Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Fine Art Print vs Fine Art Printing

Can a print of fine art not be a fine art print?

I've never really liked the fine print part of our businesses name because it's meaning can be lost in a different context, ie the agreement sounds promising but have you checked the fine print?  But the fact that prints is also a homonym (prints/prince) also bugs me a bit so I think it is my inner language pedant that is at fault here rather than a branding issue that we need to change.

So we stuck with the Fine Prints part of our company's moniker when we broadened the business name from Avon Fine Prints (which was actually a sub brand of ours that specialised in limited edition reproductions of antique NZ prints in the 1960s and 70s) as we felt that this was now limiting the scope of what we did as we began stocking many more prints by contemporary artists.

This week I was surprised to find that another meaning for fine art print was in use that seems obvious now but had not resonated with me previously.

Northland Panels by Colin McCahon (Fine Art Print?)
We are calling a reproduction of Colin McCahon's painting "Northland Panels" a fine art print, why asked Glenn of Artrite - when it was not fine art printing at all but a photolithograph?  Ah, we said, that is because Colin McCahon is a "fine art" New Zealand artist.  Meaning that he has studied fine art, produced fine art (rather than design or decorative art) and the artist's work appears in collections at prestigious NZ art galleries such as Te Papa or Auckland Art Gallery.

But Glenn had had a call from a gallery concerned that we were selling a "fine art print" of a well-known artist's work for $60, which a customer had pointed out to them looked like the same image they were selling that was printed by Artrite for $600 - in this case a limited edition screenprint (which we also stocked).  From a screenprinters' point of view fine art print meant a fine art production process, rather than a reproduction photo-lithograph like the $60 print.  This had not occurred to me, and it had not occurred to Glenn that a photo-lithograph could be a fine art print as it was a print of fine art!

We do not want to sow seeds of confusion, we are not trying to convey that the $60 print in question is of the same quality as a limited edition screenprint - but we also need to use the words that are in common usage for what we sell in order for customers to find what they wish to buy.  The case I remember from the early days of online marketing was the luxury car brand that insisted that second hand cars were "pre-owned" rather than "used", but had to change this when they realised that nobody ever looked for "pre-owned cars".

Occasionally we are taken to task over whether a print is actually a "reproduction", or if a reproduction print should actually be called a "poster".  I refer back to the car example above, to some extent we have to use the words that customers use even if there is a narrower meaning to an expert in their field, in this case a fine art printer like Glenn from Artrite.

We are making some big changes to prints.co.nz in the next few weeks, one job I will do during this process is to check every one of our thousands of product listings to make sure we are describing prints as accurately as we can - some listings are now just on 20 years old and in the light of this interesting discussion I will make sure that descriptions are as clear to as many of our visitors as possible as they are to us when we are writing them.

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