Ask any art advisor and they will tell you: the first rule of collecting is to buy the art that you love. But, when the art that you love happens to be by blue-chip artists whose work sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars, you're not always going to be able to afford a one-of-a-kind artwork. That doesn't mean you can't own a Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, or Ruscha.
Editioned prints and multiples allow access to big-name artists (or up-and-coming ones!) without the big-name price tags. Reputable publishers and so-called Master Printers (highly skilled printers who only attain the title after years of apprenticeship) work very closely with artists to produce editions of the artists’ work. (To brush up on your printmaking terminology or learn the 101 on print methods, read our trusty guide here.)
Keep in mind, though, that fine art prints are quite different than printed reproductions (which aren't always produced in collaboration with the artist), and that their values (and appreciation potentials) are, in part, influenced by the reputation of the publisher who produced them. To ensure you're getting an authenticated, high-quality work, buy from a reputable publisher, through a trusted source. To make it easy, we've put together a short-list of seven renowned printing presses and publishers that work closely with their artists. Read up on what they're known for, and click on their linked names to see more available works!
San Francisco, CA
Since its founding in 1962, Crown Point Press has been committed to keeping the medium of intaglio alive, working with blue-chip artists all over the world, from Anish Kapoor and Laura Owens to Ed Ruscha and Chris Burden. To make an intaglio print, an artist first draws on a copper plate using a sharp tool and/or materials like soap, sugar, tar, or wax. The image is then etched into the copper plate using acid. Finally, a printer pushes ink by hand into the plate and wipes the surface clean. The press forces the paper into the plate to make the print. A visible plate edge shows that the image is embossed into the paper. Archives of etchings from Crown Point Press, which is located across the street from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, are at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Founded in 2000, Counter Editions works with leading contemporary artists and printers to commission and produce prints and multiples. Working in close collaboration with artists—like Tracey Emin, Cecily Brown, Elizabeth Peyton, and Gary Hume, to name a few—Counter Editions also co-publishes editions with the Tate galleries and collaborates with major institutions like the Serpentine Gallery and the Hayward Gallery. It’s editions have been acquired by collections like the Museum of Modern Art, Kunstmuseum Zurich, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the British Council.
The only publisher on this list affiliated with an academic institution, Graphicstudio is at the University of South Florida campus in Tampa, where both students and faculty benefit from interacting with visiting artists—artists like Alex Katz, Chuck Close, Judy Chicago, and Kiki Smith. Techniques include traditional hand-printing processes such as relief, etching, photogravure, lithography, and technically advanced sculpture fabrication methods. Since its founding in 1968 as a non-profit art-making facility, Graphicstudio has received popular and critical acclaim for its innovative approach to collaboration and technical advancements in both printmaking and sculpture fabrication. Graphicstudio editions have been acquired by leading museums including the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Public Library, and the Whitney Museum of Art. The National Gallery of Art in D.C. and the USF Contemporary Art Museum maintain complete archives of Graphicstudio editions.
NIELS BORCH JENSON EDITIONS
Coppenhagen, Denmaark and Berlin, Germany
Established in Copenhagen in 1979, Niels Borch Jenson Editions works with both emerging and established artists to produce print media projects through close collaboration. With the goal of bringing the essential character of the artist’s work into their print projects, the artist and the master printer mutually challenge each other, and occasionally generate innovative or unorthodox approaches to the medium. Most editions are created using classic intaglio techniques using copper printing plates, but since 1990, photogravure has become an area of special expertise for the printshop, as it is one of the most popular techniques among the artists they work work with. Neils Borch Jenson Editions also produce woodcuts, offset lithographs, and monotypes.
POLÍGRAFA OBRA GRAFICA
Launched in 1964 by Manuel de Muga in Barcelona, Polígrafa Obra Grafica, in its early years, published editions by artist who have since become recognized among the most foremost of their time: Joan Miró, Francis Bacon, Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Motherwell, and Max Ernst, just to name a few. Having worked with over 300 leading artists over the last 55 years, Polígrafa takes pride in promoting Spanish artists abroad, and they regularly participate in art fairs around the world, including Art Basel, which they've shown at since the fair’s inception.
Zurich, Switzerland and New York, NY
“If asked to choose a favorite among Parkett’s artist editions over the past 33 years,” writes Glenn Phillips, curator and head of modern and contemporary collections at the Getty Research Institute, “my definitive answer would be ‘All of them.’” Since its founding in 1984, Parkett has evolved into a one-of-a-kind time capsule and archive of contemporary art, functioning both as a large library and a small museum. Each artist Parkett collaborates with results in a signed edition (that may take any form—from prints, objects, and installations to unique works of art) in addition to three to four essays on the artist written by renowned authors. The recently published 600-page catalogue raisonné fully documents all of Parkett’s editions: a testament to the 101 books and 270 in-depth artists’ collaborations Parkett has published over the years. An ongoing traveling show of all works originated at MoMA in New York and has been on view across Europe, the US, and Asia—most recently in Beijing, Seoul, Singapore and Taipei. Parkett has an office in New York, and is headquartered in Zurich, where it also runs an exhibition space with rotating, themed shows and events.
Los Angeles, CA
When Gemini G.E.L. was founded in 1966, fine art printmaking was on the verge of both a technical renaissance and a soaring popularity, yet the initial focus was devoted to lithography. Master printer Kenneth Tyler, who studied at the renowned Tamarind Lithography Workshop, expanded his technical repertoire to include the entire breadth of the graphic arts, as well as three-dimensional multiples and limited-edition sculpture. Now, Gemini G.E.L. is known as a destination for innovative printmaking—the place where the artist is never told “no, it’s not possible,” and invitations to work in the shop were eagerly sought after. One such innovating printmaking milestone was Booster, a 72-inch-tall lithograph/silkscreen self-portrait by Robert Rauschenberg in 1967—the (then) largest print ever made—that permanently altered the boundaries of printmaking in the 20th century. Gemini’s first three-dimensional edition was Claes Oldenburg’s 1968 iconic Profile Airflow, and both technical and artistic milestones continue to present-day, with works such as Ellsworth Kelly’s nearly 19-foot lithograph, Purple/Red/Gray/Orange, Richard Serra’s monumental and heavily impastoed Paintstick Double Rift V, and Julie Mehretu’s majestic, multi-paneled Auguries. More recently, Gemini has created editions with Sophie Calle, Richard Tuttle, Ann Hamilton, and Tacita Dean. In 1981, the National Gallery of Art in D.C. established the Gemini G.E.L. archive, which functions as a study center for scholars and collectors, and contains a complete history of the workshop.