You have probably heard about editions - artworks that exist multiple times and are usually numbered and signed by the artist. Editions can be an excellent way to get your art collection started, because you can get works by popular artists at a reasonable price. But like the rest of the art world, staying on top of things isn’t so easy. In our conversation with David Khalat, director of Edition VFO, one of Switzerland’s oldest publishers of art editions, we will shed some light on why and how to buy art editions.
ARTLEMON: David, can you give an example of a recent edition you have published?
DAVID: A recent edition that we published is the portfolio “Sooner or Later” by artist John M. Armleder. Armleder contributed four works for the exhibition “Notes on Abstraction” that was shown between January and May 2022 at our venue in Zurich. The works are inspired by his dot paintings and Armleder used all four printing processes (relief, flat, intaglio and screen) to create those works.
ARTLEMON: Can you give us a bit of background on what editions are and how they have developed over time?
DAVID: I would rather talk about printmaking, as it is one of many artistic media, just like painting, drawing, photography, or sculpture. Historically, artists like Rembrandt or Dürer were famous for their contributions to printmaking. They produced many printed editions of their works, so that the messages and aesthetics of their practice could be accessed by a broader audience. Later, in the 19th and 20th century, photography, lithography, screen printing, and offset revolutionized the way how artists were working and do so until today. Also the development of digital printing and inkjets played an important role, even though those are not really considered classical printmaking techniques.
ARTLEMON: Is an edition an original work available multiple times?
DAVID: First, many works like videos, photos or sculptures are per se conceived in editions. However they are only regarded as "editions" from a number of 10 onwards. Second, There are two sorts of editions. You have editions that are original works of art, conceived for their own sake and that work by themselves. In this respect you can take for example the actions of Roman Signer that are documented through different remnants or the conceptual 3D print that Karin Sander did with us. But then there are also a lot of editions that are pure reproductions of other works...
ARTLEMON: At Edition VFO, you are offering high quality editions. What does quality mean in the context of editions?
DAVID: Each work that we publish is created exclusively for Edition VFO by the artist. We have a committee of curators, artists, critics and board members who decide which works we edit. As mentioned above, we would never publish a work that is a mere reproduction of an existing work. A classic bad example for an edition is when painters want to print an existing painting as an edition - that is not an original artwork. We try to encourage artists to work on new ideas and approaches, so that the new edition we create with them relates to their existing practice and the other way around.
ARTLEMON: Where can newbies find great editions? Where would you recommend looking for them?
DAVID: There are many great editions that can be bought and they are spread out between many institutions, print clubs or even magazines. First of all, you need knowledge of the artists and the works that you might like. Also it is important to understand the technical aspects of how the work is done and which part it plays in the practice of the artist. Besides Edition VFO, who as a non-profit are trying to have as affordable prices as possible, there are classic editions publishers such as Niels Borch Jensen, Pace Prints, Gemini GEL and many others. I also can recommend looking at different museums and institutions like Kästner Gesellschaft, Kölner Kunstverein or Whitechapel Gallery.
ARTLEMON: How do prices for editions come about?
DAVID: At Edition VFO, the price of the edition is directly tied to the costs of production and the fee for the artists. Sometimes people try to divide the price of a similar unique piece through the print run of an edition. Editions are priced very differently and it depends on the work and its importance, the size, the print run and the standing of the artist in the art market.
ARTLEMON: Are editions a good investment? Do their prices usually increase?
DAVID: I wouldn’t necessarily see editions or art generally as an investment. I think there are other more solid and predictable investment categories. One has to love the work, and to see how through buying art one supports the artists, institutions and producers. However, buying editions enables a solid entry point into the art world, obtaining good artworks for moderate prices. Some prices can surely increase, but you cannot bet on that. If you look at the prints of blue-chip artists Roy Lichtenstein or Cy Twombly, they can cost up to half a million per print.
ARTLEMON: Edition VFO has been around since 1948 and is not just a publisher, but also a member association. How does this member model work?
DAVID: We are a non-profit and members-based Swiss association. Today we are the biggest publisher of contemporary art in Switzerland, editing around 40 works a year. Our mission is to support printmaking in contemporary art as well as younger artists and to make art available to a broader audience through lowering the threshold for collecting. Our members pay a yearly fee of CHF 180, for which they get 25% on all our prices, once a year you can also deduct the fee (from what?). We also have a special member program to learn about printmaking and meet other collectors. Members are also preferred as buyers because when we publish a very sought-after edition, it can be sold within a day.
David, thank you so much for this interesting conversation!
David Khalat is director of Edition VFO since 2018. He studied philosophy, history, culture and society in Mainz, Zurich and London. You can learn more about his research and publishing projects at www.davidkhalat.com. To discover Edition VFO’s high-quality editions and learn more about their membership visit www.edition-vfo-ch.
Photo: Curtesy of Edition VFO and Tagesanzeiger
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