It used to be that if you wanted a work of art, you either had to get an original or settle for a less-than-perfect reproduction. Now, however, digital technologies, new printing processes, and the online world have converged to create a whole new world of collectible and affordable prints and reproductions.
ArtWeLove.com, for instance, specializes in making and selling prints of contemporary artwork.
“We make fine art collectible,” Laurence Lafforgue, founder of ArtWeLove, told TechNewsWorld. “It’s for all the people who like to go to museums but can’t afford the contemporary art they see.”
Founded in 2008, ArtWeLove currently works with 30 artists, including photographers, painters and multimedia artists, to produce high-quality, limited-edition prints of their work. The company has found that working directly with artists and consumers online is having a profound effect on the dissemination and appreciation of contemporary art.
“High culture at an affordable price is exciting to people, especially when they can access it on the Internet and don’t have to come to New York,” said Lafforgue.
The company does have a showroom in New York, but the bulk of its business is done with people not in the city.
In fact, some of the work available through ArtWeLove was created specifically to sell through the site. Artists such as Molly Dilworth, who specializes in public art projects, work with the company to create one-of-a-kind prints for sale. Dilworth, for instance, created a print to accompany one of her projects, which involved painting a Manhattan street blue. The piece itself could be viewed only from the air or by using Google Earth, but the print available on ArtWeLove gave consumers a way to buy a piece by Dilworth.
“It’s the only way you can collect her work, because she’s uncollectible,” stated Lafforgue. “It’s a great way to support an artist.”
ArtWeLove is right at the crossroads of Internet and digital technologies, and it is creating a new way to produce and consume art.
“The goal was to break through the barriers using the Internet as a way to disseminate this art,” said Lafforgue.
Visitors to the site can access short video interviews with artists, replicating the experience of a studio visit. Those who purchase prints, which range from US$15 to $2,000, depending on size, edition and format, also get a certificate of authenticity for the print.
Lafforgue, herself an art collector, emphasizes the importance of art in understanding and interpreting the world, and her company encourages art and its consumption to evolve along with new technologies.
“Artists are dealing with things that are very important, dealing with things in our culture,” said Lafforgue. “It’s a completely new artistic production we are creating, a new kind of production for the 21st century.”
Reproduction Services for Artists
Another way the Web has influenced the art world is to offer artists access to companies that provide relatively inexpensive, archival-quality reproductions of their work that they can then resell on their own sites, in galleries, or at art shows.
Companies like AllPCOnline.com, for instance, offer Giclee printing services to artists. Founded in 2003, the company currently works with about 200 artists and photographers around the U.S. These artists can either send their own digital files to be printed, or they can send their original to the Tampa, Fla.-based company to be scanned and reproduced using the Giclee printing process, which essentially uses inkjet-like technology, pigment inks, and paper or canvas. These prints range in cost from $50 to $800, depending on size and other factors.
A few of AllPCOnline.com’s customers are local, but most come from other parts of the country.
“The Internet has been essential to our business,” company founder and CEO Fabio Braghi told TechNewsWorld. “Without the Internet, we wouldn’t exist.”
Many Giclee printing companies rely on high-tech, digital processes to create their reproductions. Fine Art Impressions, for instance, has its own studio and uses a 216-megapixel scanning camera to create detailed digital files for printing. This process of digitizing and creating reproductions of art has, in a way, become its own artform.
“Our main role is to enable people to replicate artwork,” Gary Kerr, the president and founder of Fine Art Impressions, told TechNewsWorld.
The goal that many artists have in using services such as this is primarily financial.
“The published value is worth more to the artist than the original,” explained Kerr. “There’s real value to the artist to monetize their copyright by digitizing the work before selling the original.”
In other words, an artist might sell an original work for $12,000, and 50 limited edition prints for $1,000 each. The financial advantage is clear, particularly if the prints are archival-quality and collectible.
Reproductions of Masters
Some companies specialize in reproductions of paintings that are actually painted, not printed. Companies like the Great Masters Gallery, for instance, provide a way to order painted reproductions online. Founded in 1998, the Great Masters Gallery is based in Bulgaria and employs artists who paint reproductions of famous paintings.
“Each one in our team of painters is a specialist in his particular field, and this gives us the opportunity to reproduce to the limit of perfection the style and the technique of every original old master,” Michael Orlov, owner of the Great Masters Gallery, told TechNewsWorld. “Of course we have acquired these abilities for a long educational and creative period, and this is the reason why our handmade art reproductions express the human element, the spirit and the sense of the great masters.”
Currently, the site offers 20,000 paintings by 450 classic artists. It has sold reproductions, priced at $300 to $500, to over 3,000 customers around the world. Its sales happen almost entirely through its website, where clients can view the works of art and even watch videos that show the process of creating a reproduction from the blank canvas to the last brushstroke.
Despite the old-fashioned process of producing these paintings by hand, the Internet, in fact, has been key to this company’s success. The Web has connected its art reproductions to a far-flung customer base that might never otherwise have considered ordering a reproduction from Bulgaria.
“I cannot imagine my business without Internet,” explained Orlov. “It has been so long that I have worked in this environment that I don’t know what it is to be offline. Without the Internet my business would be gone, because the art reproduction business is so specific that the local art lovers are not enough to feed it.”