Artists' signatures on prints: origins, uses and abuses with reference to South African examples
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Several important South African role-players including Iziko Museum of Cape Town, the HSRC and Sanlam, launched an internet database in 2006 aimed at capturing local artists' signatures and monograms. This was done on the basis that the assignment of value to art is a necessary component of human development and nation-building. As the database, known as the Artist Signatures Project, notes: 'When value has been assigned with critical sensitivity, it enables artists to be nurtured, their work to be recorded and made more accessible, identities to be defined and tradition and heritage to be celebrated. More specifically, it allows the critical contributions artists make to the recharging of the public imagination to be recognised'. In constructing the database, sorting through thousands of prints in the National Gallery and in the private collections of the HSRC and Sanlam, the rich history and complexity of the practice of signing printed works became evident. This paper introduces some of these elements with a particular focus on a range of examples South Africa has to offer.