THE ARTIST’S MULTIPLE…a brief history

The ‘artist’s multiple’ was one of the first forms of ‘affordable art.’ At its broadest a ‘Multiple’ is an art object, usually in 3D, conceived and created by an artist in an edition.

In 1914 Marcel Duchamp produced the first Multiples by including miniature copies of some of his artworks in his ‘ Boite en Valise.’ The term ‘Multiple’ was first coined by Paris gallerist Denise Rene in 1966 to describe the works made by her stable of artists; she also tried (unsuccessfully) to copyright the term.

FluxYearBox2 1967Multiples were seen as a break with traditional artistic categories because they were editions which looked like originals. Repetition was the result of a conscious choice by the artist; prints, photographs and books are generally excluded from the category because they are primarily associated with the process of reproduction.

In the 1960s and 70s many artists created multiples as a way of using new industrial production techniques and making their art more widely available. Multiples became carriers of new ideas, and were often subversive or humorous in intent.

Multiples with low production costs and large editions became the Fluxus’ movement’s favourite form of expression.

Joseph Beuys (who made many multiples) used the object as a way of communicating ideas to a wider audience, as well as challenging the elitism of art.

Joseph Beuys NOISELESS BLACKBOARD ERASER 1974 ED 550The 1990s saw a revival in interest in Multiples. In 1993, artists Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin took over a disused shop in London’s East End and, with other artists friends including Damien Hirst, sold T-shirts, mugs and other customized items as works of art. This artist-led approach to selling art directly to the public not only re-popularised the artists multiple, but was a key element in the subsequent Young British Artist (YBA) movement. Since then the multiple has become an established part of many contemporary artists’ practices.


sarah_lucas_lion_heart 1995 Ed 100

Martin Creed WORK NO 88 1995 unlmited edition









 All images courtesy of artists (Claus Oldenburg, George Maciunas, Joseph Beuys, Martin Creed, Sarah Lucas) and their publishers.


When Sally Townsend and I started The Multiple Store as a not-for-profit organisation in 1998, our aim was to help sustain an interest in Multiples by encouraging British artists to use new materials and processes to create high-quality new editions, and as a way of enabling people to buy the work of major artists at affordable prices.

Since then we have commissioned over 30 new Multiples and have sold to over 1000 collectors and institutions, including Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the British Council and the Arts Council collections.

FB tablestop_comp 2We place great emphasis on the commissioning process, working with the artist and fabricators to help realise the artist’s vision. Our editions have included disparate materials including LEDs, acrylic, glass, maps, bronze, plastic and ceramics.

We do not have a gallery or shop but sell our work at artfairs and one-off exhibitions, and through our website where all our editions can be ordered online. We do not charge for UK deliveries. All our collectors are entitled to a 10% discount on any future purchases, and to attend special events and previews.

Nicholas Sharp


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