Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D             [ Back ]    [ Home  [ Next

"Cloning Art"

Let's say you've just finished painting the most outstanding seascape you've ever created--one that you'd like to have hanging in a most prestigious art gallery while yet wanting to send it to your aunt in Topeka, your mom on Mother's Day, and your first art teacher who said you'd never amount to anything.  But you have only one image--the original.  So what do you do?

Clone it.

In today's modern, high-tech world, reproducing originals to almost one-hundred-percent likeness can be done, and is done on a regular basis, so much so that it's becoming a dilemma as to what's valid and what's fraudulent art.

How is a piece of art copied?  There are different methods for each type of artform, but words like "mold," "plate," "limited edition," "lithograph," "seriograph," "print," "poster," "reproduction," "replica" should signal the duplication of an original piece of artwork. 

The word "print" is generic for "multiple copies" but it usually denotes the publication of a piece of art by a printer or printing house taken from an engraved "plate."  As is true with nearly all reproductions, prints are numbered in a limited issue or edition, which gives them more value.  So if a hundred copies are made, the prints are numbered 1-100, excluding the "artist's proofs," and once the 100 are gone, no more can be made from that same plate or woodblock, or whatever.  Of course the reproductions are not as valuable as the original but limiting their number and having the artist sign each gives them greater merit.  Opposite to this is an open edition which is generally not signed or numbered by the author, and may have been reproduced in the thousands.  Open Editions are of less value.

Similar to a print is a lithograph in which the original is reproduced via a lithographic stone.  This is a planographic process, meaning the image isn't raised, and allows for variety in color and tone at a reasonable cost.  Offset Lithography is used in book printing.  Likewise, lithographs prints are usually signed and numbered for added value.

Serigraphs (screen printing), on the other hand, are color prints made by the silk-screen process, where printing is done over a framed, meshed screen.  A stencil blocks out desired sections of the mesh, while a screen covers those parts to be printed.  Paint is "pulled" across the mesh with a squeegee.  Unlike lithographs, serigraphs offer a greater range of color and surface textures, and they, too, are signed and numbered, and the plate is destroyed after the edition is completed.

High-Tech Processes offer other means of duplicating originals inexpensively and with variation in color.  Scanning, laser printing, computer-generated art--are some new methods, while others are yet on the horizon.  Too, canvas transfers are also becoming popular, and posters done well and framed nicely are finding themselves into more and more homes and offices.  Cloning painting isn't the only form copied; 3-D art is as well, such as through the use of molds for sculptures.

The ability and technology to reproduce art exists, and will become even more omnipotent as time goes on and we unlock greater secrets in the high-tech area, so always trade with reputable gallery owners and dealers when buying art.  There have been a lot of shams and frauds out there; don't become a victim of one.

The important thing is to know what you're getting before you buy it.

Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D. 
Former executive director of a high end gallery..

Copyright 2002 Nan Hayes