welcome to collectors mind

This is a forum for sharing knowledge, gaining insights and shaping opinions. We will not sit on the fence here or play favorites. The language of art has changed in a blink of a year– today there are market makers, power brokers, savvy investors, flippers, fakes and fund managers. Collectors are nearly extinct. Why? Because collectors can see and COLLECTORS MIND. So together, let’s take a small step to make today’s buyers into tomorrow’s collectors. The future of art depends on it!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Pin the Donkey

I went to the opening of Everywhere is War (and rumours of war) at Bodhi on Saturday and came away with an observation that I though would be interesting to share .

Openings nights are quite chaotic with the focus being as much on the people in attendance as the art on display. It is a time to meet and congratulate the artist/s, curator/s, gallery for all the work leading up to show and to see the works on display. The fact is that the latter often gets neglected for want of space or undivided attention “excuse me, can you move so we can take a photo of the artist with the work” or “hey let me introduce you to so and so…” are typical attention breakers in most opening extravaganzas and this was no different.

My comment is not so much on the works on display but to highlight the fact that when I first saw the show at the Bodhi space, sans the installation map, I was not quite sure who had done what work (barring a few examples such as Sumedh Rajendran, Riyaz Komu, Baiju Parthan and others whose signature style and use of material were instant giveaways. For example, I thought that the work later identified to be by Anita Dube was conceived by Bose Krishnamachari (or could have been by another artist in the group show whose oeuvre I was not familiar with) and that the sink with the red water flowing from the tap was certainly by Sudershan Shetty. Another work titled ‘The Principle of Creative Destruction (sound of fortune)’ could have been the handiwork of someone like Narendra Yadav, a lesser known but highly talented conceptual artist. It was only much later I discovered that Subodh Gupta was the author of the bloody sink and that Sudershan and Narendra was not even part of the show (Chuckles). There were many artists like Sara Rahbar, Rakesh Sharma, Dieter Lutsch who I had not known before and I seized the opportunity to respond to the work sans the signature. I was so thrilled at the prospect that I gleefully went through the evening without the exhibition guide that most people were clutching on to with dear life - trying to see who made what before an internal response was given a fair chance to fully emerge.

On final tally I found two works really exciting, a few quite engaging and the rest did not hold my attention for too long. The next step of course was to pin the donkey and match the roman numerals pasted on the wall to the artists. This formality happened on a subsequent visit many days later when I went back to see the show undisturbed. The key takeaway is simply that contemporary art is not only constantly contributing to and borrowing from contemporary culture but also expressing itself in so many different ways, using so many different materials, that in the absence of ‘signatures’ it is often difficult (and hardly desirable) to place an artists work in any preset category or style. Furthermore, the language of contemporary art is indeed so universal that a work by an ‘American’ artist can easily pass of as done by an ‘Indian’ (vice-verse) and works by artists from the same region can often be mistaken to be done by someone else (as was the Subodh-Sudershan faux-pas).

I have been making an argument (see latest Art India volume XIII, Issue I, Quarter I, 2008, panel discussion) that the recent spate in interest/prices for Indian contemporary art is largely due to this convergence of artistic expression on one hand, de-contextualization of visual language on the other hand and the unprecedented economic attention that India is currently getting on the world platform. It is much more likely for a banker in NY for example to relate to the visual practice of a contemporary artist from another country like India than art of 50 or 100 years ago which was much more inward looking. Immediate issues like the struggle for an independent India, plight of the working class, life under British rule and similar concerns naturally came through in the art of yester years and except for those with a specific interest in the creative concerns of that era, the woks do not hold the same sway as works that reflect the times we live in.

This is not to say the art of today is devoid of roots but more to bring out the point that the artistic concerns are a lot more universal - be it social and cultural climate, war, political upheaval, environmental issues, medical and technological breakthroughs, etc and the response is also more immediate than was ever possible in times when analog communication and snail mail was the only ways of dissemination and consuming information. So along with roots, contemporary art also has wings and it travels much more easily and further than art of previous times. That is the real trump card that contemporary art has in its favor so embrace it with open arms and fly…

Sunday, August 17, 2008

art versus money?

Hi, i have visited ur gallery. i think ur doing good work for Indian art. But,i would like to know that as far as ur saying u want to only concentrate on art , so, how long u keep doing this keeping apart money factor. Actually I ‘m asking u very personal thing if u would like to discus with me u can otherwise it ‘s ok. – ritesh, Mumbai (sent via email)

Dear Ritesh from Mumbai – interesting question you have posed but you are not the first to ask me this and probably not the last so here are my views on this art versus money conundrum

Yes I am saying that I want to only concentrate on ‘art’ - art that touches and moves me, art that challenges me and my views of life around me, art that breaks down artificial barriers, preconceived notions and personal prejudices. It is ultimately about the quality of art and in turn the quality of life that I am after, and I think we are all after…

When you are confronted with art that has the ability to ‘transform’ and ‘enhance’ your quality of life, ‘enrich’ your way of thinking then where is the concern about the money factor? This kind of art has to find a buyer because when something affects you so deeply you will want to make it part of your life. It may not happen so readily today, because many are looking at art purely as an investment in the economic sense rather than an investment in a new way of looking at their own views, their preconceived notions, their prejudices and those of the world around them - but I am sure it will happen.

All serious collectors start from the art - from the emotional response that emanates from the art. There is no reason why the money factor and the art factor should be mutually exclusive but for that to happen we need more collectors with confidence - buyers with brave eyes otherwise of course the wheels of creativity cannot turn and we risk reverting back to creating, curating, and collecting staple art that is only partially nutritious!

Monday, August 11, 2008

King of Hearts

There is been some cheer from unlikely quarters lately about affording certain rights to the gay community in India. More specifically, our Union health minister Ramadoss has called for legalizing homosexuality by repelling Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that was imposed by the British.

The way I see it, this issue has nothing to do with being gay or straight but one of acceptance – and of respect for individual choices. As a society we are too concerned about shoving our own prejudices down other’s throats. It’s a bad habit that just won’t go away. We promote violence and war but decry love. We train people to fight and kill in public but throttle any public show of affection. We are programmed right from birth to hide our love and disguise our feelings. Parents dissuade love and propagate arranged marriages - it somehow makes them more secure and in control. It is the ‘social affairs’ that are celebrated while the love affairs are quashed. In this manner love disappears but the tradition of the family continues. Life becomes a game of poker emotions and the individual becomes the sacrificial lamb in the process but who really gives a damn! The family, the society the politicians are all afraid of the power of love - afraid of the freedom and the rebellion that comes when love is favored over tradition. We are so hung up on the issue of sexuality that even the thought of children having same sex partners are decried by family members. Emotional blackmail and fear of loss of face in society force many to toe the line of convention. You are made to discard the king of hearts in favor of an unwanted queen!

There is a false sense of security in controlling the lives of others – in keeping the so called social and moral fabric intact. They follow blindly without questioning the relevance or dangers of this regressive way of thinking. If being gay is a crime then so is being a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian…that too is an accidental choice. Free citizens make that choice. Does following one faith or another faith or no faith at all make someone a better human being? Absolutely not! Likewise your partner preference should be of no one’s concern. It’s a private matter that should not and cannot be governed by any artificial law. The more they impose the more you will rebel – that is how it works - all prohibitions – all suppressions lead to uprising.

The question of tolerance is also worth debating. Who exactly is tolerating whom? There is a false notion that a progressive society should tolerate gays as an abnormal reality. If anyone is tolerating anyone, it’s the gay community that is tolerating all of the prejudice that they have to bear on an almost daily basis. All of the fear of being judged and even reprimanded by law if caught showing their affection. Changing the laws is one thing but changing the attitude is another and both are critical if there is to be any significant shift in the way we acknowledge, embrace and respect each other’s sexual preferences - It is only when we achieve this we would have achieved true freedom - true independence

While I was at B-school in Atlanta, my best friends were gay. Both Jim and Lewis were super nice, super talented, committed to loving each other and those around them. We spent a lot of time in intellectual debate - visiting art museums, galleries, quaint little book stores, we studied hard during assignments and partied harder like any other. We even went on holidays together – gay and straights friends sharing life together. In those two years if there was one thing that was clear it was this - being gay had nothing to do with anything. It never came in the way of our enduring friendship, it makes no dam difference and if it does, it only makes the world a kinder, gentler and a more beautiful place to live in. So who cares if you are a homosexual, bisexual, metrosexual or heterosexual? Just so long as you are sexual...!
Happy Independence and love to all - Abhay