Not So Limited Edition

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This morning a junk-email from the preppy online men’s clothing company Bonobos caused a pause in my relentless breakfasting. What caught my eye was the use of the term ‘limited edition’ to describe what seemed to be small production run of pants.  If ‘chinos’ could be a limited edition, then what else?

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Well, a quick open-ended google search revealed to my horror that Oreos are currently the internets most sought after limited edition. Pants and Cookies. Where will the madness end?

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It turns out that like so much these days, this Limited Edition walk of shame ends with the limited edition selfie (above and below), in which everyone is somehow a limited edition (never mind the monoprint jokes).

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Following the sad trail of the former job description of ‘Curator’ (linklinklink), the term Limited Edition is bound for meaninglessness through over use.

This is not a new problem for the fine art print; a quick internet search for ‘limited edition print’ will reveal an endless sea of poster and frame shops selling licensed imagery.  And there are many, many other pop culture items, baseball cards, books, records, and vinyl toys to name a few, that have been released as limited editions. So what exactly are we talking about here?  The joke in this post is about the corruption and flexibility of language, and I don’t need to tell this audience that unlike most other art forms the fine art print is plagued by language problems anywhere our media-specific jargon intersects with everyday english.

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If the limited edition becomes synonymous with limited time offer, a wider audience will no longer understand what they are looking at when they look at, say, Stanley William Hayter’s 1936 print, Combat, in the MOMA Collection.

4A If you consider that Oreos come ten per bag, then this edition of 30 prints represents a greater value.

Maybe it’s time to look at the structure of embedded scarcity that are the guidelines for a limited edition set up in the 1961 by the Print Council of America, or more interestingly, maybe it’s on us as artist to come up with new and stranger ways of generating an element of rarity to what we produce.

In the meantime, I need to get back to bidding on some limited edition baked goods on Ebay.

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Categories: Critical Discourse, Print-related


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