Silkscreen Print Collecting 101

Silkscreen Print Collecting 101

Buying prints and multiples by exceptional artists and building your collection.

Silkscreen Print Collecting 101

Peter’s Gallery is a leading expert in the field of contemporary prints and an eminent print publisher since 1993. We are excited to bring works from contemporary artists to a broader audience through the Peter’s Gallery Buy-Now platform.

Learn about the basics on technique, condition, and other common questions about prints and multiples by Peter’s Gallery’s Silkscreen and Multiples department.

Common types of prints

A print is a multiple original, meaning there is more than one, unlike a unique painting or work on paper. Prints may be lithographs, silkscreen prints, woodcuts, linoleum cuts, or intaglios (etchings, engravings, aquatints, and drypoints).

Edition sizes, artist proofs, and printer proofs

The word “edition” refers to the number of examples printed of an image or fabricated of an object, and this might range from a very few impressions to several hundred. A print is often numbered like a fraction (e.g. 1/50), however you may instead see an inscription indicating that it is a type of proof, as defined below.

Artist signature and publisher stamp

An artist signature is the sign of creative ownership, authenticity and completion of a work of art. In the case of contemporary prints and multiples, most artists sign their work by hand or opt for a stamp or incised signature. Aside from the artist’s signature, many publishers add their workshop seal (stamped or embossed) to indicate where the work was made. Peter’s Gallery also issues an accompanying Certificate of Authenticity with every print sold.

Mytaras Dimitris, Figures, Silkscreen print, 112 x 76 cm

Mytaras Dimitris, Figures, Silkscreen print, 112 x 76 cm

About the abbreviations that prints carry

Examples outside the numbered edition are customarily annotated with abbreviations, such as the following:

  • A.P.: Artist’s Proof. Examples set aside for the artist, identical to the numbered edition.
  • P.P.: Printer’s Proof. Examples set aside for the collaborating printer or publisher, identical to the numbered edition.
  • T.P.: Trial Proof. An example pulled while the artist is actively working on the composition, thus differing from the regular edition. Artists and printers use trial proofs to see how a work is progressing.
  • E.P.: Experimental Proof. As with trial proofs, artists use experimental proofs as part of their process in achieving the final image to be made into an edition.
  • C.T.P.: Colour Trial Proof. A trial proof that employs colours differing from those inks used for the final edition. Some artists frequently executed colour trial proofs when deciding the final colour combinations for their editioned work.
  • H.C.: Hors Commerce. Translating to “not for sale,” an hors commerce proof is similar to an artist’s proof in that it is identical to the final edition. Historically hors commerce proofs were intended for the artist and their collaborators, hence the implication that they are not to be sold. However, in practice, these proofs were often part of the artist’s compensation and were frequently sold with the rest of the edition.
  • B.A.T.: Bon à tirer. Meaning “good to pull,” a B.A.T. proof is the final proof pulled after the artist has finished working on the printing matrix, but before the printing of the edition has begun. There is typically only one B.A.T. proof and it is used by the printer to ensure the final edition appears as the artist intended.

 

Edition size and value

The smaller the edition, the more rare the work, oftentimes increasing the value. Other factors that influence a selling price include the artist’s market, how the print fits into their overall body of work, and of course, the condition of the example being considered.

Printers and publishers involvement with the printmaking process

The printer collaborates closely with the artist to execute the work of art, their technical expertise often influencing the end result. The publisher funds the project and oversees the sale of the edition; they are responsible for how a print is initially introduced to collectors, galleries, and institutions.

What to look out for that might affect the value of a print or multiple

When a work is not unique, the condition can be compared to other impressions from the edition and a collector may decide to wait and acquire an example in better shape. For this reason, the condition report is a vital consideration and the most commonly noted imperfections are as follows:

  • Fading: This is the most serious issue as once colours have diminished, they cannot be restored.
  • Trimming: The paper (referred to as the “sheet”) has been cut down or reduced from its original size. Like fading, this is a condition issue that cannot be rectified.
  • Discolouration: A darkening of the paper tone caused by prolonged exposure to light, contact with non-archival mat board or the presence of another acidic element such as certain adhesives or framing materials.
  • Fox mark: A type of mould that grows in paper fibres, caused by age or environment. Note: Foxing resembles freckles.
  • Crease: A wrinkle, fold or dimple in the sheet, often caused by handling.
  • Tear: A split or break in the sheet. Tears can be serious issues, particularly if they affect the image.


There are many more variables that determine the value of a print publication, including the track record of the artist, scarcity, scale and scope of the project. However, there is no formula for pricing; it is nuanced and determined by the publisher and artist.

 

Authentication

Mytaras Dimitris signing his prints (Circa 1996. Photograph: Peter's Gallery Archive)
Mytaras Dimitris signing his prints (Circa 1996. Photograph: Peter’s Gallery Archive)

Given the strength and accessibility of the print market, reproductions of original prints are an unfortunate reality.

Happily, many artists’ complete bodies of printed and editioned work are documented in catalogue raisonnés. While the level of detail in these texts varies, many include the correct medium, dimensions, complete edition size, paper type, and the location of signatures and inscriptions. These are all elements that can be compared to assist in determining authenticity, however it is not possible to confirm anything simply from a photograph, and close firsthand inspection by an expert is incredibly important.

When collecting works of art, especially on the secondary market, ensuring authenticity and condition become an important consideration. By accessing works directly from Peter’s Gallery, a print publisher, authenticity and condition are no longer an issue because you are acquiring the work directly from the primary source. More importantly, you can learn about how the work was made with the artist, as well as the collaboration process at the workshop.

Advice on framing a silkscreen print

Stathopoulos Giorgos signing his prints in the company of Harry Klynn, Michaelides Petros and friends (Sep. 1994. Photograph; Peter's Gallery Archive)
Stathopoulos Giorgos signing his prints in the company of Harry Klynn, Michaelides Petros and friends (Sep. 1994. Photograph: Peter’s Gallery Archive)

If you collect art, you need to be a good steward. Works on paper in general require extra love and care, as paper is vulnerable to the elements. The rule of thumb is to frame your work with archival materials and UV protection. It is important to keep works on paper out of direct sunlight, away from humidity and in a climate-controlled environment. Preserving and framing your works with Peter’s Art & Frames (est.1973) is the best peace-of-mind option for collectors. With 50 years of experience and a sister company to Peter’s Gallery, it is your one-stop shop for your collecting needs.

The benefit of starting an art collection with silkscreen prints and multiples

Compared to other collecting fields, the print market is still an untapped opportunity for collectors to acquire great works by renowned artists at obtainable prices. Savvy collectors are now crossing over categories to purchase work regardless of media, as museums rethink how they showcase works across disciplines. Ironically, artists tend to work on multiple bodies of work and media at once, and do not think about hierarchy within their oeuvre.

Where to begin looking

Our advice to collectors is to look at everything that interests you, ask many questions and research what you love. Peter’s Gallery’s Buy-Now platform is a way to look, ask questions and research all in one place.

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The secondary art market

The term “secondary market” refers to art that has been sold at least once before. In simpler terms, the secondary market deals with resale, typically with artworks by artists who have a substantial reputation. For example, most artworks sold through auction houses form part of the secondary market.

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