Arts Pssst, buddy. Want a print?

The McNay Print Fair wants you to become a collector

Prints are the gateway drug of the art world. Often less expensive than paintings and sculpture, they also tend to fit within the fairly traditional confines of works on paper, making them easily accessible in more ways than one. Nonetheless, the long history of printmaking and the variety of print methods, from copper-plate etchings to woodcuts to lithography, means that there is a print to suit almost every collector’s taste. The Tenth Annual McNay Print Fair, which takes place this weekend at the McNay Art Museum, illustrates why this medium is so appealing.

Eleven print dealers from New York, Dallas, Chicago, and elsewhere will take over the McNay Art Museum March 25-26 for the Tenth Annual Print Fair. “We have really everything from the 18th century to something that was printed last month,” says curator Lyle Williams. Representative works include “Trails Turning,” at left, a 2004 watercolor on paper by Bob Stuth-Wade, from Valley House Gallery and Sculpture Garden.

The 11 dealers who will show their wares at this year’s fair “are all extremely affable and approachable and very enthusiastic about what they do,” says Lyle Williams, the McNay’s curator of prints and drawings, who helped found the event a decade ago. And the prints are relatively affordable, with prices ranging from “a couple-hundred dollars” to “a couple-hundred thousand.” “I think most people who purchase buy in the $1,000-$1,500 range,” says Williams. “At that price with prints and drawings you can get some outstanding works.”

Laurent de Brunhoff’s “The Old Lady Joined the Discussion ... “, which is being presented by the Mary Ryan Gallery in honor of the McNay’s exhibition.

Young collectors might imagine a room filled with Piranesi’s 18th-century etchings of Roman architecture or something similarly stuffy, but “We actually have more contemporary dealers this year,” says Williams. “We have really everything from the 18th century to something that was printed last month.”

The Tenth Annual McNay Print Fair

10am-5pm Sat, Mar 25 noon-5pm Sun, Mar 26

McNay Art Museum
6000 N. New Braunfels
805 1721

St. Louis’s William Shearburn Gallery specializes in contemporary master prints, including minimalist and conceptual works. “In the past he’s had some very nice works by Agnes Martin,” says Williams. “Very subtle and very beautiful.” The gallery also lists Ellsworth Kelly, Jasper Johns, and Sean Scully among the artists it has exhibited. Marlborough Gallery of New York and London represents some of the finest practitioners of modern and contemporary prints, including Richard Diebenkorn and Cy Twombly. And Toby C. Moss Gallery from Los Angeles specializes in California Modernism and Latin American and women artists, among other areas.

A selenium-toned gelatin silver print by David H. Gibson, “Reed Crescendo, Eagle Nest Lake, New Mexico,” also from Valley House.

Don’t worry about a print sounding too good to be true, either. “We sort of vet the dealers,” says Williams, “make sure they have high-quality material.” But equally important, he adds, is the dealers’ willingness to engage with prospective collectors and answer hundreds of questions about stipling, plates, aquatint, and serigraphs without so much as a sigh. “The best thing a novice collector can do is establish a relationship with a dealer from whom they can learn these things.”