Art as statement
As more and more people begin to have access to art, it is increasingly becoming a lifestyle statement.
Photo: S.R. Raghunathan
Increasing appreciation: In the drawing room.
Till a few years back, it was customary to invest in real estate, equity and/ or gold. But somewhere down the line, buying and selling art seems to have taken pride of place in the urban Indian’s list of priorities. Nobody can be really sure how and when the subtle shift in sensibilities happened, but there is a rapidly growing awareness of the potential of art as an investment medium as art moves rapidly out of elitist territory and into the drawing room of the common man.
The reasons for this present trend have got the pundits slightly confused. Once upon a time an indication of snob value and affluence, buying art is now taking on different interpretations. “There is a kind of timeless appeal in being surrounded by the works of masters,” says 29-year-old Meghna Talwar. A management graduate with a lucrative job in a multinational firm, Meghna’s new home is done up in a deliberately minimalist fashion. Every room however, flaunts a priceless framed painting. The décor of the entire house, says Meghna, is aimed at enhancing the beauty of the surrealistic oils done by various contemporary artists.
Many an upwardly mobile young adult can now be seen moving out of a gizmo-crazy mindset and into the artistic domain. “I like to collect the old greats like Amrita Sher-Gil, M.F. Hussain and K.K. Hebbar. When I come home and stand gazing at their paintings, there is a sense of going back to one’s roots,” says Rishabh Singh, a software engineer who spends most of his working hours with computers and most of his leisure hours in appreciating art.
No longer confined to the canvas or the original forms, art is being copied, cloned, remixed and recycled as never before. Spilling onto bedspreads, wall hangings, calendars, dupattas and saris, the techniques of renowned artists are entering an entire new matrix of expression. “I copy Jamini Roy paintings on glass and present them to my friends” says 18- year-old Delhi resident Sandhya Wasan. A self-taught artist, Sandhya has painstakingly mastered the art of using the Jamini Roy style of curved lines, flat colours and elongated eyes. Someday she hopes to evolve an original style and hold her very own exhibition.
Quirky off-beat art is also gaining in popularity as art-lovers wake up to the magic of authentic tribal Warli art, photographs that tread the fine line between realism and the impressionistic and posters of retro movies that now firmly fall under the category of art. A hauntingly beautiful black and white portrait of the late actress Madhubala from the film “Mughal-E-Azam” is Mumbai-based industrialist Rajiv Dodeja’s most prized possession. Bought from a road-side poster maker for a mere song more than a decade back, the current value of this framed masterpiece could run into lakhs. A dozen prospective buyers wait expectantly to snap up this collector’s item but Rajiv is definitely not selling his beloved period piece!
Charcoal and pencil sketches by emerging young talent likewise hold huge appeal for buyers. A regular feature at the hip and happening Zenzi bar in suburban Mumbai is exhibiting the works of local talent which generally end in a total sell-out. Internationally acclaimed photographer Mala Mukherjee, whose unusual themes and treatment often transcend the appeal of paintings, notes an interesting change in trends. “While earlier it was the corporate houses, the hospitality industry and industrialists who bought my exhibited photographs, it is now the housewife, the young professional and retired folks who buy my work. People of all ages and from all walks of life seem to be gravitating towards art” she says.
Chennai-based home maker K. R Rajalaxmi reinforces this observation by choosing to buy paintings by both established and fresh artists. “I dabble in stocks after I’m done with house work and I buy art with whatever money I make. In this way both the mathematical and the aesthetic sides of my mind are appeased,” she says.
Brochures, leaflets, email updates and periodic articles in the media about art and artists go a long way in making the new entrant art savvy. “Art will always remain elitist in some manner because it reveals that which is ahead of its times and hence not easily understood by the general public at that time. It is only later as history develops and others come to communicate the vision that the public begins to respect creativity in a wider sense. We as connoisseurs try to energise people and change their mindsets and attitudes at a deeper level,” says Neville Tulli, Chairman of Osian’s Connoisseurs of Art Pvt. Ltd.
Veteran educationist Padma Vaswani, an avid art collector, feels that the pressing need of the moment is the introduction of art appreciation course at the school level. “It is imperative that children learn about the great artists, their techniques and their vision,” she says. She fondly remembers a bygone era where the artist was generally an impoverished soul searching for an affluent patron to launch, promote and nurture his art. A jump to the present age reveals a very different scenario where the artist rakes in big money and the patron could be anyone from a history teacher to the friendly neighbourhood grandmother. And with art coming out of the hallowed corridors of the connoisseurs and spilling into the homes of the common man, the brush strokes seem to have come full circle.
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