Why Is Originality Important In Art?

Originality in art is important and asking why it’s important is a great question that has many good answers. It can be debated to this day as to what is the absolute correct answer. Why is originality important in art? Most art galleries refuse to sell replicas, and many sponsors of art fairs and festivals either do not permit them or require them to be kept in a reproduction container with no additional information about how the replicas were produced. It seems the biggest reason why is that according to most folks they would rather have the original and not a replica. It takes skill to create originality and comes from developing your own style usually after many years of practicing, trial and error and learning. Some art museums maintain reproductions take money away from what might be spent on original artwork. Replicas are not to be confused with reproductions or giclees.

What Is The Definition Of Original Art And Why Is It Important?

Originality is essential in art. Originality in art is created by the artist’s imagination. Originality in art created by the artist’s own hands driven by imagination creates value. These two things are the basic ingredients that put originality in art.

  • It’s unique one of a kind art. Original artworks from the artist own hands.
  • Artwork made by hand. The art was not created by a machine driven process

What Does Original Art Mean?

Original art created by the artist hands is considered more desirable and valuable. The definition of what is original art can get real complicated when you start talking about prints. And by prints I am talking about giclees, etchings and lithographs, silk prints, woodcuts and so on. Take for example Andy Warhol screenprints.

Is Andy Warhol silkscreen of Marilyn Monroe original art?

One of Warhol’s first silkscreened images was his Marilyn print, based on a photograph from Niagra, a film from Monroe in 1953. When Warhol started screenprinting, he soon realized that he could systematically produce art like a factory assembly line that gave rise to the production of his series or print portfolios.

His first series published was Marilyn Monroe. He took advantage of the efficiency of the screenprinting technique and created several versions of the same image using a variety of color compositions. The screenprinting process is a stencil form in which a stencil is placed on a sheet and the ink is then pushed through the stencil to create an image. So, there is the design or the artwork subjective matter and then the process of printing.

He printed many prints himself but also used printing studios as demand for his work increased. Are these considered original works of art? In my opinion the value is different. The ones where the artist (Andy in this case) actually had a hand in making would be considered more valuable. Wouldn’t you agree?

So what about giclees? Are they considered original works of art? Well let me first start by defining what exactly is a giclee? Giclee was coined in 1991 by Jack Duganne, a printmaker, for fine art digital prints on inkjet printers. The name originally applied to fine art prints created in a process invented at the end of the 1980s on a modified Iris printer.

Since then, it has been used freely to mean fine art, mostly archives, inkjet printing. It is often used by artists, galleries and print shops to suggest high-quality printing, but because it is an unregulated word, there is no quality guarantee. So it’s basically a high quality print created by a mechanical process. So, it’s not original art.

Original Photo of Frog in Flower by Ed

Photographers use this method a lot. I have taken many of my photographs and had them transferred to large scale canvas. Like the frog photo shown. But in my opinion it’s not art. The actual photograph would be the art in this case not the giclee.

So far in this article we covered the “made by the artist’s own hands” and the “machining process”. We have a good understanding of what is original art and what is not so far. But what about the word “unique” in the definition of what is original art? What exactly does that mean?

Is artwork considered original artwork if the art had been created in some way before? This brings about an interesting question or could this just be a play on semantics? So the definition of unique is “existing as the only one or as the sole example, single, solitary in type or characteristic”. Having no like or equal, or limited in occurrence and not typical or unusual. But in my opinion you also have to take into consideration that all words undergo semantic development over time and their meaning can change.

Early definitions of words may be stricter yesterday as compared to today. Therefore as the meaning changes so does the definition and its application and usage. Therefore the definition and meaning of “original art” over the years has changed ever so slightly, right?

Different artist styles

So if an artist is in a room with a bunch of other artists and they are all painting the same model is each piece considered original art? It’s not an original idea because they were painting the same model, right? Or is it original art?

As you can see there is merit to both arguments in this case but in the end it’s the artist’s perspective that has to be taken into consideration. What the artist does with the subject matter, their style and the use of the medium is what makes it unique. Otherwise all landscape paintings would not be original art because it was already done before.

What Makes A Work Original?

But what if the artist perspective is taken out of the equation? Take for example Giacometti sculptures that are made from casts. Are these original arts? Alberto Giacometti was a Swiss sculptor, painter, draftsman and printmaker. Giacometti was one of the most important 20th century sculptors. His work has been influenced in particular by artistic styles like Cubism and Surrealism.

Between 1938 and 1944 Giacometti created sculptures that were miniature in size. They had a maximum height of about seven centimeters. Its small size reflected the actual distance from the position of the artist to his model. Giacometti created his best known sculptures after the war. This was his extremely slender and tall figurines.

Alberto Giacometti

So if someone creates a bronze sculpture using a mold is the oeuvre considered art? I would think in this case the answer would be yes. It does not really matter that the artist used a mold. What if the cast or mold is used several times and additional sculptures are produced? Are sculptures created by casts be considered original art? Again, in my opinion it’s still considered original art due to the fact the artist created the sculpture. Does not matter if the artist used a mold or not, he or she still participated in the making of the final work.

What if Giacometti had no hand in making the sculpture but hired out the actual making of the sculpture? Are sculptures created in this fashion considered original art? Well, this might be a gray area, but I would say no. One could make a good argument either way. But to me if the artist did not actually have a hand in the actual creation of the work then it’s not going to be as valuable as where he or she had their own hand in the creation. I would say no. In this case it’s not original art.

What Is Original Art Work Conclusion

In conclusion you can make very good arguments for something that its original art and very good cases that it’s not. I am guessing there are hundreds of other examples and questions that can be debated. I only scratched the surface in this article. But I hope this article got you thinking more about the subject and if you walk away with only one thing in mind after reading this article it should be, always buy original art. It’s worth more and is always more desirable than a replica.


Van Camp, J. C. (2007). Originality in postmodern appropriation art. The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society, 36(4), 247-258. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3200/JAML.36.4.247-258?journalCode=vjam20

Gazda, E. K. (2002). Introduction: Beyond copying: Artistic originality and tradition. Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. Supplementary Volumes, 1-24. jstor.org/stable/4238443

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