Buying online with eBay’s Live Auctions – Understanding Prints and Editions

Last night was the formal launch of eBay’s Live Auctions, which I have already referred to here.  This exciting platform is opening the doors of traditional brick-and-mortar auction houses to online shoppers around the world.  eBay is looking to democratize the way people buy art and as part of the launch, the #ebayartforall hashtag has become their mantra.

 This colorful Takashi Murakami lithograph is coming up for auction in Live Auctions. Check it out  here .   

This colorful Takashi Murakami lithograph is coming up for auction in Live Auctions. Check it out here.   

This new experience makes art and collectibles accessible to the broadest possible audience and offers a fresh, modern way to discover, browse and buy premium pieces online.  Inventory is sold directly by hundreds of world class traditional auction houses, including premier partners such as Doyle New York, Freeman’s, Garth's Auctions and Swann Auction Galleries.

I find that usually prints and editions are a very good way for new collectors to buy pieces that are accessible without compromising the quality or the relevance of the artist and there are plenty of great pieces that fall in this category that can be found in the Live Auctions.

These two screenprints with glicee and gold leaf, although not a diptych, are being auctioned together. They are by Chris Ofili, whose retrospective at the New Museum in the Lower East Side is now on view.  I'm seriously considering bidding for them.  Particularly when a one-of-a-kind Ofili can go for seven figures.

There used to be a time when art pieces where unique.  For example, an artist would paint on a canvas with oil or create a sculpture in marble and the result would be a one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable piece of art. But at the end of the 19th century that changed and artists became more interested in reproducing their work in editions.

Nowadays, the market of prints and editions is large and robust and encompasses many techniques with diverse media and ample aesthetic and conceptual choices. 

In the printmaking realm, the process is important and quite diverse.  Screenprinting, lithography, and etching mean that the prints are actually made by hand and consequently they are more expensive and of superior quality.  The use of such techniques are also indicative that each print is somehow unique since nobody will be able to replicate the exact amount of ink that gets to be applied manually.  Sometimes, artists decide to do a one-off, which is called a monoprint and if that’s the case, then the work is unique although not made directly by the artist’s hand but through a mechanical process. Printmaking became also more complex and more interesting in the past few years and it’s possible to find prints that add other media to the paper turning the prints into collages.

 From the digital print editions that are coming up for auction,  I found this Sarah Morris piece with Kate Moss as a subject  to be cool, interesting and definitely pop-culture relevant. 

From the digital print editions that are coming up for auction, I found this Sarah Morris piece with Kate Moss as a subject to be cool, interesting and definitely pop-culture relevant. 

With eBay’s new live auctions experience, there are tons of great finds that can help you jumpstart your prints and editions collection. But, when considering buying a photographic print or edition it is important to take into consideration some of the following factors:

  • They must be limited, numbered and identified as such in the body of the print itself. The number of the print isn’t important, if it’s 1/100 or 99/100 the value is usually the same.  However, be aware that the larger the edition (for example more than 100) the lesser the value of each piece and vice versa.
  • They must be signed by the artist, which almost always means that the artist supervised the print-making process and that, of course, is quite valuable as well, since no artist wants to put work out there that doesn’t represent who they are. 

Regarding Media and Technique:

Photographic prints, for example, come in different types of paper using different techniques. Some of the most common are:

  • Cibachrome print is usually regarded as the best in terms of color longevity as well as color saturation and reproduction.
  • Gelatin Silver was what once was called “black & white” photographs and pretty much the technique that was widely used since the onset of the 20th Century until the 1960s, when the world was revolutionized by color prints.  Today, however, digital monochromatic printing is equally as good and can be manipulated to obtain a variety of rich shades within the black & white and sepia ranges. 
  • Chromogenic color prints, which are images produced from an original, like a negative or more recently, a digital file, where first introduced by Kodak in the 1940s using a type of paper denominated “Type-C”. 
  • "Giclee print" is also a different printmaking technique, whereby images are generated from high resolution digital scans and printed using ink-jet printers.

To check out the full list of upcoming live auction events, visit: http://www.ebay.com/rpp/collectibles-live-auctions

Happy Bidding!