Pace Prints’ Dick Solomon on Why, and How, to Collect Prints

Whether you’re new to the art market or looking to mix things up, prints can be a relatively easy foundation for a collection. From classic woodcuts to Pop-style screenprinting, master printers use a variety of methods to collaborate with well-known artists and produce editions of their work. Demand at Pace Prints’ newest 26th street gallery is a testament to the ancient art form’s endurance among collectors new and seasoned alike. To learn more about these unique processes, Artsy reached out to Pace President Dick Solomon for what to consider when buying prints. With an expert touch, Solomon gave us the lowdown on printmaking, from artist to printer and printer to collector. Pass it on.

Prints are original.

Printers use printing plates—etched pieces of rubber, plastic, or other synthetic and natural polymers—with ink to reproduce works of art. Unlike posters, they create unique takes on existing images.

“Whether the artist has actually worked on the plates or whether the printers have translated an image, they are original because they are not basic reproductions,” Solomon explains. “They’re being interpreted by the printers if, in fact, the artist is giving them a sketch, not working on the plates. In many cases the artists are actually working on the plates which makes them 100% the artist’s work, but sometimes—and one of the great things about printmaking is—it’s basically a collaboration between an artist and a printer, which is very unique. It doesn’t happen in most instances with other works of art.”

Prints are safe and educational collection-starters.

“They are, in many cases, done by artists whose recognition in other mediums has already been established, so it enables somebody to collect a work by an artist who has some proven track record in terms of acceptance, creativity, etc. [This] allows somebody to become educated visually at a rather minimal cost compared to doing the same thing with a painting. And sometimes that is a real benefit to a neophyte, to a new collector who really has not established their own visual, aesthetic identity.”

Prints are inexpensive and beneficial collection-growers.

“People collect in various media, and sometimes [they are] not trying to make art a decorative accessory. But, in terms of installation, somebody might use paintings in the living room and dining room, and use prints in the library or the kids’ rooms or the hall. In my own apartment, I have prints, drawings, sculpture, and paintings all hung together… anOldenburg sculpture, a Dubuffet sculpture, an Alberspainting, a Warhol drawing, and a Chuck Close print all in the same room.”

Prints are stress-free investments.

“I think the most important [factor] is whether you like the work of art and, at the price level that the work of art is commanding, whether it’s attractive to you. It’s such a personal decision, but I think one has to really decide how much one is willing to spend and whether the work of art will have a lasting impression. And when I say ‘a lasting impression’ it doesn’t have to last that long because tastes change and fashions change, and if you’re buying a print you’re not buying a house on a lot. So my sense basically is that prints firstly are very exciting, you learn a lot about technique, you can have a broad range of aesthetics, and you don’t have to be a very wealthy person to be a print collector.”

Prints have guidelines.

When looking at prints, Solomon stresses where and where not to focus. “The number of the edition makes absolutely no difference in terms of its value, aesthetically or financially.” Instead, he says, condition is the utmost concern before and after purchase. “Paper is a fragile thing, and you have to make sure that the condition is good and it’s framed correctly. Then you also have to make sure that when you buy a print, you realize that paper does breathe so that it’s best to collect and hang prints in an environment that’s relatively stable, 24/7.”

Prints have experts.

Above all, collectors should pursue reputable printmakers and vendors to maximize their investments. Solomon should know. “The major question about any work of art is to make sure that you’re buying the work of art from a respectable, knowledgeable person who can explain it to you, who can explain the method of production and the reason why the value is at a certain level compared to other works of art. My great advice—and I don’t always follow it—is: Rather than trying to buy something that is undervalued or less costly, try to buy the best of an artist’s work at a price that you can afford.”

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