31 July 2007

A Little Knowledge Can Be Dangerous...And Annoying.

Brace yourselves.

I know, I know...I rant on about this more than practically anything else, but it makes me bloody mental.

After 20 plus years in the art business I realize that most people know very little about fine art. I have come to terms with that. I try to educate and move on.

The one thing I can not and will not get over is the misunderstanding, misconceptions, misrepresentations and misgivings about "Giclees".

Yesterday I gave an impromptu lesson about prints. A couple of ladies had asked me the difference between serigraphs, lithographs and giclees. As I am telling them about the three I noticed that I had a group of 15 to 20 listening in on my lesson.

I took this opportunity to ask a question. "How many of you have heard these terms before?

Serigraph: about half.
Lithograph: about half.
Giclee: all.


None of them could tell me where they first heard the term giclee. Is it just floating around in space, seeping into minds through osmosis? Almost all of them though, thought that a giclee was a cheap copy not worth anything. Posters. Most thought that serigraphs and lithographs were more valuable and the better quality prints. About half thought any kind of prints were worthless. I wont even get into the whole "low numbers are worth more than high numbers" thing. Different tirade.

Where in the hell are people getting this information? Why do so many people know the term giclee and not know anything else about the process?

I went on the explain to them that they should not be judgmental. When done correctly prints are valuable, blah blah. Can be museum quality, blah blah. I could tell by their expressions that more than half of them thought I was full of it. They knew better.

The funny thing, is that these same people will stand looking at a giclee and tell me it's nice to see a gallery that shows originals. They can't tell them apart until I tell them. Then they give me attitude. What is with the attitude? Like I'm the stupid one.

This has become my biggest peeve of anything I have ever encountered in the art business. How can someone who only knows one art term, and doesn't even know the full meaning of that term, come into a gallery and proceed to act like they know more about art than the gallery?

Does this kind of stupidity happen in other businesses? Are people this rude and ignorant every where they go, or is there something special about art galleries?

Do galleries in other countries have this problem? Is this just an American thing?

What kind of business are all of you in? What kind of things to people say to you that makes you want to poke them in the eyes?


Sarah said...


This has very little to do with my job, but I resonated with your level of "pissed-ed-ness" before you asked for responses.

Obnoxious, pompous police officers who don't ever actually listen and who assume they know what you're going to say before you say it and then assume that you said what they thought you'd say drive me crazy.

I could rant on and on. But I'll connect you to the full story (if you want the sordid details in a rant-tastic form) here. Sufficient for now to say that, sometimes, human behavior makes me want to shake my head in dismay.

Dave2 said...

Giclée is an almost generic term now... like Xerox or Kleenex... which is why I think people are so familiar with it (even though they don't quite know what it means).

Personally, I consider everything that comes off my print shop's archival-quality ink-jet printer to be giclée, simply because that's the term that everybody has come to use to describe that process. Debating that point would require a conversation as to what constitutes "fine art," so I suppose that's a conversation for another time. :-)

Sheree Rensel said...

William, I totally understand your frustration. I have been thinking about writing a post titled "Am I An Alien?" which would touch on the subject of isolation and feeling misunderstood in a society that has a very skewed view of the arts and artists.
I have to say though; at LEAST your students have heard the term Giclee. Gee, I think if I did an unscientific survey on the street, I bet only 1 out of 100 people would know what that is.
I used to get so angry and exasperated with people in the general public when the discussion leads to ART. Now that I am older, I just smirk and shake my head when somebody says something really stupid about my art. I guess I realize it really isn't their fault for their naiveté. After all, our culture doesn't really support and cultivate the arts or the education of citizens to a degree for them to have deep understanding. So it is up to us to have patience and try to explain.
Sheree Rensel

Mad William said...

Thanks for stopping by, that's quite the story.

You right, giclee is a very generic term. There are many ways to print art digitally. The publishers and the artists are not helping. Most will list there work as a giclee instead of saying how it is actually done.

The "fine art" debate may be too large for me to tackle on this blog, since it has been going on for...ever.

BTW, how did you put the accent on the e?

We must be aliens. I agree with you about education. This country has neglected art and culture, among other things. I fear we are becoming a Jerry Springer nation.

It's the attitude that goes with the naiveté that makes me crazy.

Stacey said...

Oh man, it's like that in every profession I guess. I have people on the phone occasionally telling me what techniques I should be doing, and how much they know about "milking toxins," "pregnancy dangers," "acupressure," and other massage myths. (Not that acupressure is a myth... I've just heard some crazy notions about it.)

Then there are the people who get on my table and proceed to tell me that they are a "massage therapist," and everyone they massage has said it's the "best ever." When I ask where they trained, they tell me they just "picked it up somewhere. I have good energy."


*rolls eyes until they pop out*

disclaimer: mostly I love my job.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone here even know where the term 'giclee' came from ? It's french slang for ejaculation ... seriously!

Probably a joke that someone made because the ink spurts on to the substrate and it stuck.

I personally think that giclees are ruining art. People think they're buying something of value, which in reality is just an inkjet print.