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Limited editions, anyone?

Kishore Singh | July 05, 2005

Now that the price of art is going up by leaps and bounds (and yes, even artists on the periphery have benefited from the price increases), artists can no longer claim that there is very little money in their profession.

On the contrary, a lot of people are signing up for art classes. The point is, there's a good deal of money in the field, and a great deal of curiosity about art and artists, but aside from a few media sections and even rarer books, there's almost nothing available to read on this increasingly important sector of our society.

But as the industry grows (as, indeed, it is expected to), publishers and editors will realise the value of art coverage, and the gap will be neatly filled.

However, one lacunae that remains -- and this is in the hands of the artist more than the peripheral industry -- is the willingness, or inability of artists to create their own limited edition prints.

Not everyone can buy expensive art. Certainly very few can afford the masters. And the way prices are rising, it's becoming all but impossible for middle-class homes to invest in the original art of even unknown artists.

This creates a piquant situation. The masters have a style with which collectors are familiar. In addition, artists tend to paint in series, so you have M F Husain's horses, or Sunil Das's bulls, or Krishen Khanna's bandwallahs, or J Swaminathan's bird.

These are all recognisable, so even though we still haven't created individual works of art like the Guernica, or Mona Lisa, or even Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers, there are Indian artists who would like a Husain or Ram Kumar on their walls.

Well, the pity is that it's almost impossible to own any such print. The National Gallery of Modern Art does prints, but their quality isn't great -- not what you'd like to frame in your living room, certainly.

Of course, artists themselves must pitch in here, to create limited edition, signed prints, that adds value to the work -- so it doesn't feel like the equivalent of a framed calendar

Some years back when Art Today still existed and sold limited edition prints, these were hugely popular. But ever since the gallery closed down, few artists have taken it upon themselves to convert some of their works into offset prints.

In failing to do so, they are distancing themselves from a huge potential market that wants to own a piece of their work, but finds it prohibitively priced.

But a signed Tyeb Mehta, or F N Souza, or S H Raza for anywhere between Rs 2,000 to Rs 20,000? Not only is that affordable, it's viable. And for the artist, possibly another revenue stream that's remained untapped so far. But who'll bell the cat?

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