Ariane Roesch’s UNIT Looks for Print Collectors Online
As PrintHouston continues through the summer with its sprawling calendar of events, look one can’t help but notice how many galleries started as print-only dealers that diversified as their markets grew. It stands to reason that many new art dealers might appreciate prints not only for their quality, but that they can exist in multiple. The new art-dealing venture UNIT started with this in mind, but is focused on creating a simple, accessible platform to buy and sell art with a strong online component.
The brainchild of Houston artist Ariane Roesch, UNIT is an online gallery dealing exclusively in editioned originals. The website targets new collectors, while attracting emerging and established artists to work in multiples.
Roesch came up with UNIT to sell prints after inheriting a framing business from her late father. More specifically, Roesch inherited the task of generating a market in the US for the modular design frame HALBE. Popular in Europe but widely unknown in America, HALBE frames are front-loading, reusable frames that are suitable for rotating collections. However, it’s hard to make a case for just buying a fancy frame.
Roesch, a cofounder of Skydive Art Space with a Cal Arts master’s degree and experience working in Gallery Sonja Roesch (her mother’s respected Midtown venue), decided to add her art-scene connections and curatorial caché to the framing business. The idea is to sell prints from artists she handpicked along with the frames as a complete unit. (Collectors also have the option of buying unframed prints.)
Because UNIT deals in multiples only, the cost of each object is spread throughout the edition, making original works more accessible to new and first-time collectors. An edition refers to artwork that exists in multiples, and can refer to prints, sculptures, photographs, or any process that can repeat an image. In the fine art world, editioned works retain value through a presumed scarcity, which is preserved by any edition containing a finite number of copies. Generally the mold, matrix, or plate is destroyed or altered after an edition is produced to ensure that no new copies can be created.
UNIT has a set of loose guidelines to ensure all works available are editioned originals, but leaves the language broad enough to include more than prints alone. Everything listed online is editioned between 10 and 100 and must be hand-pulled or hand made in some way. While this decision excludes giclée reproductions and monoprints, UNIT may include small-run books, LPs, cast sculptures, hand-drawn xeroxed zines, and variable editions with one-of-a-kind touches such as found objects.
Nearly all manner of traditional printmaking like relief, intaglio, lithography, and serigraph techniques are included if the print is editioned. Artists interested in being featured in the store can contact Roesch through the website to be considered.
Notwithstanding its online emphasis, UNIT makes occasional forays into the brick-and-mortar gallery scene. Roesch is teaming up with her mother to present What’s in Store, a group exhibition opening July 14 at Gallery Sonja Roesch as part of PrintHouston. The show features everything available on the UNIT website so far this year. Other plans include building the UNIT website into a resource that features an advice blog for starting or maintaining a personal collection and information about editions and printmaking.
While the future remains unclear for the arts market during this recession, Roesch is gambling that her unconventional approach to the gallery model provides the right framework for success.
Geoff Smith is a twenty-something arts enthusiast, printmaker, and occasional curator.