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Thursday, July 25, 2013

I had a dream

I wake up with a start. 
My cell phone is ringing. It's 4am. 
I curse myself for not putting it on silent before I went to bed. 
I roll to the bedside, curse some more and look at the phone. 
It is Venkanna calling. I pick up the phone.

V: Sorry to call so early but I have some urgent news I want to share.
A: What happened?

V: I won the SKODA prize for 2013
V: Isn't it exciting? 
A: Please just hold on for a minute. (I wash my face and resume the conversation). Venki, the nominations for 2013 are not even out as yet. Moreover i just heard that they are canning the prize altogether. 

V: Ya I am sorry about that. I feel partly responsible.
A: What on earth are you taking about? This is insane. Are you ok? 
V: Abhay I just had a dream that I won the SKODA prize. But I don't like the name SKODA so me and the other shortlisted artists have exercised our right to dissent. We have taken up the issue with the organizers and have proposed that the name be changed to an Indian artist of repute - like "The M.F. Husain prize" or the "Amrita Sher-Gil prize" you know to make it just as appealing as the Turner prize. I finally feel like an artist-activist.

A: Hold on a second. I though your works were about the representation of beauty and sexuality? since when did you become an activist? 
V: It's just that I don't like the idea of having a car company on my resume. Imagine "SKODA" under the section that says Award and Prizes. How dreary!
A: So you don't wan't a prize called SKODA but you are happy to take their prize money? 

V: No, Yes, I don't know - But what has SKODA got to do with art? 
A: What has Bhau Daji Lad and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj got to do with art? Yet you seem quite content to have their names on your CV. Why the double standards baba? And if you have ideological differences with the prize why did you choose to send in your nomination? If I don't like the rules don't play the game. 

V: But this SKODA thing is pure capitalism, corporate PR in the name of art and we artists can't stand it so we must protest!
A: I see. But you don't seem to mind that you are represented by a Pvt. Ltd company, that your works sell to corporates and corporate honchos. That is acceptable capitalism but this is not? UBS, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase and the like are your biggest benefactors. And because they have a relationship with art, they are also likely to participate more actively in its expansion and promotion. It's a win-win for everyone and I still don't see the problem?

V: All I know is that we want a prize like the Turner. An artist should be recognized by another artist not by a car company on the masthead. 
A: Ok. So shall we say no to anything that has Boss, Cartier, LV, Hermes attached to it? Lets erase the show you did at the Agnes B Foundation in Paris last year and while we are at it, let's also turn our back to Tate Modern since it is named after the sugar magnate Henry Tate of Tate & Lyle, a British multinational agribusiness. 

V: Don't be so hasty Abhay. It's a dream to be at the great halls of the Tate Modern.
A: You are the one being hasty. Corporate patronage is a premium in a country like India that lacks public/governmental funding for the arts. By needlessly shooting at it you may have shot yourself and other deserving artists in the foot. 

A: By the way, I heard the government is planning on renaming your birth city of Hyderabad to  Bhagyanagaram. 
V: What? Are you serious!!!
A: Yes and that's a name change you should be protesting about.

This conversation never happened but should have.