Thursday, September 27, 2007

Giclee Defined

The art business is full of buzzwords that are used by clever marketers to provide comfort to the public that the piece of reproduction art they are acquiring has the value to justify the price. One of those words today is "Giclee". Just the sound of this french term has many a customer reaching for his checkbook. I wonder if people would play as much if they simply referred to the piece as an "ink-jet" print?

While marketing is important in selling anything - including art, one of the things that frustrates me the most is not only the attempt to oversell something but the expectations that this places on everyone involved from the artist, printer, publisher and buyer.

What really is a "Giclee". I decided to re-print a definition that I have used to explain this print form below:


The Definition : Giclee (zhee-klay) - The French word "giclée" is a feminine noun that means a spray or a spurt of liquid. The word may have been derived from the French verb "gicler" meaning "to squirt".

The Term : The term "giclée print" connotates an elevation in printmaking technology. Images are high resolution digital scans printed with archival quality inks onto various substrates including canvas, fine art, and photo-base paper. The giclée printing process provides better color accuracy than other means of reproduction. As for quality, the giclée print now rivals many traditional silver-halide and gelatin printing processes and is commonly found in museums, art galleries, and photographic galleries. Numerous examples of giclée prints can be found in New York City at the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and other public galleries. In addition, many artists today are using this technique to allow them to produce reproductions in small quantities.

The Advantages : Giclée prints (sometimes mistakenly referred to as an Iris print which is a 4-Color ink-jet printer line pioneered in the late 1970s by Iris Graphics) are advantageous to artists who do not find it feasible to mass produce their work, but want to reproduce their art as needed, or on-demand. Once an image is digitally archived, additional reproductions can be made with minimal effort and reasonable cost - the prohibitive up-front cost of mass production for an edition is eliminated. Another tremendous advantage of giclée printing is that digital images can be reproduced to almost any size and onto various media, giving the artist the ability to customize prints for a specific client. These digital images will not deteriorate in quality such as negatives and film because the information is archived digitally.

The Process : Giclée prints are created typically using high-end 8-Color to 12-Color ink-jet printers. Among the manufacturers of these printers are vanguards such as Epson, MacDermid Colorspan, & Hewlett-Packard. These modern technology printers are capable of producing incredibly detailed prints for both the fine art and photographic markets.

In the end - a print is still a print! However, a good reproduction made with quality in mind will showcase the artist's talent and provide a great copy of a great original. As for pricing - Giclee's may cost more to make per print but the cost is still well within reach for most people while many artist's originals are not.

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