"In an era of proliferation and mass-production it is reassuring to know that limited editions are strictly controlled and restricted in number. fineartmultiple only works with the world's best and most trusted producers, so you can be sure that all the works we have are bona fide originals." Dr. Nina Koidl, Head of Curation at fineartmultiple.

What is a limited edition?
A limited edition is a strictly controlled print run or production number of a work of art.

But how is this controlled?
The amount of impressions or numbers made is decided by the artist and producer. The artist will then number and sign each edition, such as "57/100" to show the unique number of that edition and the total edition size.

Why don't they print or produce more?
Because that would devalue the worth of the original edition. If they did not regulate the amount of prints or production it would become an open or unlimited edition, but this is effectively a poster or mass-produced object. Also, in printing the plate or stone used by the printmaker begins to wear and the quality of the impression goes down.

But surely then anything that is identical and over two in number is a mass-produced object?
Duchamp once famously said that "one was unique, two a pair and three was mass-produced" but in applying this to editions and multiples it would be missing the point. By strictly limiting the number of the edition the resultant numbered works are exclusive, scarce and in demand—anything but mass-produced. Of course this is a grey area and looking at it another way Frank Gehry has made a multiple in an edition of 12 which all have unique variations in color tone and are therefore one-off pieces. It raises questions about the definition of the multiple which will never easily be answered.

Robert Motherwell, Summer Light Series, 1973, Prints

So can you have a one-off limited edition?
Yes, bizarrely that is true, Matias Faldbakken did a series of monotypes—one-of-a-kind works, that playfully challenge the notion of editions and multiples being serially produced works. These are unique works and that uniqueness is reflected in their price.

Can a sculpture also be a limited edition?
Certainly, David Shrigley's Brass Tooth is made from solid brass and is limited to an edition of just 80.

Video art too?
Video art is also sold in strictly limited editions but unlike multiples and editions it is infinitely and easily reproducible. Often then the buyer and the seller make a specific agreement that outlines the conditions and rights that are being put forward when buying the media work. In such cases the Certificate of Authenticity takes on even greater importance, stating the number the purchaser now owns it ensures that when it comes to reproducible works, the numbers are strictly controlled. 

What is a typical number for a limited edition?
Typically, it could be anywhere between 10 and 100. But often you could have a print run of as little as five and even an edition of 500. Video works are also in similar-sized editions, the artist Gary Hill for instance has a video art edition of 35.

So the lower the edition the higher the price?
Generally speaking that is correct. The lower the edition number means the work will be scarcer and will more likely accrue in value over time. But there are many other factors to take into account, such as the collectability of the artist and how prolific they are.

JORDAN/SEYDOUImi Knoebel, Unitled,1, 2 and 3, 1995, Prints

How can you prove it is not a fake?
Every work is issued with a fineartmultiple Proof of Originality, nearly always the works are signed and numbered by the artist but when that is not the case the producer will provide a Certificate of Authenticity issued and signed by the artist.

Is the print or multiple worth less without the certification?
Without a signature or certification it becomes harder to prove the provenance of the work which may cast suspicion over its originality and as a consequence also affect the price. So it is worth making sure you purchase from trusted suppliers and keep hold of any certification.

Why do artists choose to produce limited edition prints?
Typically, a limited edition print means working with a printmaker, an expert with years of training who is a craftsman with the capability to produce these technically demanding and labor-intensive works. This is emphatically not just printing which can be performed by anyone. And many artists turn to the limited edition print or multiple to produce more light-hearted work, the medium allows them to experiment with new techniques and take delight in what’s witty and fun in their art practice. 

Fiona Banner's artworks are available to buy now on fineartmultiple.