclee's. He never sold any of his art either instead creating giclee's, adding a stroke or three of paint and signing them. At a glance, many would never guess it wasn't an original. It was on canvas, there was texture and of course the paintings were signed by the artist. What more could you want? Kincade turned the art world upside down with a marketing strategy that was the envy of every artist then and probably now as well. At one time I believe his net worth was in excess of $200 million. He found a way to take one image and make millions selling copies of it a giclee at a time.

To be honest, at first I couldn't tell the difference  on the Seuss artwork until I looked at the sides and realized no artist ever has edges that neat and tidy. I don't care what you call it, its a copy, We looked at the other things in the gallery and moved on.

However, the next gallery and the ones after that seemed to have more giclee's than originals. I was stunned. The prices were well, outrageous for a copy of all things.

I got into a discussion at one gallery and mentioned that I was surprised to see so many "copies." She corrected me and said giclee. She went on to say that it was an affordable way for people to own art by famous artists. I guess the paintings sold at the corner gas station for $49 don't qualify.

 She explained that Galleries usually had 75% originals and 25% giclees. They may in stock but not on the floor. I noted that $20,000 for a copy wasn't cheap. I had seen the inkjet printers that can be used and other than starting the machine and removing the print at the end, not much needed to be done to make one. It costs between $50 and $150 to print depending on the size and material used. All the work was already done at a work station. Once mastered, it can print literally an unlimited number of prints. The 21st century digital file is the equivalent of Rembrant's etchings. They have been used again and again over the centuries too!

At the prices I saw, painters have gotten a highly elevated view of themselves over the years driven, I think, by the limited success of the few. And galleries, which take about 50% of every sale for "overhead" have become, like lawyers, the equivalent of the madam selling her wares in a lovely mansion. However, other than manage the house finances, she isn't the one doing the work.

I still say that if you see something you like get it. However, I think that I would hold out for the original like Peggy Guggenheim and not some giclee. I don't think a Jackson Pollock, any more than a Thomas Kincade, would look so great as a copy!

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