Bought Some Art, Got Some Art, It's Not What I Was Expecting.
June 17, 2015 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Please help me artists of Meta Filter. I don't know what to do. I bought a print that I special ordered from one of my favorite artists, when the print arrived it was not what I expected. I'm not sure if I want it but don't know how to proceed. More details inside.

I don't buy art very often so this is all new territory for me. A couple years ago I contacted an artist whose work I ADORE, and asked if they had a print available of a certain piece I just loved. The artist did a special print for me on archival paper, and wrote lightly on the bottom; the tittle of the work, signed their name, and then put the letters "S.P." which I assumed stood for "single print" or similar. Flash forward to this year. I had enough money saved to get a second print of a different piece and I contacted the artist again, and asked if they would be willing to do another single print just for me. The artist has gotten much better known in the time between now and when I bought the first print, I expected the price to be higher and maybe that the artist wouldn't even be interested in doing a special print, but they graciously agreed to do it. The price they asked was much higher than last time, but it wasn't unreasonable or out of the range I expected to have to pay. So I paid and got the print in the mail today.

OK so the problem is the print is not on paper, its on canvas. It is not signed, nor is it mounted. I checked back through our email conversation and the print being on canvas is not mentioned. I didn't specify a paper print because I didn't even think of the possibility it would be anything else. I'm not sure I like the work printed on canvas. If it was an original I'm sure it would be GREAT on canvass, but I don't like the way the print looks on canvas. Also I don't know anything about framing a work on canvas, is it more expensive than framing a print on paper? I may not have the budget to frame this for some time. And further, I wish the work was signed which this is not. With the lack of signature and the way the print looks on canvas I think this loses the "specialness" that I felt I was paying for, even though I still LOVE the piece itself.

I don't know if I should contact the artist. The price was not that huge in the scale of buying art, but it was a lot of money to me... but maybe not so much that I would want to risk souring the relationship. I asked for this special print without specifying that I was expecting a paper print (though I did reference my previous print which was paper). I did specify a certain size a certain size.

Rrrrggghhh. I don't know what to do. Any thoughts? What would you guys do? I'm totally stuck.
posted by WalkerWestridge to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
Best answer: So, this sitch sucks and isn't really anybody's fault, but I'd say if the artist did you favor by doing a one-off print, you're stuck with it. If it were mass-produced and they had both canvas and paper prints, I would say you'd be completely in line to ask if you can exchange it, but since they did you a single-print, I think it would be quite unacceptable to go back and ask for something different.

If you're willing to take the extra cost hit, though, I think it'd be fine to say something like, "Hey, I have another print from you that I love and you signed it, which I think is awesome! If it's not too much trouble, can I ship this print back to you at my own expense for you to sign, so I have a matched pair?"

Hopefully it will grow on you!
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:45 PM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have experienced things like this with custom clothes ordered off the internet, which were either not what I was expecting or that didn't fit quite right. I have always written to the creator, making it clear that I appreciate their work, that I recognize I might be somewhat at fault (perhaps the measurements I gave them weren't perfectly accurate?), acknowledging that I know there might be nothing that can be done, but asking, nonetheless, if something could be done. Sometimes it can; one person re-made an item for me. Sometimes it can't; another person didn't feel that she could take what she'd already made me back into inventory as it was such a unique piece she doubted she'd be able to sell it.

Some people will get offended or huffy about this kind of thing, but mostly they want to be helpful even if they have to say no. I think I've ended every such interaction on good terms with the person, and I've always been careful to express my appreciation to them again whether they were able to change it or not.

This is the kind of note I might write to the artist in your case:

Dear Artist:

Thanks so much for the print, which arrived yesterday. It's beautiful.

Unfortunately, I realize I wasn't as clear as I could have been about what I wanted. I just assumed that the print would be like the previous one I bought from you, which I love: printed on paper, and signed by you. I still love this work, but I don't care for it printed on canvas as much as I would on paper.

I appreciate you taking the effort to do this special request for me, and I understand if there's nothing that can be done, but is there any way I could exchange this for a print on paper? I'd be happy to pay for your time and trouble. I love having your work in my home where I can enjoy it and show it off.

Thanks for all you've done!

—Your fan.
posted by not that girl at 12:52 PM on June 17, 2015 [21 favorites]

You could also contact him again and ask for what you want and sell the other.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:23 PM on June 17, 2015

You could also contact him again and ask for what you want and sell the other.

If this is a one-off print I'd advise strongly against doing that unless you ask the artist for permission first. They likely weren't creating the piece with the idea of resell in mind. I mean, yes, technically, it's yours now and you can do what you want with it-- but if they found out you resold a piece that they printed especially for you, that also stands a good chance of souring the relationship.
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:36 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I've done custom work, I've always insisted the customer tell me if they didn't like the work. I don't take it personally - they clearly like my style of work and sometimes things don't all meet up. Reach out, for sure. The worst that happens is the artist says no.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 3:39 PM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is just me, but if I were the artist, I'd want to know you weren't happy, and I'd go to reasonable lengths to try to make you happy. I mean: I wouldn't kiss your ass, but if you came off as a reasonable person with a reasonable request ho wasn't trying to scam me, I'd work with you on this. If making it right would cost me some money, I'd probably ask you to pay those costs.

There's always the possibility that the artist is a huge asshole. But I'm a huge asshole, too. But if I went to the trouble of making you a one-off, I'd still want you to be happy with it.
posted by doctor tough love at 5:43 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "S.P." does not stand for "single print," it's a "Studio Proof" also known as an "Artist's Proof," which is simply means that in addition to a commercial run of numbered prints, the artist produces a (presumably small volume) of the same print for their own private sale or gifting.

This piece is unlikely to have been produced at your request, and you shouldn't fret about telling the artist it's not what you want. Pay the postage back and insurance as a courtesy, and next time ask for some digital photos of the work before purchasing outside of the gallery setting.
posted by Scram at 11:25 PM on June 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

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