Most people are still trying to get the spelling right on this one. Giclee is French for “ink jet”… leave it to the French to make the ink jet Fine Art! Never was I more excited about a new reproduction technique than Giclee – finally something that reproduces art so fully that you see the individual strokes, and it’s on canvas. Before the Giclee, there were few other ways to get a print of a piece: you could use a printing press (lithography)… it was usually on paper, and the plates would deteriorate the more prints they made (thus limited editions). Almost any other printing technique would not be so easy. Take serigraphs for instance – they are silk-screened one color at a time… very artist intensive… and again, the screens deteriorate after so many are pulled. Then there is stone lithography (Whoa! Take a metal tool and scratch out your art on a stone.). To be clear, Giclee is not in the category of the latter, so when Giclee came along, finally something for the artist who painted a painting and didn’t have to frikkin’ repaint it to reproduce it. Giclee has its place, though it’s not considered on its own fine art without Artist involvement.
As far as the value of a Giclee, they have a significant value only if they are signed by the artist after the Giclee is made. Just because the Giclee reproduces the artist’s signature does not mean the artist signed that particular Giclee. If you’re buying it directly from the Artist – congratulations, that’s the bomb, he gets most of the sale and you get the real signature. Plus, the Artist checked the proof (in the process) and might have even added a few original strokes to pop it a little. Unfortunately, many Giclees are sold without any Artist involvement – they simply ink jet a copy to canvas and sell it on a website… no original signature, just a copy. And while a Giclee might be on fine canvas and archival inks (so the quality may be there) but the artists’ involvement is not… there is much less value. As far as “Limited Editions” – well, if there isn’t any artist involvement, where is the value? Art is more that just an Image, it’s a real piece of that person (if they are involved). Provenance is the biggest issue in validating art, so if you buy a Giclee, if possible get a picture of you with the Artist and the Giclee. Also, what is the story behind the piece? If you are able to “charm the Artist” (ha!) ask them how many have been printed and see if they will note that on your Giclee (along with the date and if they happen to scribble a personal note to you as well, the more the value, I mean, merrier :). Giclees do not deteriorate with numbers of copies – #1 will be as crisp as #1000.
Giclees saved my art career. The Imago fire in Dunedin, FL in 2008 destroyed all of my art… my body of work went up in flames… everything, including those pieces you covet and would never sell till you got that crazy price. Fortunately, Preferred Custom Printing (the ultimate in producing fine Giclees here in Clearwater, FL – yes a plug for a fabulous company!), had been working with me to document my work, so most of my most notable pieces were at least imaged on a computer, ready to be Gicleed. At first I wanted to get a copy and repaint every one of them… this brings me to repainted Giclees. Continuing on the value of a Giclee, this category is most important. An Artist will at times repaint the entire picture, fully re-coating the canvas. Wow. It may be in the exact image and magic of the original, or perhaps altered to create a different Mood. I remember one time an African American patron had purchased a repainted Giclee from me, of a man holding a Heart over his head. He called me two months later and asked if I would repaint the man as African American. I said “Sure” – I got a new Giclee, repainted it, and resold the first one. This is a great market and value because of the artist involvement. So, Value is as follows: least value is the unsigned (uninvolved Artist) Giclee, next would be certified signature from Artist on individual Giclee, next in value would be a Giclee bought directly from artist – signed, dated, and numbered (with a picture with the artist and the work), and finally, the repainted Giclee. No, a repainted Giclee is not an original painting from scratch, but it is an inspired work, infused with the artist’s brush, signature, and soul.
The Giclee is a powerful tool for an Artist to add needed art income, a tool for preservation of his work, and an affordable way for collectors to enjoy an Artist they want to collect. When purchasing a Giclee the best way to get real value is by Artist involvement. Quality is also important – Giclee’s scratch easily, so be sure they are well varnished. A quality Giclee is made with archival inks and good paper or canvas… made for the long run. Not all Galleries are on board with Giclees (it takes control out of their hands), but for me I want to empower Artists to get their work out there, and this is the greatest thing to come along in a long time for Artists.