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Axellence in Fine Art

(May 2006) posted on Thu May 11, 2006

Discover how Axelle Fine Arts approaches the printmaking process and why it continues to rely on traditional methods.

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By Andy MacDougall

There is a delicious irony behind the name of exotic sounding Axelle Fine Arts of New York, ( part of a string of high-end galleries in Soho, Boston, New Orleans, and San Francisco selling original paintings and prints. In the rarefied and sometimes pretentious world of art, owner Bertrand Delacroix takes some delight in explaining why his galleries are named after a dog, the Delacroix family’s German Shepherd.  “It is easy to remember,” he says. “Same in all languages, sounds like excel, it’s sweet and feminine for the ‘elle’ and strong and masculine for the ‘axe.’ It also provides our company a goal—to be axellent at all times!”

What really makes this gallery chain a breed apart in the art world is its print shop, the focus of this article. Delacroix comes from generations of fine-art printmakers, and has waged a personal battle in the fine art world against giclée prints, which he hates and also blames for destroying what he terms “the real print market.” (Note his “no giclée” logo on the Axelle Website.)

“Nobody knows what is what anymore, and prints are no longer considered original works of art,” he says with disgust. “They might as well be posters. Galleries began to publish limited-edition giclées in the late 1990s in hope of making a killing by cutting out the fine-art publishers. Some got lucky, picked a few good images, but most failed after incurring manufacturing and marketing expenses—many abandoned the concept. There was so much inventory of prints, so many editions, hand-embellished giclées, and so much confusion.”

In 1999, he made the decision to set up a print shop that featured traditional art-printing processes. After checking out the operation six years later, I’m pleased to report that the predictions about the death of the limited-edition serigraph were a little premature.

Today, Axelle Editions is a contract printshop that specializes in fine-art screen printing, intaglio, relief, and hot-stamping/embossing. The staff collaborates with approximately 100 artists a year. These artists are either self-publishing or working closely with other galleries or museums. The studio also prints between five and ten editions a year for Axelle Fine Arts and its stable of artists. The atelier is located on the 4,500-sq-ft third floor of the restored former manufacturing facility and showroom of NCR, where they made the cash registers, not the carbonless paper.


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