Sculptor . Painter . Poet




EDITIONS, WHAT ABOUT THEM!!!! – 02/05/2007

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Click image for larger viewGateway, a collaboration between Leo and Chuck Whitehouse.

“This is an attempt at reasoning how one decides to number edition bronzes. It is a subject that for me, has been consuming over the years to come to terms with.
In the beginning… 
Artists just cast their bronze and who knows how many of each were made, then in time someone of the ART POLICE got the idea to set limits on editions, the number of each bronze “to be cast”. This was done prior to the casting of the work.
In earlier times it was the artist who did the sculpture, often made the mold and had a hand personally in every step of the way, from chasing the wax replica, to casting and welding and the finishing of the metal and application of the chemical patina.
It appears to be a case where the US Customs Service, a group certainly well known for their deep understanding of Art, created an allowance for 10 casts in an edition as original and duty-free. Well, that surly clarifies it for me!! What better source of understanding could we have than a governmental agency to oversee the ART WORLD? But, when you think about the artist, who is creative and wanting to create new and exciting sculptures, had to work on ten of the same thing for a long period of time it must have been boring. I wouldn’t want to do it.
So in time… 
Foundries began to do full service work, in other words, they made the mold, did the waxwork, casting and finishing of the bronze. This was and is often done with the artist inspecting the work at various points to be certain of holding true to the original sculpture. With that intervention it made it possible for artists to do larger editions, which would be only reasonable since the buying public was larger and the demand for sculpture was more widespread.
Back to when the artist did all the work… 
Usually, like when an artist who makes prints does the first piece it is called an “Artist Proof”. This is to prove the final piece as being correct and to the artist’s standard of quality. With the casting of bronze it was the same and it was also common to keep a foundry copy at the foundry for close inspection of each of the then pieces coming out in that particular edition. Those pieces could be sold along with the edition of ten works and usually were sold as the last pieces since they were held for observation.
But now… 
With me, as with many of my contemporaries, I have editions from 10 to 100 depending on the size and other considerations. Editions of 100 do sell out and people ask for more. For me it is a constant struggle to estimate only, an edition size before a piece ever gets cast. It may be a piece like some where the edition sells so slowly that the mold deteriorates before you can close out the edition. Then there are other pieces that sell so fast that it sells out and the demand still existed. It is an unfair arrangement and I don’t like it! It is another example of “ART POLICE” putting restrictions on my freedoms as an artist…the one thing in this world that must be free, the creative mind and spirit!!! So, if I have a piece of art that sells out at an edition of 20, I will then cast approximately 10% more that become artist proofs and it would be in this case 2 and I would consider casting and selling a foundry copy because that was the stupid “LAW” that someone placed on this capitalistic approach to selling art. I am trying to stay within the accepted boundaries of what has been established by the establishment. I am also trying to make a number of representatives of my work happy and along with them my treasured audience of buyers who fortunately love me and my work enough to support its creativity and my life.
Let’s consider those collectors and galleries… 
There are more discriminating collectors with more money to spend on ART these days and there are more galleries out there to handle it. Like all things created, art falls under the same regulations as everything else… supply and demand!
If I were to be represented by one gallery on the planet I would be doing editions of 10 or slightly higher and their cost would be very high. As it is about 10 galleries around the United States currently represent me. So, if I do an edition of 10 that means that they each get one sculpture to sell. Now, if they have any insight and enthusiasm they are going to be able to sell more than one of an edition and thus they will want to have an opportunity to sell several in an edition, after all, that is what editions are, the casting of more than one original to sell to more than one collector. So, when you look at the numbers and consider that having 10 galleries you may want to create an edition of 50, that would mean theoretically that each gallery has the opportunity to sell 5 each and thus make it reasonable for advertising and promoting an edition and not just hosting original works. In this economy most artists need more than one gallery to represent them in order to have enough sales to keep on keeping on.
All things change and the measuring of edition sizes and the money invested and the money earned on art changes. In years gone by it can be noted with bronze editions that the money received for a bronze when sold was divided 1/3 to the gallery, 1/3 to the foundry and 1/3 to the artist. That made the arrangement pretty easy and fair for all involved. Today that is not the case. Galleries want more!!! They ask for 40% of the retail at least… and often demand 50% or in some ridiculously absurd situations they want more.
When a gallery takes more than 40% they end up making more profit than the artist who was the one to create the work and also the one who used their own money to finance the molding and casting of the piece of art so that the gallery could have it to show. The reality is that we all need to make money on these sales and that is the bottom line on casting and selling editions of sculpture. It has to be a balanced and workable arrangement for all or else neither the artwork, the artist, or gallery and client would exist.
If one should find that I am in fact breaking an ART LAW, I say GREAT, it has to be done and I am delighted in heart, soul and spirit to be the one doing it!!!!
Thanks for having fun, I hope, with this and now at least you have some of my thoughts and ideas about this edition stuff and you can share it with others if you think they can take it – Leo
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