‘The Silk Route'

It's a dilemma for art lovers triggered by soaring prices. They can't afford to write out a Rs 40 lakh cheque or thereabouts for a work like S.H.Raza's Nidhi. So, what's the alternative? How about trying a signed, limited edition serigraph. No, we aren't talking about garden variety posters.A Nidhi serigrph costs about Rs. 90,000 and they are a connoisseur's alternative to the ‘real' thing, especially since art prices are heading for the stratosphere.

Art collector-turned-publisher Lavesh Jagasia is hoping that art lovers will be eagar to look at serigraph prints as an alternative to original works of art. He's determined to create a market for prints and he plans to do it through his publishing company, The serigraph Studio, which has tied up with around 25 of the country's most famous artists. A serigraph is a print made by the silkscreen printing process.

In November Jagasia soft-launched the company with limited edition serigraphs of four works by Raza on his online gallery(serigraphstudio.com).Last month he also has started selling serigraphs by artists Paritosh Sen and Lalu Prosad Shaw.

So there's Shaw's lovers for Rs. 12,000 and Sen's The Obese Man, which has already climbed from its launch price of Rs. 12,000 to 21,000.Jagasia is not confining himself to online sales. In April, he will hold his first show of Sen's serigraph at Akar Prakar gallery at Calcutta. That'll be followed by a show of Jogen Chowdhury's works at Pundole Art Gallery In Mumbai. Other artists he tied up with include Jehangir Sabavala, Ram Kumar, Rameshwar Broota and Amit Ambalal.Jagasia has the rights to publish six to 18 serigraphs of each artist, with about 125 signed and numbered prints of each composition.

He has also tied up with printing studios in the UK and Europe. The entire process can take 18-24 months as the artist is closely involved in the print making process.

Jagasia has been working on the project for two years now. He founded the serigraph studio in 2003,when the prices started moving up and quality works began disappearing.

“ I started wondering what is the avenue for a collector who wants to buy good quality work,”say the man who is surrounded by a Raza on one easel, a Ram Kumar landscape on another, a Bose Krishnamachari on the third.

But Jagasia had to educate himself first. For one, the art world distinguishes between fine art prints and photo mechanical reproductions such as offset art posters.fine art prints that have a collectible value include serigraphs, lithographs, linocuts, woodcuts and intaglio prints such as etchings engravings drypoints, acqatints and mezzotints.

Jagasia chose serigraphs or screen prints because “of all these types of fine art prints, the serigraph is the one that offers a wide colour spectrum and come closest to the artist's original visual composition”.

Prints are not new medium. Lithographs and woodcuts have been around for centuries and even the serigraph has been around since the 1930s “ In India, printed images of mythological figures have always been popular since their inception”says Geetha Mehra, Director, Sakshi art Gallery.

More recently, artists like Laxman Gaud, Somnath Hore and Anupam Sud are well-known print makers. M.F.Husain too has done several print portfolios. Sakshi Art Gallery even held a show of Husain's serigraphs last year.

But Jagasia's attempt is perhaps the first large-scale one of its kind.Says Paritosh Sen: “Lavesh came to one of my exhibitions and thought that some of my paintings would render very well to serigraphs. So the dialogue began”.

Jagasia has managed to tie-up with painters largely because of relationship with them as a collector. A fashion designer by profession-he opened his menswear boutique Elements in 1990- he began collecting art in 1996. “I was decorating a couple of apartments and wanted paintings to put up on the walls. So I statrted visiting all the galleries,” he says, pointing to his first purchase, Belsize Park by F.N.Souza. He bought it for Rs. 9,000 ten years ago, and he reckons it's worth Rs. 30 lakh today.

About five years ago, he went on a buying spree, often snapping up a painting a week.

“I was financially independent and I had money to spare,” he says he now has huge collection that includes top artists like Souza, Raza, Ram Kumar, Sen and Chowdhury.

Jagasia will nevertheless have to educate the market. “It is a difficult task but if you have to pioneer an area you have to account for the educational aspect,” he says. Add Sakshi's Mehra: “The more unaffordable the originals become the greeted will be the market for limited edition prints.”

05 Mar 2006