Collecting 1.0: Photography, Edition Size

Artsy Collecting
Apr 2, 2013 6:37PM

Since a photograph is reproducible, artists limit the number of prints that can be made from a single negative or image. This is a key factor in the price and value of the work, since unlike a painting, which is intrinsically unique, most photographs are editioned. The number of the edition is indicated in sequence.

A photograph can also have editions in multiple sizes. Generally, in this case the scale of the work is inversely proportional to the edition size; a large version of the photograph will usually have fewer editions, while the smaller version might have a larger set. Open editions imply that the artist has not made any limits as to how many photographs can be printed from one negative or digital file. Andreas Gursky's works are generally editions of six with two artist’s proofs. However, he set the record for the most expensive photograph ever sold when his Rhein II went for over $4.3 million at Christie's, New York in November of 2011. On the other end of the scale, Ed Ruscha’s Screw Head (Bowtie Landscapes) is an edition of 35 and available for $2,500, and Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God, a lenticular piece (a type of print using multiple images to create one composite image that has the illusion of depth) is an edition of 5,000 but available for $3,500. As the edition number goes up, the price for one in this edition tends to go down. 

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