We get many people who come to us with prints wondering about their value. In many cases it’s only a matter of identifying the type of print (eg. offset, lithograph, giclée, serigraph, drypoint, to name a few). Finding and measuring a platemark–if there is one– can be helpful, and inspecting the type of paper and any watermarks is another tool in identification.
But in this high tech world there are an increasing number of high tech fakes. In an excellent and revealing article about the underworld of the art print market from Milton Esterow, with the New York Times, the problems with very high end prints being passed off as originals is increasing. This is a real problem for the buyers who think they are getting a real Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Paul Klee, or Pablo Picasso–all artists that have their intellectual copyrights still protected. According to the Artists Rights Society, which protects the intellectual property rights of artists and their estates, the problem seems to be escalating.
We had our own fake-print-adventure 2 years ago here in Boulder, CO. We received a group of about 25 Rembrandt drypoint etchings. Most of them turned out to be reproductions. But when we found very convincing watermarks in the paper of a few, we had more work to do. It boiled down to one perfect print: “The Phoenix or the Statue Overthrown” was an extremely rare print indeed.
High resolution photos were reviewed by experts and in the end it had to be flown to one expert in New York. Carefully, he took the print from the envelope, inspected the linework with a loupe, lifted the print from the acid free liner, and upon feeling the paper he said, “Nope.”
The major online selling platforms like Amazon, eBay and Etsy say they are trying to root out fakes and are working toward additional safeguards. But if an expert has to hold the paper in his hands to make a determination, I don’t see how any A.I. or algorithm is going to match that form of authenticity.