After visiting the Tate Britain last week to get my eyes on the wonderful life works of Hockney I got reminded of a reoccurring issue worth a debate.
After the exhibition, I went through the shop, perused the postcards and looked for a print of my favourite piece from the exhibition. I had the same issues that I do with lots of gallery gift shops, the reproductions were insane!
As someone who works with designers/illustrators/artists who want to make reproductions of their designs & work I know the real hardship of finding a printer/manufacturer to reproduce to a high quality & accuracy.
Postcards are something that lots of people like to pick up, cheap and cheerful usually but they tend to err on the side of fuzzy and dark never representing even the character of the artwork. They are actually something I talk artists in to a lot when their work is particularly large so they have something they can give away as a reminder. However finding the right printer is key to leaving the right impression. (And it’s a bloody hard thing to find)
I was kind of shocked by the choice when it came to ‘A Bigger Splash’, a work I wasn’t very fond of, that seemed to be put on any and ever item you could think of. Irrelevant of cropping, colour correction or need.
So once I stumbled over a mother daughter duo buying six 40×70 Giclee prints with accompanying £50 frames (wow) It made me ask are these people art lovers for desiring Hockney’s works on a t-shirt? And when they wear it do they think of the original works they have seen or just remember the t-shirt representation.
I get asked about the value of prints a lot, as I work with a lot of silk screen & linocut artists who’s originals ARE prints and get told all the time they aren’t worth the money. So then the debate roles on to include digital vs. press printing and why someone who works hours on a computer designing layers for a print screen is any different from a painter spending hours with a pallet & a canvas. Why was I willing to spend £25 pound on a print of this wonderful Grand Canyon piece: was it the vibrant colours, the memory of my own visit to the landmark or my new interest in Hockney’s later work from the 90s.
So after looking at a photo of the real thing (one I wasn’t aloud to take mind you, which is another argument all together) verses a photograph of a print then screen grabbed from a computer. Then another photo of my new Giclee print framed ready to be put up on the wall once I move house. None of which hold a candle to standing in front of the original but for all the chance I will get to do that again, my print will have to do.
There are lots of strings to this argument, probably a couple of harsh words about the retail industry at large but overall I don’t think a 90p postcard is ever going to be passed up. It doesn’t break the bank but allows you to feel you are taking the experience with you. Which for me will ever be a mystery but I don’t think will change anytime soon. However I hope large institutions like the Tate will continue to develop their reproductions to improve their quality and respect the ascetics of the artist & the originals. I hope promoting better art understanding and appreciation.