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Saturday, 21 May 2011


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Even artists have a right to earn a living. I beleive series editions are limited to a single run in a single size. Make a new series in a different size. If the original series was 16x20, make the new one in 11x14 or 20x24.

f*#%? yeah i would do it.

No. Some things in life are worth more than money. Integrity being one of them.

Oh, I'm pretty sure I would. And you would. And anyone else, I believe. Probably would provide no proof of autenticity to the buyer of that one, and that's it.
And if the story came out, I'd write a book on how much I tortured myself on the moral dilemma. Really, half the world wouldn't blame you for that. At that level, probably the twin copies would even go up in price.

Wow, I got over the A/P line, well, anyway, I would. Dying a noble poverty for people who spend that much money for a print...

No smart artist should do limited editions, And if you do, you should've burned the neg. ;)

So yeah, I would've.

Easy answer: no.

Even leaving aside the ethical issues, it's too risky. These things always get out, especially since any collector untrustworthy enough to propose such a thing is too untrustworthy to keep it a secret. Moreover, it would be easy to date the latter picture (for one thing, the colors won't have faded yet...). If you get caught doing something like that, your reputation will take a considerable hit -- and when you're an artist working in a medium as contingent as photography, in a market based entirely on perception, your reputation is really all you have to sell. I'd tell the guy to tear it out of a catalog, frame it, and hang it on his wall if he wanted the image so badly.

Remember, folks: images are free, or at any rate pretty cheap. Prints can be expensive, but if the guy really isn't ever going to sell it, or show it to anyone, or even tell anyone it exists, he's doesn't need the print.

And by the way, the (completely hypothetical) collection that the (merely imaginary) artist sold to the (obviously notional) museum didn't include a copy of the (perfectly fictional) print that just sold for 3.8 million. Those prints were all black and white.

One of the key points of that story are the investments your fictional character made. The most important investment we all make is our integrity. It pays dividends better than anything else you can invest in. The only one who can destroy that investment is you. However, once lost, it's next to impossible to restore.

"The dilemma: would you do it?"

Absolutely not. Aside from the glaring ethical issues the top of the art world is actually a very small worldwide community and collectors tend to be social and loose-lipped. News of your cheat would certainly reach your gallery very soon, at which time you'd be certainly tossed onto the street and probably also sued, depending on your contractual agreement with your reps..whose reputations would now also be at stake. Getting another rep at the top end would probably be very tough, too. You'd become a pariah.

The buyer would be a dope, too. Increasingly, the provenance of highly-prized photographic prints is becoming a big factor in resales. (I have been involved in just such provenance work myself recently.) You can bet that the other ten prints are accounted for.

Besides, sadly, $3 mil. is just not that much money any more. Hell, your precipitating legal bill would probably run $750k, plus the eventual settlement. You wouldn't even be able to afford a week in the "DSK (Alleged) Grabass Suite" at the Times Square Sofitel with the leftovers.

So, no.

If you were a painter, would you paint a copy? or a sculptor, hew an identical piece? On the other hand, if you were a musician, having stamped a number of copies of a single performance, would you not be open to another Command Performance, knowing that it would never be the same?
I would think about it, and perhaps tell the customer,I can print from the original negative, but it will not be the same. I have changed since the original printing, and so my interpretation of it will reflect the passage of years in me. And if this is something that interests you, we can go ahead.

Make an inkjet print in a different size? That counts as a different edition then right? :)

Brilliant! I can't wait to read the comments from readers in the know, and readers with opinions. An egalitarian you say.


An artist's proof does not normally count against the number in the edition. It is also not normally printed after the edition is closed and certainly not 25 years after the edition closed.

The European's have legislation known as Droite de Suite (or Right to Follow). Under this legislation a proportion of the escalating value of an artist's work is remitted to the artist at time of resale. The artist benefits from the increased demand and subsequent higher valuation placed on her work.

No. But I also would never do an edition.

Some might get around this dilemma (in their mind, anyway) by altering the size, or slight cropping, or some other variation of the the famous print to differentiate it from the edition. Heck, it would be even more rare.

The art market is very little more than deception and scamming. Life is too short — too fleeting to not take care of yourself. Take the money, enjoy what's left, and if you get caught know that your name will have an asterisk next to it in the record books.

So it's a 2011 edition. Just announce you've decided to make a 2nd numbered run and only print them as ordered. I don't see how the new prints would affect the value of the originals, as long as there is a way to clearly differentiate the new set from the original ten.

I don't see the ethical dilemma. You own the negative and it is your prerogative earn an income from your property.

It's not just a moral dilemma, it's a legal one, as well. Editioning prints creates a contractual obligation between the artist and the customers who purchased work. So, while making $3 million on a single print seems a fantastic opportunity, if the illicit print becomes pubic knowledge, it may well cost much more than that to settle potential lawsuits.

That said, for that amount of money it would be extremely tempting. I'd like to say I would refuse, but.....

I would like to believe the value of my integrity is priceless, but I fear the truth is that it's probably uncomfortably close to $3,000,000 ... which is why, for the moment, I am not limiting my editions. If nothing else, it will keep me honest.


Can I be the famous photographer?

I'd like to say I wouldn't. I'm not sure I wouldn't do it. Shows the absurdity of limiting editions pretty well.

Is the value of the artwork its scarcity, or its aesthetic value? In the real world it is a bit of both, but is it worth destroying the (artificial) scarcity so someone can appreciate the aesthetics? (assuming the losing bidder doesn't just want to "get back" at the winning bidder)

If some sucker, I mean investor wants to give me $3 Million for a copy of my photo, I would jump at the chance...

I'd certainly be interested in the legal situation here, but I'll set that aside for now:

I think most people would agree with me that it would not be immoral for someone buying the limited print to photocopy it, and therefore that it cannot be the mere existence of another print that is immoral. Rather it is the fact that I would have broken my promise.

So, can I morally justify breaking my promise?

I think, if I wished, that I could make the case that I am not actually the same person who promised not to make any more prints.

This depends on your view of what makes a person a person, and it is a much longer argument than can be gone into here, but I believe that in the same way that we distinguish between different persons we can distinguish between different 'versions' of the same person. For example: my younger self and my older self, or Fred at age 17 - young, free, wild and he has just committed a murder, and Fred at age 26 - a reformed character after spending 9 years in prison, and having gained 9 years experience and maturity, he wants to help set up a charity for victims of gun crime.

Should 26-year-old-Fred be constrained by the decisions 17-year-old-Fred, even though they are very different?

Clearly, Sam - Fred's brother - who was not in any way involved in the murder should suffer no punishment. So why should 26-year-old-Fred - a man with a very different personality to 17-year-old-Fred - be held responsible for 17-year-old-Fred's actions, just because he the same body?

Similarly, nobody else is constrained in copying my prints, so should my older self be constrained by my younger self, who decided to limit his prints, even though the person who I now am would not have made that decision?

I think that if I could be sure that no-one else would ever find out, I would do it without hesitation. I wouldn't keep all the money for myself ($3 million really is an obscene amount for any one person to have). I'd probably have a holiday somewhere with something interesting to photograph, keep a years living allowance, fund some publicity against limited prints, and then find a good cause for the other $2.9 million to go towards. Green energy perhaps.

I will end with the note that I think the real cause of the problem is the fact that anyone had these vast amounts of money to spend in the first place: no money, no $3,890,500 auction, no jealousy about people making that money off of your prints, and nobody offering you £3 million for a print. Perhaps there is still a dilemma, would you make a print for your best friend who you've known since you can remember, has never seen your work, and is never likely to unless you make it? I think I agree - limited prints are evil. If I was a judge I would *not* make them legally binding.

Sorry for the length, Nico

As much as it would pain me to pass on so much money, especially given that I was struggling for most of my career, I think the right thing to do would be to decline the offer.

It doesn't matter if anyone knows about it or not, its just the principle of the matter. Once you decide to limit the edition of your work, you have to live with the consequences (both good and bad).

One way artists cope with that dilemma, is to make the best of the situation (which is all I would consider doing) and use that new found fame to re-kindle interest in my work outside of my "hits". It would be much easier to talk to galleries and dealers and convince them to start taking a closer look at your other works to see what hidden gems are present, who knows, your biggest hit may actually still be hidden.

Ultimately, for me, money doesn't mean much if I can't walk around holding my head high because I committed the shameful act of going back on my word. Nothing is worse than breaking your promise, and if you are someone who can't make this sacrifice, then you shouldn't have limited your work in the first place.

Bet yer ass I'd print it. First of all, the original limit was created through coercion - "Want your art displayed? You have to limit the edition." The gallerist has all the power in this situation. Later, once the artist has some power? Over his/her own work? I believe it's referred to as "payback time".

As for the people who bought prints based on an assumption of rarity? Well, artists make art, not rarity. Buy based on love of the work and you can't go wrong. People buying on an assumption of exclusivity are just investing, hoping to sell later at a profit. The "art" is secondary. I don't feel any sympathy for these people.

So, mystery artist, print at will!

What you do is start a new edition of slightly larger (or smaller) prints and collect your fee. Everyone else in the art business gets rich on your work - why shouldn't you?

To hell with artistic integrity. I'd do it. It's 3 million dollars!! Besides, it would make up for all those "starving artist" years. ;)

I'm sure this sort of thing goes on all the time.

Apropos to the subject, I took a 3 day workshop with Brooks Jensen of Lenswork fame on "Finding An Audience for Your Work" last week and the topic of pricing your prints is one of the main talking points. I am planning to write up a summary on my blog this coming week.

Regarding your specific strawman, some people got around that type of issue by making a print of a slightly different dimensions and call it a different edition. Well, if you can sleep at night with decision like that, then enjoy your $3+ millions.

(Brooks' position is not to edition your prints. Anyone interested can find his opinion on the subject on his site)

1. The existence of this print is revealed.
2. Houston, we have achieved a state of lawsuits.
3. Depositions and analysis of the "proof" determine its recent vintage.
4. Said artist is back to clapped-out econo cars and canned beans from the dollar store. The oil baron who offered the 3 Large pays his share from petty cash.

Ain't worth it.

Would I do it? In a New York minute.

You're not very good if you're only getting $50k from $3M. That's a 1.7% return.

An artist print is an artist print. It is not part of the edition. There should not be more than say two or three artist prints floating around and there value is usually different from the original edition. An artist print should be dated with the year it was printed. If someone pays you the same for a new artist print as the original vintage print, then good for you.

I actually do it the other way around: when I have a photo in a group show, I don't want to print a whole limited edition, so I just print one photograph, which I sign, date, and mark as an AP. I then offer only this one photograph for sale at an affordable price (trying to recover my expense for printing and framing after I give the gallery their cut). This allows me to offer my photograph to people who appreciate it at an affordable price without having to worry about what the future holds.

Without a doubt, I'd do it. I don't believe that an edition of any print prohibits the artist from starting new editions of the same print. Of course, the market wiould then value each edition differently. -- Rich

It's always best to take the high road. Integrity is priceless. You never know how something like that would affect you down the road. If this photographer got caught, his/her career would probably be over.

That being said, I've seen so many idiots do things much worse than this, and over time it gets forgotten in this short-term memory society we live in. That photographer may never make that much money in their remaining lifetime! Heck, the average household doesn't make that much in 50 years!

Forget what I said in the beginning.....Go for it!!!! LOL

May 20, 2011 yes, sell it. May 21st after 6pm. no, it's bad karma.

I'd do what countless others have done and issue a fresh edition that is a slightly different size. This whole limited edition thing is something that has imposed on artists so galleries can make money on the secondary market which is far more lucrative for them.

Well, you're asking the wrong person here, because I'd do it in a New York Minute. In the proverbial heartbeat. In a nanosecond.

But I'm not foolish enough to believe that it will remain a secret.



All of the context you give matters little. The point is that having an eleventh print out there potentially dilutes the value of the original ten. So the question becomes, does this new print devalue the originals, and if so, is it proper to sell the eleventh print?

That's a question I can't answer, as I know absolutely nothing about the art market.

If you know how to get $3 million to me, without leaving a paper trail.....

In the above situation, the answer is to sell him (the losing bidder) the negative for said sum.

What he does with it becomes his problem, if he wants to dilute the value by making more prints, so be it. By doing so, you, (as the original artist) have done nothing to hurt the value of the high bidders print, the low bidder will feel that he has the deal of the century, you are still on the moral high ground, and $3,000,000.00 richer.

... if the recipient would provide a legal document indemnifying me against any liabilities incurred in relation to the transaction, I'd think about it.

... but I'd still probably not do it ...

Since I've never editioned prints (except for one set that was given away) I've never faced such a dilemma. I'd like to think that if I had done a limited edition I'd have made the edition larger and reserved more than one copy for my own collection. OTOH since I've never sold more than a half dozen of any image (usually only one or two) I wouldn't have sold them all anyway, even at 10, consequently this is so hypothetical to me that I can't really imagine it. I can more easily imagine winning the LOTTO and frankly I think the chances of that are higher.

Certainly an ethical dilemma. Oh, screw it, take the money. You deserve it.

I'd say yes, go for it. Maybe I say this because I think limited editions in photography are just an artificial way of adding value, and that added value has nothing to do with photography and everything to do with the art market. I hate that.

I'm guilty of editioning my own photos, but I used a better number: 50. Also, I'm in no danger of being sold out, my best selling print sold 10 or 12 copies I think. That said, I'm not limiting editions anymore--the only limited ones are those that I already sold, numbered. It's photography after all. Limiting the number of copies goes against what the technology is all about.

The fictional, newly famous photographer has one extra option: go back to her negatives from that era. Fish for good ones she missed originally. Sell those. Every time I revisit my archives I find one or two frames I had missed on the first editing pass.

There would be no moral dilemma if I was this artist, I would do it.
The moral dilemma exists in the on selling of artworks by whatever means and the artist receiving nothing.
Market forces? Lifelong copyright seems fair and equitable to me.

I would first suggest that s/he signs up with these guys:

Design and Artist's Copyrtight Society

They collect a sliding percentage on resale of works - over $500,000 you get 0.25%

Other than that, it is easy to imagine that the art world would not look on it as a subterfuge, unless it was done as a subterfuge. Especially being from someone who was clearly playing in the stratosphere of that world, who would have a savvy dealer and PR firms to help manage the new release.

Modern editions will not go for anything like as much as the "vintage"prints, and I would imagine any collector able to pay three big ones would know this, and would know that a modern print of a 30 year old picture would not be worth the same as one of the original ten.

It seems the art world is fairly tolerant of this:

Bernd&Hiller Becher modern prints

Modern prints/exhibition from Stephen Shore

I would also imagine that the hypothetical photographer has many photographs that did not make the original edit, that the world would probably be very keen to see, in the same way that people are interested in the recent Eggleston book edited together by Michael Almereyda that Mike posted about recently.

For Now


There's an old saying: the only way two people can keep a secret is if one of them is dead.

"No one will ever know it exists." Hah.

Do the deal and you have to assume that the truth will get out. Unless ... the deal is, you make the print, the losing bidder then pays you 50K a year for the right to come over to your house and admire it any time they like.

Sorry, Mike, but the moment you wrote $3 million any moral dimension seemed to dissipate like the proverbial in the wind.

Unless you have live that life and struggled for so long it is hard to make a judgement call.

The lesson here is stick to 3 digit decimal numbers.

Money doesn't purchase good health or happiness. And at the photographer's age,
he could sucumb to any myriad of diseases
or problems.
Having been in a similar situation many (35)years ago, under different circumstance told the person "NO!" Not for all the tea in China.
The annunity is giving the photographer something he perhaps never had, a regular
consistent income. Best leave it at that.

I definitely wouldn't do it but it would cheer me up immensely to know that someone was prepared to pay that kind of money for one of my prints. I know about the inexplicable economics and competitive instincts that fuel these kinds of purchases. Doesn't matter — I'd still feel happy.

I'm wondering whether the proportion of people who expected the rapture yesterday is higher than the proportion of TOP readers who believed your postscript. I'm a believer (postscript, not rapture) but am expecting to read some interesting theories when the comments are published.


In a heartbeat, then I'd make an "artist proof" of each of the others. I would not sell the others, but my story would be that 10 of each picture were made to be sold and a proof of each was made for me. Now, as I approach retirement I find I need to sell one of the proofs. That is my story and I'm sticking to it (if the fact the artist proof was sold ever comes to light). And, someday I might be forced by circumstances to sell the negatives also...

This is why photographers should not agree to limited editions; it's good for everyone but the photographer. It is good for the gallery, good for the secondary market and does nothing for the photographer. If a gallery was pressuring me to agree to a limited edition I would limit a printing at a certain size; this edition of 24 x 36 prints is limited to $X (other sizes are not limited). Of course I've not been pressured and so this is all very much hypothetical.

Can't do it!!! PERIOD!!! I'm legally constrained from making any more prints of the original edition. PERIOD!! And lets be realistic - all the assurances in the world would not protect you from the lawsuit when (not if) the existence of that print got out.
What I would do is find myself a better financial advisor. If the best he/she can do is 1.5% ROI even after taxes, that not even inflation.

I'd have to decline. Beyond the obvious problem of breaking your word from the earlier edition, I'd be putting the honor of my family and professional heirs at risk knowing there was a new edition floating out there.

There is no contract here, hence none to violate: "you limited each one to an edition of ten".

"You" (i.e. the fictional artist, unilaterally) "limited" (which implies a temporary and voluntary action, as in limiting one's road speed, or deciding to hold a thing back).

There is no contract noted with the "august arts institution", which in any case bought "entire set of personal prints", i.e., existing stock, but not also the negatives, and with no agreement to prevent future work or to destroy the negatives.

In the Adams sense, the print is the performance, and there is nothing here about executing every member of the orchestra before burning every copy of the score.

Yes, the moral dilemma is fictional, as well as the situation.

Ok, my knee-jerk reaction is to print the photograph. But then I'm reminded of the story attributed to Winston Churchill (and George Bernard Shaw)

Him: Will you sleep with me for 5-million pounds?
Her: Yes, of course!
Him: Will you sleep with me for two-pence?
Her: No! What do you take me for?
Him: Madam, we've established what you are, no we are negotiating the price!

LOL Mike.

I'd like to say that I wouldn't do it, but I dunno...

Yes, I do know. My honour, my sense of fair play, wouldn't let me - I'd have to say 'Sorry, but I promised those people that there'd only be 10, and that's all there will be.'

At least, I think that's what I'd say.


um yeah I'd do that!

Do I have a contractual obligation to people who bought my prints? What if they were sold again, i.e. the current owner of my prints is not the person I sold them to?

Other than that, why not?

Righteousness might be hard here. It's nonetheless important to limit the greed expelled. I'd say: go for it! As discreetly as possible. (yeah, I know I'm a feeble man)

No. It's called theft.

Unnecessary, too, because the photog is doing OK, and with the attention from the recent sale wil ldo much better.

So exactly who is hurt monetarily if you make one more print after all these years?

I'd contact Richard Prince and ask him to make the print for me.

Brilliant! I can't wait to read the comments from readers in the know, and readers with opinions/by James @6.37 pm.Me/hah! the internet in a nutshell. Re the topic,you're only here once.......

With my lawyer's hat on I look at the question in this way (at least under OZ law) - for the first 10 buyers to have any claim they would have to prove that but for the representation that there were only 10 prints they wouldn't have bought at all (and I agree that the print should be stated as a new edition, which would muddy things) and further that the effect of the new edition reduced the value of their original edition. Given the price of the prints, I expect the opposite will have happened. Hence, no legal loss or damage arises to the original buyers. I'll leave open whether there is moral harm.

With my photographer/buyers hat on - limiting editions creates a psychological impact not a legal one- if it helps YOU from either perspective, go for it. I always limit my editions because it looks good and the likelihood of my selling them all is about the same as selling one for $3 million....

Hell Yes!

No he or probably she shouldn't and she shall not. That is losing one's integrity. And since the only persons in the art market with a bit of decency left are the artists themselves, artists shouldn't turn to fraud. But what if.....lets say if, we would turn our attention away from the art market for a bit and look at what's realy important....Lady Gaga. Now Lady Gaga is a musician (as some seam to claim) and probably the most famous one at the moment. So I went to an art dealer (dealer for musical art that is) and asked for a CD of the this world renouwn artist. I had about 5 million in cash in a suitcase with me of course but wiat a minute. Her first CD was on sale. On sale? So only a million? No was answer, only 5 euro. Now this seams rediculous......a CD is printed material......you can make millions of copies of it......and a photo......wait a minute, that is printed material to......if I send you my file and you print it using Epson Easy Print......on more or less default settings and attach an Epson 2400 behind it (as I have), you will wind up with the same result. If I print it, I'll have to do a little work more and I can sign it. So lets cut a deal a 10er for and unsigned self printed file and 10 x as much for a signed copy "hand"-printed by the artist. Is this a strange concept? Not so, this is more or less the concept of the Dutch galery "Prints and the Revolution" in Amsterdam co-owned by actrice and singer Birgit Schuurman.


Look at the street and party photo's of Marcel Veldman on sale.....40 euro..(50 x 70)...and if he hits it bigtime and gets popular, he'll either be a slave of the art market, in which case others make money for him (best case) or of him (worst case)) or he will go on working like this and sell like Lady Gaga and just sell more prints for 40 euro and his photo's will be seen in classrooms, boardrooms, lockerrooms, waitingrooms, bedrooms, livingrooms, toiletrooms (thus emulating Erwin Olaf who once in the 80ties exhibited in the toilets of the It in Amsterdam) and even in museum rooms.

Greetings, Ed

Mr Warhol would have had no problems with exchanging one sheet of paper for numerous, smaller, sheets of paper I'm thinking.

What would you do, Mike ?

As for myself, I have no idea, since I have an imprecise understanding of the rules governing such things, so the legal position is unclear to me, and the moral one even less so. I would be interested in your analysis.

Pace Marc Rochkind, whatever else it might be, it's certainly not 'theft'.

Yes print... and write a letter to each of the owner of the 10 original prints congratulating them that the picture they own is now worth over 3 million dollars. Making it a secret is unethical. Mass producing it again is unethical.

Yes, certainly. Where do I sign ?

What's the negative worth?

OK, come on already - show us the picture in question ;)

Those saying "yes" say so in just a few words, often including slang or expletives. As if the appropriate voice is the voice of a teenager.

Those saying "no" take much longer, and write with solemnity and formality. As if the appropriate voice is the voice of Moses.

Why does,"@*&% yes" seem okay, but "@*&% no" doesn't, when both express equally valid moral positions?

Leaving aside the ethical dilemma, which in my case is certainly ultra hypothetical - the way the world works, the so called "cheat" print would become fabulously sought after because of it's uniqueness, and provenance...... until another was printed of course.

if word got out i would publicly state that yes 10 were made for sale and were indeed sold, however the artist kept a not for sale copy for himself for which he has received an offer he can't refuse and has sold his own copy ...... job done

It's just a demonstration of the absurdity & immorality of the whole thing.

>would you do it?<
No. I'm not in it for the money, I'm in it for the passion.

Integrity? In the art market? What a concept.

Yes, I'd do it, but I wouldn't do a secret, under-the-table deal with one collector.

I'd do new editions of all the valuable prints, printed by a master printer using a modern process and in a different size.

The decision to limit each print to ten was a "youthful indescretion."

Either you are a man of your word, or you're not. Morality has no price tag.

Gee, what would Richard Prince do? And would it hurt his reputation in the art world?

What an upright bunch. Frankly, I'd offer to split the deal with my gallery, say 60/40, and see how quickly their moral scruples evaporated... I bet they'd quickly find a way.

"Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral" (Bertolt Brecht) [grub first, then morals]

The way I understand it is, an edition is almost always accompanied by a certain number of artist proofs, these days typically around 10% of the size of the edition. In the most legitimate situation, the number of editioned prints and the number of A/Ps is spelled out from the top, but even if it's not spelled out, A/Ps are assumed.

These aren't actual proofs; they're not test prints for the artist to examine and accept or reject, they're extra prints for the artist to keep. So, while the editioned prints are sold by the gallery and the proceeds split, the A/Ps belong to the artist, to do with as she sees fit. And an A/P will often sell for a high price because it belonged to the artist, or because the edition is otherwise sold out.

Thus in your hypothetical situation, it would seem to be legal and ethical to sell the A/P.

But what if you recast your hypothetical so that the number of A/Ps was originally spelled out, and now your photographer's present dilemma is that all the official editioned prints AND A/P prints have been sold. Who would violate the edition and create and sell one more print for that three million?

I'd like to say I'd never do it — I prefer to sleep soundly at night — but who could really answer until the moment someone actually offers that three million?

Yet another thought: a significantly different size print can be considered the basis of a new edition, assuming it's truly a significantly different size, say an 8x10 rather than a 16x20. But that may not solve your dilemma: A new edition at a new size might not be worth nearly what the original editions go for (especially if they're vintage prints).

The responses are interesting and as a dilemma the question functions as an Rorschach test. As far as integrity goes, I guess we all have to assume that the answers above are honest best-efforts predictions of folks' own behavior in light of the question Mike asked, rather than the "here's what I'd say on the town green" versions of a response. At the risk of being offensive in public, I have my doubts, but having said that, the conversation is all we have and I'll play:

"Limited Edition" is a notion from the engravings/print world where the act of making each print incrementally degrades the master block from which the prints are made. So the 300th woodblock print is of lower quality than the 1st. The concept is a stupid one when applied to photography and has more to do with the economic relationship between the gate-keepers (gallery owners) and the artist. In the white-rhino-rare situations where a photographer becomes famous enough to attract this sort of success, the economic relationship has flipped. That is all. Integrity has nothing to do with it. Nor does a "contract" with the edition's prior buyers. The original edition owners' prints are now worth $3 million a piece and they have nothing to complain about. ({whining} "Please judge, give me damages because without the '2011 edition' my print would be worth $4 million." Puh-lease.) Make the print. Issue a press release. Cash the check. Go make more art. Tell the lawyers to pound sand. Let history make up its own mind (which it will: Salvadore Dali). The point of an artist is to make art. If any of us, artists included, were smart enough and talented enough to figure out what the art "market" likes, the world would be a different (and less interesting) place.


P.S. Three guesses what Dali did when it turned out his early stuff was more popular than his later . . . yup. He created new paintings in the style of his earlier work. And RAN to the bank. His reputation took a hit, but everyone reading this probably knows who the guy is (which will not, I predict, be true of Ms. Sherman in 100 years).

P.P.S. I think setting up a dichotomy of "artist-good, integrity, suffering" vs. "everyone else in the market - bad (fill in your reason here)" is inaccurate and probably unhelpful.

This has nothing to do with morality, nothing. This is business, pure and simple. It's about making a poor decision in your youth, and making a better one as an adult. Make a new edition I say, different sizes and different materials from the originals.

And, this has nothing to do with integrity. Your collectors don't give a rats ass about you. I'm not saying you should screw everyone who bought a print earlier by making more of the same. But we, as artists, have to take care of ourselves. No one else will, no one else cares. Do the sellers who reap the huge profits off of the work of this "fictional" photographer give her a cut, or at least pay for her health insurance in perpetuity? No, I didn't think so. They probably don't even send her a thank you note. They just add to their billions.

The new edition will never be as valuable as the vintage prints, but you can sock a bit more money away and have a nice life. And why not? Why should every other part of the business make huge profits off of you, and you get bupkis? Why don't artists have a clause whenever they sell a photo to someone, that every time the photo gets sold, a percentage of the profits over the last time it was sold goes to the artist? Otherwise, like in this "fictional" scenario, the artist is just another content provider that someone can make a buck off of.

Make a new edition, give yourself a cushion so you don't die in poverty like Steiglitz, living in a rented room, sick and lonely.

You Betcha' I would do it. In a New York Minute. Let the litagation from any parties that might find it illegal, immoral, unethical, or whatever, come after me. It will be held up in court for decades. I have the cash, I have the negative, and I have the human logic to deal with the consequences. Does that sound rash, brash, egotistical, maybe, but those words are subjective, just like the "value" of "art". Or the legality of a verbal contract made between two parties 32 years ago (artist now 57...edition of ten agreed upon when she was 25). The Gallery/Publisher/Agent at the time is likely no longer around, or has failing memory of the "contract".
As further input to my position. Consider the fate, right or wrong in a court of law, of Annie Liebowitz's or Georgia O'Keefe's art. Some of both artists' work is tied up in the courts at present and has been for over ten years. Or ask yourself WWAD (What Would Ansel Do?)

The real moral dilemma here is, "Do you tell your wife?"

I would not do it.

Take the money. But you would have to prepare for the fact that the existence of the new print will probably become known. I see three choices.

1. Make the very late Artist's Proof, as you suggest.

2. Make a new limited (or unlimited) edition, at a different size.

3. Tell your new benefactor that a complete set of prints of your newer work can be purchased for that kind of money, and make a gift of the artist's proof of the early shot.

Hell, it sounds like it's time to make new editions of all the old prints and have a retrospective.

On balance, no I don't think I would. If my currency is that high, my chances will come and my integrity would be priceless. Ms Sherman (for instance) sounds like someone who has an admirable sense of perspective regarding fame and fortune.

If one of my prints seels for $3M then I am sure I will be able to find a way to exploit that to my advantage without risking a lawsuit or loss of credibility.

I am late to the party,I have not read any of the other comments yet. I think I would get all the terms in writing & make the print, oh, and date the thing, and put a note on the back in pencil stating said agreement, and make a copy of the note. Gee, after having written that, it sounds like I know that I have a problem on my hands ? A, how bout I make the print a slightly different size. You know, it's a puzzler.

can i get you something to drink while you wait . . .

Droite De Suite see post by FJF 5-21-11 @ 6:37 P.M. This makes a lot of sense (hind sight is always the clearest view)Art lawyers need to bring this to the Good Ol' U.S. of A.Maybe there should be an org. where you would pay a fee to register & track ?

The fraud does not start with a possible decision to add prints to an earlier limited edition, it started back when the gallery or agent demanded a limited edition of a print in a technique that is in itself not limited. He started a fraud aimed at getting a higher price then the article in itself represented. In a way it is much like cartel formation or a pyramid scam, although those terms are not used often enough in combination with art dealing. In many fields these dealings are forbidden, and as far as I an concerned with good reason.

Limited prints are fine when the technique forces limitations (paintings tend to come in an edition of 1, etchings go flat from repeated printing, and the first 10 or 20 are usually better then later prints).

What would I do? If possible I would shoot the picture again, with technique and insights I have now. Or make a new, different print, again based on my present insights. In many cases, I would not even be able to reproduce a print I did 20 or 30 years ago for lack of materials.

1. A New Yorker might think, hmm...there's no such thing as bad publicity. I'll auction prints of ALL of them as Artist's Proofs, then talk to the media brazenly about the rights of the artist to both protect his or her own net worth while preserving the value of the current owner's prints.

2. In the ensuing furor and publicity bonanza, I'd introduce another limited edition of similar images from the same sets of negatives, in varying sizes and runs of 500, establish a ladder of increasing prices as the stock of each run of 500 comes closer to the end, and announce that my estate would keep Artist's proofs for future sale.

3. The current owners of the expensive prints will be very happy because my new notoriety and print sets will jack up the worth of their rare prints even more.

4. If I faced legal action, I'll find a famous, headline-grabbing NY lawyer to defend me, and pay him/her with an Artist's Proof from the first, very expensive set. More PR, more sales, more lasting "fame," and still more sales.

5. In terms of integrity, I would acknowledge some degree of guilt, but also acknowledge that the art world secretly loves scandals that draw attention to the artist and art world - they love the drama and attention, and all the fuss would likely generate more sales and higher prices.

Perhaps one of the reasons why his prints got so valuable is that they were editioned in the first place.

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