Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Different Strokes !

It is really funny as to how similar things are, if you ever get the pleasure of meeting Mr. P.R.S. Oberoi, Chairman of The Oberoi Group of Hotels and ask him what is the one key thing for a person to be a good hotelier, his response is "passion". Now, even in the world of art, the best artists are the ones who are passionately committed to their art. The question could be "Are all artists not passionate about their art?" and the answer is "NO". In the earlier times, artists survived just on passion,they hardly had any money or commercial success so the work that you saw was produced with heart and soul in it and without the scores of studio assistants! I get to meet a lot of artists and honestly today people make works with more commercial focus on their minds than what their heart tells them to make. Galleries are also happy keeping the equation intact so that the sales don't suffer although creativity,individual brilliance and passion sometimes get lost in this haze of commercialisation.

I get a lot of mails on and some calls on sometimes people getting upset about what I say about the artists they represent, my counter to that is that I never started this blog for winning a popularity contest for being the best art critic or the best blog on Indian contemporary art. I am not qualified to be an art critic but I have learnt quite a lot in my few years of being an art collector and I always say this that I maybe have the best access in this space to the best artists,top collectors and the best of the art galleries worldwide. That combined with my experience of being an art collector just gives me a really good perspective as to what is happening in our art space. As I am a rank outsider in the art world, I can afford to be frank and honest about my opinion which can be quite refreshing for some people, 629 emails on how people love this blog to be precise, that is reward enough for me. I am not a curator or a critic who has to be very nice to a gallery otherwise I will not get my next show from the gallery. I do this writing out of passion and have a busy day job running what many people, myself included(Biased opinion!) believe is one of the best hotels in the Asia-Pacific region, Trident,Gurgaon and writing this blog and doing all my art research is a night job!

This blog is for the collector and the aspiring collector, it is not for the speculator although there is nothing wrong in selling either in an auction or to a gallery, I am selling when I want and buying a work every month for the last 4 months. As a collector, you buy what you like as long as the value is right. It is actually very enjoyable to buy in a recession, galleries spend more time with you and are able to differentiate real collectors from the speculators.

So read on, about 2 artists I talked about recently in my last article in "The Telegraph", Mithu Sen is someone who reminds you of an era where art was only about passion and she scores the highest marks for being a very passionate and talented artist.

This is the 4th article that I wrote for the Sunday edition of "The Telegraph" newspaper in the Magazine section of "Graphiti". Reaching over 0.5 million readers, this is being posted on the blog for the reading pleasure of the international readers of the blog who do not get a copy of the Telegraph...........................

I’ve been reading a lot about the recently concluded Sothebys auction, which set a new record of about Rs 2.9 crore for a stunning work by Jogen Choudhary. Many writers have concluded that the Indian art scene is reviving.

Are we jumping the gun slightly? The auction figures were very good but I think it showed one thing above all — that good quality work will always sell, especially ones by the modern masters. That brings us back to a point which I’ve made earlier: always buy an artist’s best and most significant works. The Jogen Choudhary canvas was a 1979 masterpiece and one of his best works. Quality always pays sooner or later, boom or recession.

The contemporary art market for artists with works produced after the year 2000 is yet to recover though. This is a blessing in disguise as irrational exuberance is out and only good quality art will sell — and I reckon that prices will, in some cases, be 50 per cent lower than last year.

That then becomes a reasonable price to follow your passion and still end up making the right collecting and investment decisions. So let’s look at one artist who’s making waves internationally and another new artist who’s just waiting to be discovered.

Mithu Sen did her Masters at Santiniketan before she went to the Glasgow School of Art in UK on a Charles Wallace India Trust fellowship. Mithu is a multi-talented artist, a painter turned sculptor and installation artist who also does multi-media video photography as part of her works.

I’ve always been intrigued by her art — it’s as unique as it gets. These aren’t canvas-based works but she does thought provoking art which is sometimes controversial. She caused quite a stir in Korea and more recently in Japan with works which had a different take on sexuality in society.

Also, I wasn’t able to appreciate what she did for a long time because her best work is mostly outside India and out here I would just get to see pieces from her installation but not the whole body of work. Her art focuses a lot on the human body and bones and the skeleton. There’s also her series on Icarus.

I also admire Mithu because at the peak of the art boom in April 2007, she kicked off a project called the “Free Mithu” project. She invited select friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to send her a “letter with love” in exchange for a free artwork by her in a medium of their choice.

This was a brave move because at that time even her small works were valued at between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh. It was courageous of a young artist to say that the commercial aspect did not matter, and that she would gift a work with a personal authentication that you could even sell. Most of these were small but nice works.

I’d suggest that you take a look at Bose Pacia’s website out of New York and Suzie Q out of Zurich to get a better idea of Mithu’s art. There aren’t too many artists who’ve done solos in New York and Zurich, shown at a couple of museum shows in Tokyo and Korea and are now preparing for another one in Vienna — and all this in 18 months.

She’s a potential superstar who’s passionate and committed. But you have to be in love with her art to get one of her important works. I feel it’s best to only look at works which are a minimum of 30in by 40in and cost between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 5 lakh.

Her larger works at Bose Pacia, which are around 42in x 82in, sell for around Rs 8 lakh to Rs 10 lakh. A work from the same series went for Rs 40 lakh at last year’s Saffronart auction.

(Nothing lost in translation,an installation at The Musuem of Modern Art,Tokyo)

Yati Jaiswal is an artist, who’s still building his reputation. I was introduced to his work by the “KAVA 4”, an award given by Kochi’s Kashi Art Gallery. I’ve always looked carefully at the KAVA 4 winners because Kashi Art puts in huge amounts of research before giving out its awards. Yati Jaiswal was one of last year’s winners and I started checking him out the moment the winners were announced.

I discovered a young and talented artist. Yati is humble and passionate about his art and not very prolific. He sent me some images of his really lovely canvas works that appeal from an aesthetic and emotional perspective. The canvases are an eclectic mix of the ancient and modern with a focus on machines in a time warp.

Some pieces have a three-dimensional quality and the machines and characters seem to be coming out of the canvas. The values of between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2.5 lakh for significant works are also very reasonable for an award-winning artist of his potential.
(Into Hibernation and Self Preservation)

These two artists are at very different stages of their career —one has already made the jump into the international arena; the other has won an important award and may break into an entirely new orbit soon. Take your pick and enjoy your art!


Doodleduck said...

I have realised over a period of time that Art is relevant when it deals with social, cultural and psychological aspects of only for the sake of aesthetics is a skill, devoid of soul.

workhard said...

You are so right.. art does involve a lot of passion..whenever a work is done out of pure commercial purpose.. it loses its essence.. that creativity is lost...

like ur criticism

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