The Advantages of Buying Prints over Unique Artworks

Artsy Specialist
Oct 29, 2018 2:00PM

Original artworks, fascinating techniques, lower price points—there are many reasons to start collecting prints.

Through Artsy, you can browse over 40,000 available prints—from Rembrandt’s iconic self-portraits to Takashi Murakami’s smiling flowers—and discover works that match your style, space, and budget. From market data to shipping costs, here are four advantages of buying prints.

Printers Karl Hecksher and Yasu Shibata at the Pace Editions workshop in Manhattan. Courtesy of Pace Prints.

Accessible Originals

Printmaking techniques—such as etching, woodcut, silkscreen, and lithography—enable artists to produce multiple versions of the same work, often referred to as an edition. While editioned prints are not unique, they are still considered to be original artworks just like paintings, drawings, or sculptures.

Because prints are available in editions, they are often more affordable when compared to one-of-a-kind pieces. As a general rule, the smaller the edition size, the more valuable the print.

Diversity of Techniques

While you don’t need to study printmaking processes to enjoy prints, these details can enrich your day-to-day appreciation of these artworks. Printmaking requires precise craftsmanship and technical innovation—and learning more about these techniques can be one of the great joys of buying prints.

For example, when you buy a woodcut that has 20 colors, you might discover the piece was composed from 20 different hand-carved woodblocks, one for each hue. By asking questions of your print dealer and looking closely at your piece, you might be able to find evidence of this labor-intensive process—and you can share these discoveries when people ask you about the work.

Below is an example of three works by Alex Katz that show three different print techniques: woodcut, aquatint, and screenprint.

More Market Data

For data-driven buyers, historic (or secondary market) prints are a great place to start. If you are wondering whether to buy a specific print, you can research auction results for other artworks from the same edition. These direct comparables will give you a sense of an artwork’s market value and can help guide your bidding decisions at auctions and price discussions with galleries.

On Artsy, you can browse a selection of auction results for hundreds of artists—for example, you can explore Rembrandt’s auction results on his profile page here.

Easy Shipping

Prints are usually flat—and this makes them relatively inexpensive to ship. To ensure a safe delivery, prints only need to be flat-packed (wedged between two pieces of foam board) or rolled into a tube. By contrast, paintings and sculptures often need to be transported in a wooden crate to prevent damages—and this added weight increases shipping costs.

You can start exploring prints on Artsy—and learn more about your favorite works by asking the gallery or auction house for more information about the print edition, the artistic technique, or the artist’s market. If you have questions along the way, you can also contact Artsy’s team of specialists at [email protected].

Artsy Specialist