Why We Don’t Sign or Number Our Art Prints

Neutrino Gallery has made the decision to publish open editions only, and not to publish limited editions. It is our position that open editions represent the future of fine art printing and better represent an artwork’s true aesthetic, financial and social value.

Limited editions aren’t limited

Due to changes in how prints are created and who creates them, the art world can no longer police or enforce them with any reliability.

example of a signed and numbered art print

Prior to the digital age, printers employed purely mechanical techniques to transfer an original work, such as a painting, to a plate or screen for printing. A meticulous process often considered to be a work of art in itself, the artist and printer would collaborate to ensure the best possible result.

Then, after printing and archiving a fixed number of copies, the printer would destroy the plate so that nobody could use it to print additional copies. This helped to assure the integrity of the art collector’s investment and the artist’s reputation.

With the advent of digital image capture software, these safeguards no longer exist. Digital image files are replacing physical plates as the archival template upon which the print is based. It is simply impossible to prove that a digital file, which can be copied an infinite number of times, has been destroyed.

The art collector has no guarantee that in some future year an artist, printer, copyright holder or counterfeiter won’t simply create a second edition — limited or open — to capitalize on, for instance, a newfound popularity or a newly acquired debt.

The financial value of a modern art print in no longer based on scarcity. Rather, it must be based on the artist’s vision, prowess and/or reputation; the quality of the physical print, as well as the medium upon which it is printed; and the artwork’s relevance to the collector’s and society’s evolving artistic sensibilities.

Perhaps this is for the best. Open editions allow artists to reach their widest possible audience, while offering collectors physical assets whose value is based not on numbers, but on underlying quality.

Signatures aren’t signed

Neutrino Gallery also publishes all of of our fine art prints as unsigned editions, although a separate signed letter of authenticity is available. We believe that a print’s quality and beauty should stand on its own.

Just like edition numbers, modern signatures have lost much of their monetary value. Digital auto-signing machines allow the artist to email an image of their signature to the printer, who then “signs” each print with the artist’s name via a pen attached to a mechanical arm that reads and traces the image file. Now even a signed print might never feel the touch of the artist’s hand.

Some collectors still view an original signature as adding a touch of glamour to a print, and we respect their decision. However, for our own work, we feel that it just adds a touch of distraction. We prefer to let the complexity of the design, colors, shape and medium integrate into the surrounding environment as it was meant to, without that little squiggle at the bottom.

If you have purchased one of our prints and wish to have documentation of its authenticity, we will be more than happy to send you a physical, hand-signed letter by the artist at no charge — and suitable for framing. We will make an exception, of course, for commissioned works that become the exclusive property of the client and the client requests a signature.