Over the last 6 years or more we have published at least two dozen articles about and by the printmaker Paul Binnie. Even a book has been published about the artist. Thus, you think you know everything about him? Maybe not. This article goes behind the scenes.
First Publication: January 2009
Latest Update: May 2013
Paul Binnie prints can be divided into two groups. Those published by the artist himself, and those commissioned by a third party, a gallery owner, print dealer or a wealthy friend of fine arts. This is how it works:
The commissioner agrees with Paul on the theme, the edition size and the price for the total edition. The commissioner has the exclusive right of sale for the complete numbered edition. Only a few A.P. copies (Artist's Proof) remain in possession of Paul. Binnie and the commissioner may agree on the publication of two versions to reduce the total costs of a private commission. This was for instance the case with Paul Binnie's design "Veranda" that was commissioned by Eric van den Ing of Saru Gallery. This design had a tattooed version that was generally available on the market while you could buy the "plain" version only by Saru Gallery.
Paul enjoys creating prints on commission. For him it means that he receives the complete financial return on his work and the rather high extra costs involved with Binnie's print works. You should know that Paul is a fanatic and uses only the best papers and other expensive materials from Japan (It is crazy what Paul pays in advance before an new edition is ready to be launched into the market!).
The commissioned prints are usually created in a smaller edition of ca. 20 ~ 100 impressions while the typical edition size of a design published by the artist himself is usually 100.
A commissioned print is a chance for an art professional to make good money, but it is risky too. In any case, a commissioner should have the financial means to control the sales himself over a longer period. The attempt of a fast distribution by reseller's is in my view not advisable.
Most contemporary artists do not print a complete edition at the time of the creation of a print but rather on demand. This has practical reasons. Imagine a portfolio of a hundred different designs each stored in piles of several dozens. This is not only a storage problem but also one of conservation. If they are not properly kept, the prints may suffer from a lack of air circulation or too much or too little humidity.
In order to keep hundred percent track of the date of creation, the edition numbering as well as the precise colors and special effects like "gofun" (a special powder), Binnie documents everything in meticulous details in a studio diary.
After his return from Japan Paul Binnie began to build up a network of Japanese print dealers who offer his works on the Internet. These are professional dealers with an excellent reputation like Marty Bronstein, Eric van den Ing or Thomas Crossland.
In addition to the distribution by his dealer network, Paul works with gallery owners who organize solo shows of his works. Examples are an exhibition in Zürich/ Switzerland with "Jewels of Asia Gallery" owned by Mr. Damian Christinger or lately a solo exhibition in New York by "Scholten Japanese Arts". Such gallery shows are usually connected with a new print design commissoned by the gallery owner. In Zürich the commissioned design was the tattoo print "Ho-o no Yume", at Scholten in New York two new designs in chuban format were launched. They show the Woolworth Building at day and at night.
Paul Binnie keeps a strict control of his distribution network. Thus collectors can be assured that their investments will hardly ever be jeopardized by erratic price movements in the market - for instance caused by a gallery bankcruptcy. The price of Binnie's prints has risen over the years in steady, small but continuous steps. There has never been a bubble and never a decline in the market.
For some time we have offered prints by Binnie more or less continuously in our regular auctions of Japanese prints. Now this happens rarely and if at all, then the prints are not consigned by Paul but by clients like for instance from the collection of the late H.T..
Why have "Binnie auctions" become rare on artelino? Quite simple. Paul Binnie is both a self-confident and a sensitive artist, and he hates to see even one of his prints unsold at auction end. I would even go so far as to say that Paul takes an auction result personally, very personally. Paul is an exceptional artist and has the right of artistic freedom, and we - including artelino - have to accept this.
Everybody who is a bit familiar with Japanese prints knows Paul Binnie as a printmaker of great reputation. But few know that Paul is a painter too. Known are several paintings of themes of the noh and kabuki theater from his Tokyo years. I also remember several paintings on commission from the time when Paul Binnie had returned to the UK and settled in London. And I know that Paul made several paintings as a result of a journey to Southeast Asia.
I have not seen any works on canvas since then, but I have the guts feelings that Paul has since then not stopped to paint. I remember that he mentioned a few years ago a painting trip to Southern France (landscapes?).
In this vdeo Paul Binnie introduces himself and explains his woodblock prints. The video was shot in New York. Thanks to the Japanese Society of New York for sharing this with us.
Author: Dieter Wanczura
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