Multiplied Art Fair Director and Christie's Senior Prints Specialist Murray Macaulay on collecting contemporary editions

Murray Macaulay | 14 October 2015

Ahead of this week's Multiplied Art Fair, Culture24 talks to its Director Murray Macaulay about contemporary editions

A photo of a man in a suit smiling in front of a sign for the Multiplied Art Fair
© Courtesy Christie's
What is the market like for editions?
With the inflation in value of unique modern and contemporary works of art over the last decade, editions have become an attractive alternative to collectors. Part of the appeal is greater accessibility in terms of price, but it is by no means limited to it.

Artists have always made compelling work in editions; in traditional media like printmaking or photography, but also now with high tech digital and 3-D printing techniques.

Is the world of editions a unique market?
The use of the word 'editions' as a catch-all for art objects made in multiple impressions is actually a fairly recent development. It reflects a change in contemporary art practice, where the focus is often more on conceptual intent, and less on the medium itself.

Printmaking and photography have their own rich histories of collecting and connoisseurship, but I would say that in general contemporary collectors are much more eclectic in their tastes, prioritising image over discipline, and buying across genres and categories. There will always be specialist enthusiasts though – I love printmaking. 

A photo of a piece of black and white Glenn Ligon artwork spelling the word America
Glenn Ligon's America© Courtesy Nottingham Contemporary
Are editions a good place to start collecting art?
Editions are a great place to start, and to go on, collecting. All the best artists, past and present, have made prints and editions. Not many people know that you can buy a woodcut by Albrecht Dürer, printed in 1511, or a Suite Vollard etching from the 1930’s by Pablo Picasso, for a few thousand pounds.

At Multiplied, you can buy editions by leading contemporary artists, but also by early career artists, who could just be the next hot thing. 

What are the rewards - and pitfalls - of collecting multiples?
Many people confuse editions with reproductions, which they emphatically aren’t. To me the quality of an edition is judged by the degree to which the artist has used a particular method or technology to realize their creative ends in a way that couldn't have been achieved in any medium.

Printmaking for example, offers a range of aesthetic qualities that aren't available in other media: the wiry, embossed line of an etched mark, the expressive gouge and grain of a woodcut, the bright gloss of a screen print, or the menagerie of effects available with digital technology.  

In terms of the nuts and bolts of edition collecting, the rule of thumb is that editions are made in small limited runs. Each impression is numbered with its own number followed by the overall edition size, and signed by the artist. After the edition has been made the matrix/mold is destroyed, allowing for no further examples to be made.

Contemporary editions seem to be increasingly visible in public gallery shops, what should I be looking out for when thinking of buying one?

Buying editions published by leading museums and galleries is an excellent way to start to collect contemporary art, while at the same time supporting their important work. Often the artists are very high profile and the prices very affordable. I would apply the same criteria described above.    

Please give us a brief overview of the fair and its guiding ethos
 Multiplied is hosted by Christie’s South Kensington and is the UK’s only fair devoted to Contemporary Art in editions, encompassing prints, photographs, artist’s books and 3D multiples. Each year we welcome around 40 exhibitors from around the world, representing leading contemporary artists and as well as new talent.

The Fair has a strong focus on supporting young artists and the galleries that represent them. This year we are very excited to be launching Multiplied Selects, an online shop, hosted on Christies.com, of editions for sale sourced exclusively from exhibitors.  

Could you identify some of the exciting exhibitors coming to the fair and some of your favourite works which will be on sale?
We are delighted to be welcoming Nottingham Contemporary and Liverpool Biennial as co-exhibitors to Multiplied for the first time, exhibiting the last five available impressions of Glenn Ligon’s sold-out work, America. 

The Royal Academy will be featuring works by graduates and Royal Academicians, including one of my favourite artists, Cathie Pilkington RA. Other personal highlights include Katsutoshi Yuasa’s beautiful woodcut ‘Death of Beauty #1’, Victoria Burge’s lithograph ‘Blue Star’ and Petros Chrisostomou’s photographs of everyday objects made gargantuan in meticulously constructed miniature stage sets.

  • Multiplied Art Fair runs at Christie's, London from October 16-18 2015. For more information visit christies.com/multiplied.

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