Multiple refers to a series of identical artworks, usually a signed limited edition made specifically for selling

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  • Richard Hamilton, 'Swingeing London 67 - poster' 1967-8
    Richard Hamilton
    Swingeing London 67 - poster 1967-8
    Lithograph on paper
    image: 711 x 498 mm
    Presented by Rita Donagh 1978© The estate of Richard Hamilton
  • Roy Lichtenstein, 'Untitled (Paper Plate)' 1969
    Roy Lichtenstein
    Untitled (Paper Plate) 1969
    Screenprint on paper
    image: 264 x 264 mm
    Presented by Simon Wilson and the Lisson Gallery 1978© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
  • Rodney Graham, 'Casino Royale (Sculpture de Voyage)' 1990
    Rodney Graham
    Casino Royale (Sculpture de Voyage) 1990
    Tinted Plexiglass and stainless steel display case, book, cardboard box containing printed text and lithographic poster on white wove paper
    overall display dimensions variable
    Purchased with funds provided by the Mary Joy Thomson Bequest 2005
    © Rodney Graham, courtesy Donald Young Gallery, Chicago

Casting sculpture in bronze, and the various techniques of printmaking, have for many centuries made it possible to make multiple examples of a work of art. Each example of an edition of a print or a bronze is an authentic work of the artist, although there may be technical variations which might affect the value. The number produced is usually strictly limited, mainly for commercial reasons but, in the case of etchings in particular, also for technical reasons – etching plates wear very rapidly, so later impressions are inferior.

About 1955, the artists Jean Tinguely and Agam, wanting to make their work more widely available, put forward the idea of very large, effectively unlimited, editions of works which could be sold very cheaply. It is they who seem to have invented the term multiple for such works, which would be made using industrial processes. The first multiples were eventually produced by the Denise René Gallery in Paris in 1962, and since then large numbers of artists have created multiples.