October 27, 2022 | ARTnews
New York’s IFPDA Fair Stakes a Claim for Why Prints Are More Than Just an Entry Point for Budding Collectors
Art fairs tend to cultivate the sense that everything is on view is hugely expensive and not affordable to almost anyone who passes through their doors. But not so at the International Fine Print Dealers Association’s annual print fair, whose first in-person edition since 2020 opened today in New York and runs until Sunday.
“We think of the art market as being very exclusive,” Jenny Gibbs, the fair’s executive director, told ARTnews. “Of course, that’s part of it, but we’re also working to be really inclusive.”
At the Javits Center, the fair is bringing together a mix of 76 exhibitors, including leading print publishers like Brooke Alexander, Gemini G.E.L., Crown Point Press, and Flying Horse Editions, as well as blue-chip galleries like Hauser & Wirth and David Zwirner. The latter is making its IFPDA debut. So too are Aliso Editions, Galerie Myrtis, and EFA Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, all of whom are not members of the association, which formerly only allowed enrollees to participate.
“We’re excited to be participating in the fair for the first time,” Elleree Erdos, Zwirner’s director of prints and multiples, told ARTnews in an interview. “The gallery’s participated in so many fairs around the world, but we’ve never participated in a print-specific fair. Given the commitment the gallery has made to prints over the last year, it made perfect sense.”
Zwirner launched its own fine-art print publisher, Utopia Editions, a year ago, with a focus on matching artists with master printmakers in specific techniques. It’s an approach akin to ones taken by publishers like Brooke Alexander, where the gallery’s eponymous founder took a job early on.
The move came as many of the artists the gallery represents had begun thinking about how they could find “more opportunities for collaborative printmaking and make printmaking more a part of their practice,” Erdos said. “Printmaking is such a deep, medium was so many different techniques and so many nuances.”
At the IFPDA, Zwirner will be debuting several new Utopia Editions prints, including two lithographs each by Katherine Bernhardt and Raymond Pettibon; Bernhardt’s will feature two characters from Pokémon, Pikachu and Ditto, done in her signature painterly style, while Pettibon’s will pair the artist’s scrawling handwriting with an image of a heart and a screeching parrot.
The gallery will also bring past editions by artists like Marcel Dzama, Rosa Loy, Ebecho Muslimova, and Neo Rauch, as well as prints by Zwirner-represented artists that predate the creation of Utopia Editions. Running parallel to the fair is an exhibition, titled “Visual Record: The Materiality of Sound in Print” and curated by Erdos, at the Print Center New York in Chelsea.
Hauser & Wirth’s presentation includes a range of recent prints by the likes of Angel Otero, Jenny Holzer, and Nicole Eisenman paired with more historical ones by Eva Hesse, Geta Brătescu, Tetsumi Kudo, and the late Luchita Hurtado, whose 1970 untitled print shows nude body parts shown from above and set against a wood floor that is bisected by a piece of ivy.
Another exhibitor, Peter Blum, has a long history with editioned works. When Blum moved to New York from Switzerland in 1980, he quickly began collaborating with a range of artists, from established ones like Alex Katz and John Baldessari to ones whose careers were just exploding, like Eric Fischl, Sherrie Levine, and Barbara Kruger.
“Publishing editioned works has always been an essential part of Peter Blum’s life,” said Kyle Harris, a director for Peter Blum Editions. “Prints are the foundation of the gallery.”
At the fair, the gallery will be showing a survey of its output over the past three decades, including aquatints dating to 1985 by Fischl, photogravures from 2007 by Huma Bhabha, new monotypes by Nicholas Galanin, and a 1992 self-portrait by Louise Bourgeois in which the artist is depicted as a tree that measures nearly 4 feet tall. It’s is the largest print Bourgeois ever produced. Additionally, the booth will also show several woodcuts by Katz, who is currently the subject of a major retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum.
Other highlights at the fair include an Edvard Munch woodcut of his famed painting The Kiss (1897–1902) from David Tunick Inc., a new 17-run screenprint by Julie Mehretu via Highpoint Editions, a Rembrandt etching dating to 1630 courtesy CG Boerner, a 2021 print titled Motor by Ed Ruscha published by Cirrus Editions, and a 2022 inkjet print on fabric by Judy Chicago that is titled What If Women Ruled the World?, which will be accompanied by a live demonstration at the booth. That’ll be just one of several live demonstrations by artists, showing visitors the laborious techniques that go into making seemingly simple prints.
Additionally, the IFPDA has commissioned a site-specific piece by Derrick Adams, titled Eye Candy. Installed at the Javits, it features six prints of Black men in colorful unitards whose faces are partially obscured by a swirl lollipop. The fair is also accompanied by several talks, including a panel with current and former members of the artist collective Black Women of Print, one of which is titled “The Impact of Prints in Museums: What Do Curators Say?. The other features artists Camille Henrot, Emilia Kabakov, and Kiki Smith in conversation with curator Robert Storr.
One of the draws of purchasing prints for interested buyers is that they are often offered at a lower price point than paintings or sculptures by the same artist. Because of this, prints and works on paper have often been an entry point for budding collectors.
Gibbs hopes that this edition of the print fair rebuts that notion. “The thing that I have always loved about prints is that prints are what artists collect—artists collect prints by other artists,” she said. “There’s a long history of this, going back to Rembrandt and Rubens.”
She continued, “Prints can certainly be an entryway for new collectors because they can be more financially accessible than a painting by the same artist. Although for me that is an ongoing conversation that I wish we didn’t have need to have. It’s so archaic that values are assigned in part by the intrinsic value of a particular medium. You can have this incredible monoprint by Mel Bochner, that is a unique work and that has the size and impact of a canvas, but because it’s on a piece of paper, it’s priced differently.”
Erdos, of Zwirner, agreed that there’s much more to prints than might meet the eye at first.
“For me, there’s an intimacy to prints—there’s a tactility, regardless of the technique,” she said. “Standing in front of a print is such a powerful experience, once you actually start to think about how something is made and really deconstruct the layers. Those are some of the best and most exciting conversations I’ve had, especially with new collectors who didn’t realize everything that went into making a print. Prints are a really good way to learn about how the artist thinks based on their approach to prints.”