Art: The Independent Collector

John Windsor's Guide to Collecting Contemporary Art. This Week: Sarah Staton

SARAH STATON, who led the Nineties revival of artists' multiples, has gone into print publishing. Prints on paper are, after all, the original multiple - a centuries-old way of increasing an artist's work relatively cheaply. Today, young British artists are rushing into print as a way of capitalising upon their burgeoning reputations.

During the past six years, Staton's portable SupaStore, a parody both of department stores and the commodification of art, has sold multiples by some 300 young artists - including her own outsize papier-mache cigarette butts, T-shirts by Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin's peppermint rock. It has cleverly set up shop in cities as far afield as San Francisco, New York, Tokyo, Bregenz in Austria, and Middlesbrough.

Now, it has all got a bit out of hand. Her telephone has been kept ringing by young hopefuls trying to offload artefacts of sometimes dubious merit. And plenty of art organisations - for example, the ICA, Camden Arts Centre and the Multiple Store at St Martin's College, from which she graduated in 1988 - are selling multiples in a big way.

So, instead of struggling to administer shows of multiples contributed by 80 artists, she has turned SupaStore into a production company. A print portfolio of "10 SupaStore Supastars", its first project, will be on sale at Paul Stolper's stand at Art99, the big annual London contemporary art fair, which opens tomorrow for five days.

And from early next month, the prints will be at Staton's new "Open Studio" at 221 Waterloo Road, south London - hitherto known as the Tracey Emin Museum. Emin is moving to a studio in Shoreditch.

Staton launched her print project with the help of pounds 2,500 paid by the London Gallery for 20 of her multiples, now part of the gallery's permanent collection. They include a stick of Emin rock and a miniature painting on copper by Simon Bill, one of her new SupaStar printmakers.

The prints are black and white, in an edition of 50, comprising 35 portfolios of the entire edition and loose prints of the rest.

The starting price for loose prints is pounds 150, rising by pounds 50 after every three sold. There are now only five left of each of the prints by Emin and Gary Hume, both Sensation artists. They are now priced at pounds 400 each. Emin's print shows a Bambi fawn with the words "It's what I want to be". Hume's is a nude girl, the same image overlaid out of register eight times, so that there are 16 eyes and 16 nipples.

Staton's print consists of the words "I shall not want". She saw the slogan, from the 23rd Psalm, on a building worker's T-shirt. "It's better than `Nike'", she says. Price: pounds 200.

The other print artists are Anya Gallaccio, whose molten chocolate installations made her name, Ellen Cantor, Georgie Hopton, Simon Periton, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, and Tomato, the collective of video makers. The portfolio, originally priced at pounds 1,500, has so far sold 12 and will have a starting price of pounds 2,000 at Art99.

All of which will interest collector-investors who want to know, simply: will Staton's prints rise in value in the same way that her multiples have?

Most are rising already, ratchet-like, as the limited edition sells out. She does know how to pick 'em. Back in 1993, she sold Gary Hume's multiple, the video "King Knut", showing Hume in an empty bath, for pounds 200. It now changes hands for pounds 6,000. A year later, she was selling Hadrian Pigott's soaps, embossed with the words "Boy", "Girl" and "?" for pounds 5. Uninitiated visitors to SupaStore balked at paying so much for mere bars of soap. But they are now worth at least pounds 400.

Art99, The Business Design Centre, Islington (0171-359 3535); Paul Stolper's stand (0181-450 5846); SupaStore (0171-403 3510)

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