Art Vs Artist
I was browsing through some Indian art blogs I hadn't seen before when I encountered this article. The article itself was quite sensible, doling out advise I often echo myself - "Art is something personal. You have to develop an interest in it, you have to do so with a [sic] passion – not just to make money and definitely not for a [sic] short-term." Bad grammar aside, this is good advice - so many clients/collectors will spend ridiculous amounts of money for something they don't even like. I remember in particular a lady who came by the gallery I used to work in, asking if we had any pieces by a particular artist. We did, but it wasn't his best work - indeed, my respect for the artist in question had somewhat diminished when I first saw the piece this lady was shown - the work was lazily executed, lacking the intellectual depth and sensitivity of the artist's other work. It was with a heavy heart that I unwrapped the artwork we had left for our guest.
The lady, obviously a wealthy wife, was determined to 'shop' for some art before heading back to her home in Mumbai. Casting aside an initial flicker of disappointment, she set about trying to ascertain that the piece was indeed by the artist she sought. She then proceeded to bargain down the price, bashfully confiding that her husband was very particular about the way she spent her money. The next few weeks were spent authenticating the work, producing certificates to substantiate that this was an original Mr. X artwork, and negotiating the price. The work was sold. Honestly, she would've found something similar at a construction site.
Is the rush for collecting artists compromising the quality of their art? Its not an original thought or question, but its one I have been pondering over for some time now. While the boom in the contemporary art market has brought prestige and honour to those who practice art, one wonders if it makes sense to subsidize their lives quite so generously. Successful contemporary Indian artists live lavishly, building designer homes, wearing designer labels and jet setting off to 'hot' destinations all over the world. I do not resent their success (more power to them!) but wince at the hypocrisy of the situation - these are the same people who will berate consumerism and elitism in the cold, sterile light of a gallery installation.
But perhaps I speak too soon - the Modern and Contemporary "Indian Artist Survival Rating Map" may point to an altogether different story. In fact, the article citing this map never once alluded to the cruelty or even the absurdity of the existence of such a map. Despite exalted reviews in the New York Times, inspite of his/her millions, an artist's reputation can wax and wane with the tide of public opinion and spending. How very bourgeois.