What is Giclée Art?

July 25, 20235 min read
What is Giclée Art?
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Time was, an original piece of blue chip art was produced and sold and that was the end of its value to the artist as a tool for generating revenue. With the advent of giclée printing as a fine art medium, independent artists can now get more mileage out of a single work. Moreover, greater numbers of collectors are afforded opportunities to collect the output of modern artists. And, while reproductions do carry less value than the original artworks, a giclée print—when produced according to the highest standards—is also considered a collectable value artwork.

What is Giclée Art?

The fine art process takes its name from the French word “gicler”, which, when translated into English means, “to spray, spout or squirt”. Pronounced “zhee-clay”, the term defines the process of reproducing a work of art with a computer printer with the aim of resembling the original as closely as possible. However, rather than a standard desktop printer, giclée production requires an extremely high-resolution device. 

The result is visual art of significantly elevated quality and tremendous longevity. In order to be considered giclée, a print must be at least 300 DPI (dots per inch). The higher the DPI count, the sharper and more resolute the resulting image will be. As a result, extremely fine details tend to be faithfully rendered. As a frame of reference, the average iPhone image is 72 DPI. 

The Origins of Giclée Printing

The coining of the term is attributed to Jack Duganne; a printmaker who realized applying an exotic-sounding term of expression to these prints would give them an aura of exclusivity. 

The first commercial work of this quality is said to have been produced in 1985. Color specialist David Coons was introduced to musician Graham Nash while working in Walt Disney Studios Feature Animation department. The two collaborated to reproduce a photograph of musician David Crosby from a contact sheet proof (a very small image). 

This is the first documented use of the process, which ultimately came to be known as giclée. Impressed with the quality of the finished product, Coons and Nash formed a company specializing in this work, which included Duganne, who was engaged by Coons and Nash to fine-tune the process. 

How Giclée Prints are Produced

High resolution scans of an original artwork are printed using inkjet devices from companies such as Iris (considered the leading device in the field), Epson and Canon. The machines typically contain 12 cartridges of pigment-based ink, rather than dye-based. This material gives them greater longevity, as well as enhanced detail and thoroughly saturated color. 

The result is continuous-tone, consistent, photorealistic prints rendered on canvas, watercolor paper or archival paper. Archival paper is a permanent, acid-free medium designed specifically to achieve outstanding longevity.  A correctly produced giclée can be expected to have a lifetime of up to 200 years, framed under glass and suitably protected. 

Involvement of the original artist at every stage of production ensures their vision is accurately conveyed. In some cases, artists will retouch finished prints by hand to add personal details and/or to ensure their standards are met in every dimension. These are referred to as “embellished prints”.

Open Edition vs Limited Edition Giclée Prints

A work can be designated open edition or limited edition at the artist’s discretion. As the term implies, open editions are unlimited in number and produced as long as demand persists. This provides an artist with the potential for ongoing passive income. 

Limited editions, as is inferred by that title, are produced to a specific count—after which no additional images will be created. This gives them added fair market value, as the only place to make future acquisitions is on the secondary market, once the designated number is reached.

Limited editions usually run no more than 150 prints, which are numbered and signed by the artist. A certificate of authentication will also usually accompany a limited edition giclée print.

As perhaps is expected, artists ask higher prices for limited edition giclée.

Why Buy Giclée Art Works?

While there are voices in the art world that decry the process, the fact remains that giclée is recognized as a legitimate medium by prestigious art auction houses as well as respected institutions such as The Guggenheim, The Louvre and The British Art Museum.

Owing to the quality and relative rarity of limited edition giclée, works in this medium have the potential to appreciate as their creators gain notoriety and acclaim. This is even more so once an edition is sold out. With that said, it is very important to make every effort to understand the nature of the market to ensure purchases are genuine when investing in fine art of this nature.

Bought carefully, giclée art can have value as an alternative investment, which can make it potentially useful for portfolio diversification. 

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Alternative Investments and Portfolio Diversification

Traditional portfolio asset allocation envisages a 60% public stock and 40% fixed income allocation. However, a more balanced 60/20/20 or 50/30/20 split, incorporating alternative assets, may make a portfolio less sensitive to public market short-term swings. 

Real estate, private equity, venture capital, digital assets, precious metals and collectibles are among the asset classes deemed “alternative investments.” Broadly speaking, such investments tend to be less connected to public equity, and thus offer potential for diversification. Of course, like traditional investments, it is important to remember that alternatives also entail a degree of risk. 

In some cases, this risk can be greater than that of traditional investments.

This is why these asset classes were traditionally accessible only to an exclusive base of wealthy individuals and institutional investors buying in at very high minimums — often between $500,000 and $1 million.  These people were considered to be more capable of weathering losses of that magnitude, should the investments underperform. However, that meant the potentially exceptional gains these investments presented were also limited to these groups.

To democratize these opportunities, Yieldstreet has opened a number of carefully curated alternative investment strategies to all investors. While the risk is still there, the company offers help in capitalizing on areas such as real estate, legal finance, art finance and structured notes — as well as a wide range of other unique alternative investments. 

Learn more about the ways Yieldstreet can help diversify and grow portfolios.

We believe our 10 alternative asset classes, track record across 470+ investments, third party reviews, and history of innovation makes Yieldstreet “The leading platform for private market investing,” as compared to other private market investment platforms.

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