(By Jyoti Kalsi, Special To Weekend Review, Published: 00:30 February 29, 2008)
Over the past few years, the demand for contemporary Indian art has seen a boom in the international art market. As a result, original works by established artists are not easily available and they command prices that keep them out of reach of art collectors. That is where Lavesh Jagasia comes in. An avid collector of Indian art, the former fashion designer had the foresight to realise that with the rapid development of the market, collectors would turn to limited edition fine art prints to fulfil the desire of owning works by their favourite artists.
“In all mature art markets, there is hectic activity in the prints market with those by eminent artists fetching thousands of dollars. About seven years ago, I saw that contemporary Indian and Chinese art was moving in that direction but nobody in India was addressing the need at that time,” Jagasia said.
Having been a collector for over 15 years, he had good relationships with many leading artists and approached them with the idea of creating limited edition fine art prints of their important works.
“They agreed because they trusted me and my knowledge of their work. Some of them did express concern that it might be unprofitable for me. “And they were quite justified in thinking so because in the 1970s I had arranged an exhibition of lithographs by M.F. Husain and Tyeb Mehta. We were selling them for just Rs20 and yet we did not sell a single piece,” he recalled.
But this time he was convinced that the secondary art market in India was mature and ready.Jagasia gave up his career as a designer to launch The Serigraph Studio, a fine art publishing company that represents eminent contemporary Indian artists such as S.H. Raza, Jogen Chowdhury, Paritosh Sen, Ram Kumar, Jehangir Sabavala, K.G. Subramanyam, Rameshwar Broota, Sakti Burman, Ganesh Haloi, Lalu Prosad Shaw, Manu Parekh and Amit Ambalal.
Jagasia’s foresight has paid off. At recent auctions in India and abroad, his serigraphs have fetched three times the original issue price just three months after release.
“I was happy to note that at a recent auction in India, original works by well-known artists remained unsold while there was brisk bidding for our serigraphs,” he said.
The Serigraph Studio functions through art galleries, dealers and consultants and has a website [www.serigraphstudio.com].
It has now come to Dubai and is the first and only fine art publishing service that is providing serigraphs by leading contemporary Indian artists.
“I plan to work closely with local galleries and financial institutions in Dubai. I would like to work with galleries that have not exhibited Indian artists because, besides addressing Indian collectors in this region, I want to widen the base of collectors of contemporary Indian art to other nationalities living here.
Understandably, most collectors are reluctant to spend big money on names they are not familiar with.
But the reasonable prices of our serigraphs should make it easier for us to reach out to new collectors, galleries and investors and introduce them to contemporary Indian art,” Jagasia said. “We would also like to look at creating serigraphs of artworks by artists from this region.”
Jagasia is confident of building a huge cross-cultural base of collectors in this region.
“Collectors are assured of appreciation because our serigraphs are approved, supervised and signed by the artist. They are released in a limited edition of 125 prints and we provide a certificate of authenticity guaranteeing that no more prints of that composition will be made.
In fact, an increase in value is inherent in our sale process. We make prints in two sizes — 22 inches by 30 inches and 44 inches by 30 inches. The first 25 prints of the smaller size are sold for $1,000 and the bigger ones for $1,750.
The price increases by 20 per cent after every 25 prints sold — so the last lot of 25 becomes double the original price. And since our artists are all eminent names, buyers can expect appreciation within three to five years.”
Interestingly, the price is the same for every artist — regardless of their stature, age and market value — giving discerning buyer an arbitrage opportunity.
Jagasia explained that collectible fine art prints could be of various types — such as lithographs, linocuts, woodcuts, etchings and engravings. But he chose to create only serigraphs because this technique produces prints that are closest to the original painting.
“The word ‘serigraph’ means to draw through silk and it is so named because, in the old days, the stencil used for pushing the pigment out on the paper was made of fine silk.
“Unlike offset prints, our serigraphs are fine art prints made by the screen printing method through printers in the UK and Europe,” he said.
The process — from selecting artworks to the exhibition of the serigraphs — takes one year. “We try to select paintings that represent seminal works from the artists’ careers so that their most important works are seen by a wider audience.
“This has brought us unexpected dividends. We expected a clientele that cannot afford original works but our choice of artworks has attracted collectors looking for limited edition prints of important artworks that are not available in the market,” Jagasia said.
His advice to investors: “First, buy something that you like and can live with. Secondly, be prepared to hold the artwork for three to five years,” he said.
He added: “The house of Armani has the couture Giogio Armani label, urban chic Emporio Armani label and the ready to wear Armani Exchange line. Serigraphs are like the Armani Exchange label. Just like it makes sense to stick to brands it is safer to buy prints of good established artists.”