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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!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Shocked by Art?

Does life become intolerable when seen from the prism of death? Is the expression of virility still considered vile by some? Are we so easily shocked by art yet remain composed by the shock of life - by the horror of starvation, the shame of corruption and the greed of war. Are we comfortable with eyes of lust and hate yet discomforted by marble eyes constructed by the hand of the artist? What is the purpose or art anyway? is it meant to decorate pale walls and please the conservative eye? Will artists who have the courage to address sexuality and the macabre with the same free spirit as established conventions of beauty always get mowed down by the intellectual moral brigade? 

I have interacted with hundreds of people from different nationalities, diverse age groups and all walks of life who have come to the gallery to see Glimpse of Thirst by artist Shine Shivan (ongoing until March 14th, 2013). A few weeks ago a middle aged couple walked in with their daughter of seven years. I greeted them as they entered the gallery and suggested that the show may not be appropriate for the little girl. "Thanks for that mate" the gentleman replied and walked right in. I hesitated before reiterating that the video behind the wall is certainly out-of-bounds to which he responded. "Thanks again mate, I will check it out myself."

Having done my duty on propriety, I sat back in my chair and let them see the show without imposing myself any further. After a while, I went inside to see if I could help with anything and was surprised at the sight of the family-of-three watching the Shivan video fully and patiently. As they emerged from behind the wall, I went up to the couple and asked impatiently what their parenting philosophy was? Were they not concerned that their daughter of impressionable age may be scarred by the explicit nature of the work? The gentleman coolly replied "We want our child to grow up without fears of the world, without artificial norms of right and wrong. My wife is a curator from Australia and we travel everywhere with our daughter. We want her to see life as it is rather than as we would like it to be." In the meanwhile the little girl was busy making pictures of the sculptures and pointing to remarkable details in the works that had even escaped my eyes. So, how does she deal with all this I asked. "Extremely well actually," he said, "and whenever she has any questions, she has our confidence and knows we are always there to talk it through them". As a parent of two young girls, I was completely in synch with this Aussie way of being and shook his hand with delight and wondered why he was the exception and not the rule.  

Just recently, a colleague sent me a link to a local review of the show that left me wondering how some people are shocked by art at the slightest provocation while others remain unscathed, even inspired by it? Are we judging the world too quickly by our own social conditioning and moral standards and therefore choosing to be shocked? As a vegan can I choose to be shocked that people kill living beings to feed themselves, while some may argue that all things are living so even vegans are murderous herbivores. Is there an acceptable threshold of shock that artists need to measure their work against and how important is context in determining what gets labeled as shocking?

The debate on what gets categorized as shocking and degenerate versus radical and enriching may never be settled but I am shocked that people are shocked by art so easily.