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Curatorial venture

HISTORICAL determinants of the artist's present position in the art system have been the loss of direct patronage and the resulting entry into free-market status. In the mediating role-played by the market in the relationship between the artist and the connoisseur, the position of the auction house has become pivotal and strategic. In order that auctions of art objects be productive and successful it becomes inevitable to make them visible without the prospective buyer having to visit the site of sale. This clearly necessitates reproduction of art objects in print media taking on the physical character of the catalogue. This catalogue facilitates in disseminating knowledge about the art object in question that are put up for sale. And crucially, the auction catalogue brought out by India's first Auction House is Neville Tuli's curatorial venture OSIAN's Masterpieces and Museum-Quality: Indian Modern and Contemporary Paintings.

The catalogue, laid out for auctioneer's bidding, classifies modern Indian art into its varied genre as Portraiture, Studies of Female and Other Life Forms, Religious Icons and Narratives, Folk and Tribal Arts as Inspirational Platform, Demons of Unrelenting Introspection, Social Responsibility as the Aesthetic Work Ethic and Nature, Landscape and Cityscape as Inspiration. The catalogue also provides for a select artist bibliography. The painstaking indexical research that forms an integral part of the catalogue production is made evident by quotations from major critics to establish not only the position of the artist within his milieu but engenders for the buyer the knowledge of the artist so that he is treading on firm grounds with his investment. Reinforcing this are the varied details of size, provenance and collection paving the future for the record and establishment of these visual data. Such a comprehensive production makes the catalogue itself a collector's item with near-perfect reproduction of art objects, be it painting, sculpture, minor arts, rare books, lithographs, photographs, posters, folk and tribal arts and paintings on architectural heritage accompanied by its critical and aesthetic appreciation.

Neville Tuli, an economic graduate from London School of Economics, after living a greater part of his life in England returned to India in 1996 and set up the HEART (Holistic Education for Art) Foundation — a charitable organisation to cater to modern and contemporary Indian art. His initial venture was marked by the publication of the book The Flamed Mosaic: Indian Contemporary Painting in 1997. Commencing his experimental trajectory in the art arena in 1997, he expanded his activities to hold the first curated exhibition "The Intuitive Logic: A Festival of Indian Contemporary Painting", which became his pioneering series of large-scale, non-commercial exhibitions organised by HEART in New Delhi and Mumbai. It brought together the NGMA, The British Council, Max Mueller Bhavan, Cymroza Art Gallery, Gallery Chemould, Pundole Gallery and Prithvi Gallery for the first time, opening out new directions and inspiring many organisations to change the scale and manner of interaction involved in their activities. This was followed by "Intuitive Logic II", which chartered a new course since it served to mediate as the first international quality auction without the involvement of foreign auction houses, Christies and Sotheby's.

At the turn of the millennium Tuli established OSIAN's-Connoisseurs of Art Pvt. Ltd., to become India's pioneering Art Institution and Auction House. This was to create a credible infrastructure and assurance for the Indian arts and its education. According to Tuli, "By adopting the corporate entity as the legal unit, rather than the earlier option of a charitable society, OSIAN's has brought within its fold one of the finest and most discerning group of individuals who constitute the shareholding team of a Pvt. Ltd. Company. The range covers respected corporate leaders, bankers, management consultants, who, besides being art lovers, are also open to a deeper process of interaction and involvement with the arts. The success of this process lies in nurturing the arts on a national scale without dependency on any of the traditional forms of patronage." In addition, OSIAN's Archive, Documentation and Research Centre has become the foremost photographic and textual library for modern and contemporary Indian art and cinema.

Masterpieces and Museum-quality: Indian Modern and Contemporary Paintings, curated by Neville Tuli, published by OSIAN's — Connoisseurs of Art Private Limited, 2002.

ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT

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