What is the difference between fine art and wall décor?
What some may call fine art, others may call wall decor. How do
you tell the difference?
Let’s begin by defining the standards used to determine fine art.
To begin with fine art must be PH balanced. Both the ink and the
medium used, either canvas or fine art paper, must be PH neutral
and everything, including the frame, must be acid free. Fine art
must stand the test of time by lasting a minimum of 100 to 200
years and must use the best ink, pigments and medium. Fine art
should be the best the industry can offer. Just because a piece is
being sold as fine art doesn’t necessarily mean it passes the fine
art standard so beware.
There are three grades of fine art. As the names suggest a Gallery
grade is suitable for display in a gallery or museum, a Collector
grade is suitable for the collectible market and an Investment
grade needs to increase in value over time. If the work doesn’t
meet fine art standards then it is simply wall décor. Wall décor
can range from absolute junk up to art that doesn’t quite meet
fine art standards and can include both paper and canvas
Art reproductions can be produced either on fine art paper or on
canvas and by using either offset reproduction or digital reproduction.
The advantage of digital reproductions is that the artist or publisher
can produce additional prints on an as needed basis. The artist or
publisher can also digitally alter the size of the finished product
creating size options for the market.
There are three types of canvas reproductions used in today’s art
market. The first is a canvas transfer process. This method is
outdated and doesn’t work very well but is still being offered as fine
art. However, in my opinion a canvas transfer should never be sold
as fine art. The second process is the Iris print. The Iris print is a
very high maintenance process and prints directly to the medium
with a 4 to 6 color inkjet printer developed by Iris Graphics in the
late 1970’s. The third method uses a more advanced inkjets printer
that spray directly on the medium using 8 to 12 colors achieving
incredible detail. These modern inkjet printers are very low
maintenance and suffer very little degradation in the printing
process compared to the Iris print process. Iris press and inkjets
reproductions are called giclees (zhee-klays), a French term meaning
“spray or spurt of ink”.
There are some other terms that you need to be aware of. Limited
Editions come in two types; either by the number of prints produced
or by the amount of time the prints are offered. A small number of
limited edition art pieces doesn’t necessarily mean it will go up in
value but the goal of any true artist is to product art that will go up
in value. As the name suggests Signed reproductions must be signed
specifically by the artist. Signed & Numbered reproductions are
Limited Editions that have been signed and which also denotes its
place in the print run; ie 7 of 1000. Proofs are usually prints where
something is not quite right with the print, usually as a result of a
degradation of the print process. Degradation is more pronounced
in the Canvas transfer and Irish press processes. For this reason, in
a run of 10,000 the last print will look noticeably different than the
first print. The newer inkjet giclees have very little degradation.
Artist proofs differ in that the artist arbitrarily pulls out a number of
prints. The artist would then sign those pieces and sell them for a
higher price. Today the artist will pull the first 20 to 25 pieces to use
as artist proofs.
When displaying your piece of art there are two things to remember
based on the type of art being purchased. Number one is that fine
art paper prints should always be glassed and should be matted with
the matte going between the paper and glass. Secondly, canvas prints
should never be glassed. Either an acid free liner must be used or it
needs to be backed with an acid free ph neutral paper. And finally,
there are two types of framing choices for your piece of art. The first
type are those mechanically made in bulk. It is inexpensive and
v-nailed but not glued. The second type is custom made by hand,
v-nailed and glued with no light showing at corners. UV is the enemy
of ink. All light will degrade all art to a degree so care should be made
in deciding where to display the piece.
If you have additional questions concerning fine art versus wall decor,