By Cristin Tierney
Our urge to collect is driven by varied and at
times complex motivations: the thrill of acquisition, the desire
to create a legacy for future generations, or simply the pleasure
of owning a fine work of art.
This brief guide offers some suggestion on how to initiate, expand,
and care for a collection of contemporary prints.
Before you begin to buy you should visit museums, galleries, auction
houses and art fairs to acquaint yourself with the contemporary
art scene. Reviewing art-related publications, like Art Forum or
Art in America, will also help to familiarize you with a variety of
artists and their work as well as current scholarship and market
trends. Consider taking a class or two on the history of prints
or printmaking techniques, to better understand the objects you
are contemplating for purchase. The more serious collector may even
want to consider hiring an art advisor, dealer or auction house
specialist to provide guidance in connoisseurship and investment
matters. As you become more knowledgeable, you should begin to define
your interests and to formulate a set of criteria for future purchases.
This will help to focus your collection.
Once you have established some basic parameters for your collection,
you can begin to develop your eye and concern yourself with the
fundamentals of connoisseurship. Here are some important points
to consider when evaluating a print for purchase:
Quality and artistic significance:
Is the print an exceptional example of that artists work?
How does it relate to other works within that artists oeuvre?
Condition: Is the print
in excellent condition? (This is especially important if you are
buying a work on the secondary market.) Do the materials or techniques
pose special conservation problems?
Is this the first print ever produced by this artist? Does it relate
to other artworks by other contemporary artists and seem to be "of
How was the print produced? Does it display superior craftsmanship
or technical excellence?
Rarity and edition size:
How large is the edition? Are there any variations within the edition?
Has this artist produced many prints or very few?
History of ownership, literature
and exhibition history: Has the print been widely exhibited?
Included in important books and catalogues about the artist? Owned
by a prestigious collector or famous individual?
Caring for Your Collection
After purchasing a work of art, the most effective way to preserve
it is by matting, hinging and framing it according to museum conservation
standards. You should give your collection the best protection your
budget will afford. Light, heat and humidity are three environmental
factors that should be monitored to ensure your artwork remains
in pristine condition. For more information regarding these conservation
issues, consult The Care of Prints and Drawings by Margaret Holben
Ellis. (Altimira Press, 1995)
The Printshop as a
The Lower East Side Printshop has served as a resource for contemporary
print collectors for decades. In becoming a member and regular supporter
of this institution you will receive invitations to special events,
such as artist talks and private viewings with curators. Members
of the Printshop gain access to a network of fellow collectors,
artists and arts professionals who share similar interests and related
expertise. Additionally, since the Printshop produces prints with
a variety of contemporary and emerging artists, members are often
among the first to view these artworks and have the inside track
on prints available for purchase.
is an advisor to a number of private collectors and institutions
in the United States and is a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of
Fine Arts, New York University. Prior to founding Cristin Tierney
Fine Art Advisory Services, she was a consultant for many years
at Christies auction house. She has taught graduate level
seminars on the history of the art market at Christie's Education
and undergraduate art history at New York University.
Unveiling party for James Siena's benefit print edition, summer 2005.