I've looked into such myself, as I have one closet full of print inventory.
It is the rage, and for one an answer for artists.
You could take certain payments down on prints at various shows, and if you
get a half-dozen orders or so...call up the printer and order that many.
When they are done, contact your buyers and inform them their print is ready
for delivery and to please submit the remainder of the payment. In such
ways artists are avoiding $2,000 to $5,000 investment in one print inventory
which requires then to hit many shows to try and sell to recover and go on.
The problem though, yes...iris or giclee, is that at best archivally...the
inks may last 50 years....but perhaps much less.
The thinking that many artists justify is that most people will redecorate
their homes several times within a 50 year period, so that if the ink fades
eventually...no big deal. The problem is, because its a rage/trend, prices
are expensive. Both to produce and for the artist to sell and profit from.
Initially...about $500 to set up to create one image and get about six
prints, roughly speaking 16"x 20" or smaller. The advantage thereafter is
the printer has your image digitally on file for you to print what you need
in the future, when you need it.
My work was in a gallery in Red Wing, Minnesota...and I had visited to
deliver some new work. The owner of the gallery wanted to share the latest
with me on some Thomas Kinkade giclees that had come in. Not even he could
believe it, and he thought I could appreciate it.
Kinkade had a large series of canvas giclees. A canvas giclee is nothing
more than inks spurter on a thin adhesive backed paper...which then after
removing the adhesive backing is laid on top of a sheet of canvas, and how
they put together (rubbing, I don't know). His canvas giclees then in-house
by print employees had a particular amount of pigment dabbed on here and
there to add to the illusion of the canvas as though indeed painted upon.
These prints, about 24" x 36" were retailing for about $2400....and remember
with no proven archival precedent!
That's not the thing though quite yet....get this. The owner brings me to a
couple Kinkade giclees where (whoopty dooo) HE himself dabbed some pigment
on the prints! Those were thus being sold as a special limited edition
print series, and retailed for over $20,000 each!
At any rate...once the initial investment is paid for the set up, it is
convenient. IF the artist informs the buyer of its temporal
nature....perhaps ethical. Perhaps no different than some of the cheaper
outfits artists have turned to to produce alternatives to expensive four
color separation. "Color Q" is a company that you can produce high volume
prints cheaply. About 550 prints for about $1300....
By comparison, if you had Wild Wings produce the prints for you on high
quality acid free paper and quality inks four color, the same volume would
cost about $5,000