collector’s glossary

fine art

Apart from the connotation of quality and beauty, this refers to works that are originally conceived and made by the artist’s hand. This excludes imitations, copies and manufactured art and commercial art (illustrations, cartoons, design, etc.) and the studio arts and crafts(pottery, weaving, furnishings, fashion, etc.). Associated with High and Major visual arts: painting and drawing, sculpture, architecture. Purists lump printmaking, photography, video, etc. in the subcategory, “Minor Arts.”


Refers to high standards of finish or craftsmanship.

contemporary (art)

The current art movements: what is being taught in art schools and what museums display in contemporary exhibitions today. Also loosely referred to as 20th Century or Modern Art. Experimental, new, tends to be provocative and/or shocking at times (when you walk into an exhibit and people are saying,”Oh, oh!”, it’s probably contemporary). Also means coincidence, as in “Cave drawing was the Contemporary Art of the Stone Age.”

western art

The art of Western Civilization (as opposed to Asian or non-Western), past and present, going back to cave drawings in southern Europe. Also “Western Art” the genre (special subject): Legends of the Old West.


Colored pigment on a flat surface.


Three-dimensional art.


Lines on paper.

fine prints

Painstakingly handmade in multiple (editions) using a press: woodcuts and relief prints, etchings and engravings, lithographs from the stone, silkscreens and stencil prints.


One-of-a-kind works on paper, made with the press and printed from a surface that is temporarily worked so as not to be re-inked and image reprinted. No edition.

mixed media

Three or more materials used to make a work (pastel + ink + acrylic + sand, etc.). Not an art movement although some artists seem to think so.

commercial prints

Reproductions, usually by photomechanical means: offset (4-color) lithography, digital, giclee (ghee-clay), including transfers to canvas. This is the Land of Limited Editions.

gallery system

Career path of the successful artist: Art School training and Master’s Exhibition, small or alternative galleries, building collector base and attracting museum attention, larger galleries in major cities, big museum shows and important collections. You get famous and then you die.

– Mike Dominguez