Threading it Back to the Individual
Signatures have long been used as a symbol for authenticity but why does signing a print really increase the overall value of the work and by how much? How is the topic of the signature unique to Digital Artists? There are so many factors that come into play when it comes to both pricing work and determining how much one wants to spend on purchasing work. I have come across at least one instance recently where the signature of my work has been a factor in determining the monetary value of the pieces. I found this interesting and think it is worth exploring further.
When an artist signs their work it is literally a way for them to sign off on the quality and originality of the work. Artists used to do this using a monogram but this has evolved to writing one's name. Either way, it is the artist's stamp of approval and is traditionally only used on printed works of art that are produced in a limited edition - whether that be one or one hundred - vs unlimited mass production. The signature then provides a way for the buyer to know that the work came directly from the artist and is not a copy of a an original but rather the original itself.
With that said, I want to share a personal experience I've had where I really had to think about how the mere presence of my name could drastically change the value and classification of my prints. A hotel wished to purchase an original work of art from me - great. I would make a print from an image on screen as I normally would, sign it, limit the edition, and get it framed. But then they threw me a curve ball. They asked for a group of original prints of particular works I had in my portfolio but then also wanted to purchase a limited set of reproductions of these same works for a lesser price. Their reasoning being that an original was valued higher than reproductions. In a medium such as painting, this makes perfect sense - but how does one go about making that distinction between original and reproduction when it comes to digital art when each print looks exactly the same? Wouldn't this just be considered a limited edition?
I thought about this for a long time. Could the first print from the file be considered the original and every print there after a reproduction print? Would the original be the archival print where the reproduction work was of lesser quality? Or was it that the quality of both prints were exactly the same but the signature of one and not the others was the only determining factor?
The further the conversation went with the them about the details of the purchase, it became clear that yes, the signature was going to be the only difference. So the signed work of art was worth much more to them then unsigned "reproductions". By putting pen to paper I was going to be making a lot more money than I would otherwise. I suppose this makes sense to some degree but when left to figure out exactly how much more I would charge for the original I was again somewhat stumped.
How renowned does the artist have to be for their signature to make a monetary difference? Apparently, the mere presence of a signature, no matter how well known the artist, makes a difference. This deal is still in the works for me so I cannot claim to have an answer to this question at this point but it something to consider when selling your work.
As a digital artist, digitally signing an image is something that has become a trend. However, I've never considered that an option for my own work. I believe in the physicality of the handwritten signature. For me it all goes back to the idea of the handmade and allowing that image to have a life off screen as art object in it's own right. A signature on the print itself is just one more way for me to have a connection to the work and to allow that mark to speak to others. The fact that people still place value on the authentic thread that ties the creator back to the work gives me hope that the commercial world hasn't completely taken over - even in a medium of machines there is still value in threading the artwork back to the individual.