Carol O’Callaghan on why prints are an affordable route to art collecting.

A RECENT traipse round an eco-friendly showhouse impressed me with its novel structure, consisting of two wooden cylinders lying lengthways, slightly flattened, one on top of the other, with huge windows either end.

The interior was styled with furniture from a high-end Scandinavian design company, but it was this very styling that also served to highlight the lack of wall decoration, bar paint.

You see, a cylinder’s concave walls curving from floor to ceiling can’t accommodate pictures, so it felt like being in the ventilation hose at the back of a tumbler dryer.

Hurrah for our own walls which go straight up and down as nature intended, on which we can hang a few pretty things to give our homes personality. 

Ludmila Korol, Autumn Wine, 2020 Art Gallery, Cork, Ireland
Ludmila Korol, Autumn Wine, 2020 Art Gallery, Cork, Ireland

But if you don’t want any more framed relatives and friends staring down at you from on high, and can’t stretch to buying paintings, there’s an alternative to consider that won’t strain your finances to the point of injury.

Enter print art and reproduction prints.

Gallerist Sheelah Moloney explains the difference. 

“A repro print is where an artist has an original work which they sell, but they also make a limited edition of prints of the work.”

There’s no rule as to how much the artist will charge, relative to the price of the original artwork, but prints will be considerably less. 

“It’s really up to the individual artist,” says Sheelah, “and also the number of prints made. The larger the print run, the more affordable the individual print.”

Calypso by Jack Hickey. Limited edition giclée print, no. 1/10, signed and framed. €260 The artist’s original paintings are from €800 (2020 Gallery).
Calypso by Jack Hickey. Limited edition giclée print, no. 1/10, signed and framed. €260 The artist’s original paintings are from €800 (2020 Gallery).

Not all artists will make prints of their work, however, but when they do, a reproduction is a perfectly respectable way to have a piece by an artist you love, and by no means does it make you a second class citizen of the art buying world.

“Seasoned collectors buy them too.” Sheelah says, “Often where they’ve missed out on buying the original, the print is an alternative.”

The second option for the novice buyer on a budget is print art, an art practice in its own right where the artist creates an etching on a material like metal or wood and then makes a print by applying colour.

“You can only get so many prints from the etching so it’s usually limited to 10,” Sheelah explains.

“Each print is then considered an original artwork as they are made separately and the detail can vary with each one” So now we know the difference, the all-important question is: just how much exactly can we expect to pay?

Sheelah represents print artists whose work starts at €90 up to €200. Reproduction prints made from an original artwork start at €45 unframed, up to around €150, but she stresses that the print will probably be smaller in scale than the original.

Butterfly by Lily Corcoran. Limited edition screen print, signed and mounted. €45. Lily produces series of intricate floral work in print
Butterfly by Lily Corcoran. Limited edition screen print, signed and mounted. €45. Lily produces series of intricate floral work in print

For a special treat or gift, these prices are accessible for those of us more cautious about how we spend our disposable income since the dark days of recession, something Sheelah is mindful of having launched the 2020 Gallery in 2009 where she now represents over 30 up-and-coming artists.

“If you walk in the door and fall in love with something when your current budget won’t stretch to it, many galleries offer payment schemes. “Everyone is the same when it comes to budget, even seasoned collectors.”

Print buying is also flourishing online but caveat emptor applies as you don’t always know who you’re buying from, and like anything else bought online, there can be a disappointing difference in the quality of the piece when it arrives compared to what was viewed on a website. Stick to sites of known galleries so you’re not crying into an empty wallet afterwards.

If you don’t know where to start as a first-time buyer, Sheelah’s advice is to go with your gut. “If you like it, buy it. People are often afraid there’s more to it than that, but there isn’t.

Poppies by Julie Beckett. Artist’s proof etching (only one print made from the plate), signed and framed. €190 (2020 Gallery).
Poppies by Julie Beckett. Artist’s proof etching (only one print made from the plate), signed and framed. €190 (2020 Gallery).

“There’s also a widespread fear of walking into a gallery and asking a question or feeling you have to do so.

“I know that feeling as I was a nervous buyer when I bought my first piece.”

But she reassuringly adds: “I operate a no-pounce policy in my gallery.”


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