Cook: Abstract art in India is better than figurative art.
Doorman: How can you make a sweeping statement like that?
Cook: My memsaab paid 23.7 crore rupees for India's Rothko. Not only is abstract art better its a whole 4 crore rupees better.
Doorman: That's rubbish. You can't take the auction results so literally. I have been a faithful doorman to the auctions for the last fifteen years so know what goes on in there.
Cook: You don't know anything. My memsaab now holds the world record price for the painting by the artist at auction.
But I thought painting was dead? says the driver while sipping his cutting chai.
Cook: Who said that?
Doorman: Delaroche, Duchamp amongst others...
Cook: Yes and they are all dead yet painting is alive and ruling the roost at the auctions.
Doorman: You can't take these quotes so literally yaar. Just because Nietzsche said "God is Dead" does not mean God is actually dead. It is a philosophical statement. You pronounce something dead metaphorically so that it makes place for something else to be born. I will explain after my shift gets over at 11pm.
Driver: I still don't understand why your memsaab would pay 23.7 crore rupees for what looks like haldi stains about to peel off at any moment.
Cook: This was the property of an important private collector and on the cover of the Christie's first auction in India catalogue no less. Now exclusively owned by my world record Memsaab. Ordinary people like you will not understand the extraordinary social impact of these things.
Driver: But for so much money your proud memsaab could adopt my entire village in Orissa that was devastated by the floods. Imagine the extraordinary social impact of that!
Doorman: You are confusing social service with social status. Her friends don't really care about your worthless village but everyone in her kitty party will marvel at how much her living room wall is now worth.
Cook: Even us lowly creatures are talking about it so imagine the impact.
Driver: Frankly, I think the New York sales had a spill over effect in Mumbai.
Cook: Yes you are right and what is the big deal if my memsaab paid 23.7 crore rupees for a painting by Gaitonde sir when a painting by Bacon sir sold for 142 million dollars.
Doorman: Repetition of irrational behavior does not invalidate good judgement nor condone poor judgement.
Cook: Say what you may, bit I think its great that Indian art is finally getting the recognition it deserves.
Doorman: Perhaps its great for the consignors who made a tidy profit. The auction house is always thrilled to collect fat premiums from both the seller as well as the buyer. I am sure more Tyeb's and Gaitonde's will come out of storage and go right under the hammer but it's a sad day for art.
Driver: Why do you say that?
Doorman: It's sad because what is being celebrated is the price of the paintings rather than the paintings themselves. Do you not find it sad that as a society we value creativity only after it has been validated so crassly by commerce?
Cook: But does this not create an air of excitement and expand the art market?
Doorman: On the contrary this kind of cowboy bidding creates a lot of turbulence. The art buying gets more and more speculative, all prices get artificially re-calibrated. The real collectors retreat probably never to return and the joys of creating, curating and living with art slowly disappear.
Driver: Maybe this is the end.
Doorman: Or maybe this is the beginning of something new and exciting in art or the repeat of something familiar and ghastly.
Cook: I still think that abstract art is 4 crore rupees better than figurative art.
Doorman: Maybe this is the end.
Sometimes the common man will say uncommon things that others will dare not. This is one of those conversations that was unseen and unheard but rumored to have happened on the night of 19th December 2013.