We Love Graphic Art!
Is collecting art a rich man’s hobby? Nothing could be more wrong. Forget about the prices you see quoted – they’re paid for investment purposes, mostly on a speculative basis, and are often overblown. Collecting art – real collecting – is something else.
While putting together a major collection of one-off works by the biggest names in contemporary art certainly requires deep pockets, the art market also gives you the chance of creating your own collection of works that are just as precious, but are certainly priced more affordably.
According to a 2014 Hiscox report, prints and graphic art represent the first step into collecting for those who choose to buy on the Web; some 55% of those purchasing art online for the first time buy a print from a Web-based platform. And since 2014, the market for graphic art has grown by 15%. Many prints sold today go for between $ 1,000 and $ 10,000, and some 24% can be had for less than $ 1,000. Since 2014, the prints market has consistently been grossing $ 220 million–$ 240 million per annum.
Why collect graphic works by old and modern masters?
We often think that prints are just reproductions. But the fact is that a print is much more than a simple copy of an original work: it an art form that’s completely separate from an artist’s usual work. Engraving and lithography are a form of art in their own right, and just as powerful as other kinds, as evidenced by some incredibly beautiful masterpieces.
Developed in Germany towards the middle of the 15th Century, etchings and aquatints were, by the late 17th Century, being produced by artists of the stature of Goya, Dürer, Parmigianino, Tiepolo and Rembrandt. The history of art goes back a long way where graphics are concerned. But what is left of that heritage today?
More recently, many modern and contemporary art masters have produced graphic works, thus helping make the sector ever more appealing both from the artistic and economic points of view. Artists of the calibre of Chagall, Dalí and Fautrier – to name but a few – are considered today as among the cornerstones of the genre.
And when works are conceived from the outset as multiple pieces and are produced by artists as such, they have the same validity as their single pieces. How can we not be enchanted by the prints produced by Fontana, Burri or Afro with 2RC, or by the graphic works of Marini, Dorazio, Tàpies, Beuys and Calder.
Miró for example, was interested in graphics for most of his life, and especially from the 1950s onward when he set up an engraving and lithography studio in Son Boter, the old house he bought in Mallorca. Subsequently, the artist produced a great number of prints, fascinated as he was by techniques involved and by the many possibilities they offered for expression and communication, as well as by the relationship between visual art and writing.
Some of the best-known 20th-Century sculptors also practiced engraving. For example, apart from producing a great many wonderful sculptures (whose prices are, unfortunately, off-limits to most of us) graphics formed a very significant part of Henry Moore’s opus and represented, according to the historian C.L. Ragghianti, ”the most vitally profound nucleus of how Moore felt about reality”.
Would you like to hang a Picasso on your living room wall? For those who love the Spanish artist but cannot afford the price of one of his single works, there’s plenty to choose from. Indeed, Picasso’s own career makes it clear that he liked to work and experiment with graphic processes. The results – ranging from engravings, etchings, aquatints and lithographs – are certainly more affordable than his pictorial production and he used them to illustrate the entire range of themes and ideas in his artistic vision. Today, one of those works can be had for only € 4,000.
Investing in graphic art can become a way of building up a collection that has a more detailed story to tell about an artist – often through the themes and compositions he explored in his paintings and sculptures. For example, the prints of De Chirico and Johns not only have much to say about how they developed their various subjects, but also show how their skills as engravers grew in the course of their careers. In fact, talking about the graphics of an artist like Alberto Burri doesn’t mean dealing with a minor aspect of his work compared with his more famous creations, but with a parallel form of art, one different in conception and execution but still playing a central role in the artist’s production.
What are the must-go-to events for a collector interested in graphic art?
Besides the usual shows that museums and galleries organize for graphic art lovers, collectors should make sure they don’t miss the specialized fairs devoted to the sector. Printed art has seen major growth over the past few years. And while one of the year’s most eagerly awaited events is the Wopart – Work on Paper Fair – in Lugano, the list of fairs devoted to paper-based art seems destined to grow longer every day. New York’s Art on Paper, Drawing now in Paris or Art Madrid On Paper are only a few of the regular events that focus on contemporary graphic artists.
To sum up, available data make it clear that the segment devoted to masterpieces on paper today represents a major investment opening.
Prints can be a way of owning an authentic, iconic piece of art without a six-zero price tag. Or they can simply help you get to know better artists who fetch much higher prices for their work in other media.
But beyond the purely financial aspects, the emotions you feel when looking at a print are priceless, because artists have endless freedom when they are working with paper.
Let yourself be drawn by the lure of graphic art. But it is important that you like the work you’re seeing. And if the price is right, buy it: it will give you a chance of getting together a serious art collection.