Photography and Limited Editions

April 2 / 2021 by Kennedy Contemporary

With the introduction of our newest artist, Jon Setter, a photographer based in Sydney, Australia, we feel it's important to educate our collectors about limited and open edition prints.

What is a limited edition?

A limited edition limits the supply of a non-unique artworks. For example - paintings that are oil on canvas are unique (the artist cannot mass reproduce them), but digital photographs can be produced as many times possible. Most photographers set an edition number to limit the supply, and thus create value for that particular image. 

What is an open edition?

An open edition does not limit the supply, and thus leaves the edition "open." The artist is able to produce as many copies of that artwork as they wish without any limits.

How does this affect the artwork and pricing?

Limited editions are more valuable because, well, they are limited. The artist has stated that there will be no more than 8 copies of that bronze sculpture/digital artwork/photograph ever produced, and thus that artwork becomes valuable. Open editions will be much less expensive, because the artist will likely produce hundreds or thousands over the span of their career. Think of a $50 canvas print that you can buy at Target or Home Goods - those are (often) open edition prints. Now think of a photograph selling for $500 + at a gallery - those are often limited editions.

Can other artworks be editions?

Any works that can be re-created numerous times can be editions. Many of the bronze sculptures by Copper Tritscheller are editions because bronzes require time consuming (and expensive!) molds to be cast for each particular sculpture. Thus many bronze artists also create editions for each sculpture. Otherwise, a singular bronze work would be very expensive, since the costs of production are incredibly high!

Is the edition over the life span of the image? Or per size?

Both - and it depends. Some artists will say the edition size is for the image itself - others will release (say) 100 of a small size, 75 of a medium size, and 50 of a small size. That means technically the image can be produced up to 225 times. Since photographers will often produce a "proof" (or a test print) before selling the edition, they also have the right to sell those proofs as Artist Proofs (or AP's). Some AP's can be their own editions up to 10 or larger, depending on the artist. 

How are limited editions enforced?

It really comes down to the artist themselves. There is no limited edition policing system in the art world, and so collectors must trust the reputation of a gallery representing the artist or the artist selling the work. Limited editions will typically come with a Certificate of Authenticity that will state the number of artworks in that edition and the number of the image you have purchased. For example - you own number 2 out of 8 in the edition. The numbers in the edition don't typically matter for contemporary art.

How does Jon Setter set his editions?

Jon has four different size categories (or three depending on the resolution of the image). 32" x 22" is an edition of 8, 44" x 31" is an edition of 5, 52" x 38" is an edition of 5, and 63" x 44" is an edition of 3. In total, Jon will never produce more than 21 copies of each image. The price goes up as the artwork gets larger and the editions get smaller. Most photographers will also increase the price of each edition as they sell out. So the last available image in an edition will often be more expensive than when the edition was first released.

Questions? Send us a text at 714.519.6297 and we would be happy to help!