"There are a lot of people out there who are pissed...."
So you remember that I posted in passing about an Eggleston picture I liked that was being offered for sale for a big chunk of money. Then about the prices the sale actually fetched, which were in excess of pre-auction estimates.
Well, little did I know this would turn into an actual story.
It turns out that Eggleston had offered those same pictures before, many years ago—in limited editions. (When his dealer was Harry Lunn, who, quite by coincidence, we mentioned just a couple of days ago.) Uh-oh. According to gallerist Robert Mann, a lot of collectors are highly annoyed that new prints of their supposedly limited edition prints are coming onto the market.
Especially one Jonathan Sobel, described as "a major collector of William Eggleston's work," who, according to the developing story from PDN Pulse, "filed suit against the photographer yesterday in a U.S. District Court, accusing him of devaluing his vintage dye transfer prints by selling new, large-scale pigment prints of many of his iconic works."
You already know my opinion about limited editions. I think, to quote myself, "they're stupid"—from the photographer's point of view, that is. I don't think photographers should voluntarily limit their ability to profit from their own work just to benefit dealers and the secondary market. But I'll also opine that, once you set a limit, you should stick by your word. I gotta go with Sobel on this one—I think I'd be pissed, too.
PDN suggests checking back for more on the story later.
(Thanks to Ahmer Inam)
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Jeff Grant: "I like the Brooks Jensen method: Editions. The first lot would have been Edition 1, and the new ones Edition 2. Problem solved."
Featured Comment by Kevin Purcell: "Artsbeat has a couple of extra details:
Last month, three dozen of the larger-format prints—40 by 66 inches instead of the original format of 16 by 20 inches....
"So they use a different printing technique and a (very) different size. I didn't realize how 'small' the original dye transfer prints were.
Mr. Eggleston’s lawyer told The Wall Street Journal that the lawsuit had no merit and that printing vintage works in new formats falls within his creative rights.
"Huffington Post has a very detailed overview on this topic too.
This was the first sale of these new pigment prints. "First time seen and sold," Read said, adding that his gallery plans to exhibit other to-be-created large-scale pigment prints from older negatives by Eggleston this fall at Frieze London.
"That might be another reason for Sobel trying to get on top of this.
"Plus there is a New York State law covering this but it excludes different sizes, production types and numbering systems (arabic versus Roman). Why did Sobel file in Federal court?"
Featured Comment by Chris Crawford: "I disagree with Mike and the collector here. Eggleston's new prints are a different medium. Dye transfers are rare and won't be devalued. If he did new dye transfers, then I'd understand collectors getting upset."
Featured Comment by Bobby Salmon: "It doesn't sound like Sobel has much of a case, for reasons already mentioned above. The concept of limited editioning is to me a false one and violates the whole nature and spirit of the photographic medium. Photography is the most democratic (with a small 'd') art form, the process best suited to mass printing and to providing art to larger numbers of people and for multiple end purposes. I'm not saying to give prints away for free, but artificially constraining photographic works into limited editions is an unnatural attempt to force photography into the mold of painting or screen printing. If any editioning is to be done at all, then, as mentioned in Jeff Grant's comment above, Brooks Jensen's method is the only one that makes any kind of organizational and honest sense."
Featured Comment by Ahmer Inam: "...And continuing this saga, PDN now has an interview with Mr. Sobel who does make some compelling arguments."