Are prints considered to be fine art? Is there a type of print that is considered to be the best in the world of fine art?
There are many types of prints that exist in the world of art. Through my years of research as a printmaker I have come to the following conclusion: If the artist creates a work through a printmaking process that she intends to be part of an edition; and If she used the benefits and the limitations of the specific print process as a vehicle of expression in the creation of the piece; then, each piece in the edition can be considered a piece of fine art with an aura just as fine as that of a one-of-a-kind painting.
All the legitimate printmaking processes of lithography, intaglio, relief, silkscreen, and collagraphy are capable of yielding fine art prints. It is worth noting that silkscreen sometimes carries with it the stigma of being the process of choice for many commercial manufacturers not to mention tee-shirt printers. There have, however, been many savvy artists that have used this association to their advantage in creating more conceptual work.
If a print is intended to be a reproduction such as a digital print, a giclée, or an offset lithograph of a master work it does not carry with it the same aura and is not considered fine art. This is true even if it is created with a legitimate printmaking process such as lithography or relief.
In terms of the value of fine art, it is true that ‘works on paper’ usually fetch a smaller price in the gallery world. As most prints are created on a paper surface they usually fall into this category along with drawings. This is mostly because of the impermanent nature of paper. It is also true that in an edition there is more than one of each piece which naturally lessens the value.
For more information on the idea of the aura of fine art consult the new eNotes study guide on The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin linked below.