Collapse of Structured Art Market and the Emergence of a New One
|(Sushmita Sen with artist Ratan Saha at his show)|
Ratan Saha is not Subodh Gupta. He is not Sudarshan Shetty either. But he is a sculptor, a post graduate in sculpture from the Fine Arts Faculty, Baroda. After his education, that was around 19 years back, he travelled to many places looking for an opportunity to establish himself as a sculptor. He could barely survive doing his art. Saha had problems at home like many other artists; so he started doing commission works. That helped him stand on his own legs, set up a family and raise his kids. However, he never left his art. He went on doing sculptures, showing in small group shows, selling a piece here and another one there. But ‘success’ did not come to him the way it had blessed so many others during the boom years. Saha did not lose his faith in his art and in himself. He makes ‘bull’ sculptures; bulls in a variety of ways, formally interesting and conceptually strong. They are not just decorative, nor are they just the representations of the ‘male power’ (as bulls in art often do), they are the lost self of the migrant in a big city, raring to go but tamed by times, yet concerned about one and all. In them aesthetic sensitivity and artistic skill blend in the right way.
|(Ratan Saha with his sculptures)|
This is not a review of Ratan Saha’s works. For the first time, he mustered up all his courage to have a large scale solo show at the Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai in early October. He exhibited around 22 works including one interactive assemblage and a huge installation. His wife, my friend and classical singer, Ranjana Saha told me on the last day that it was his wish to have a solo, whatever might be the outcome. They had taken out their last reserve of financial resources to make the show happen. In these days of ‘no-market’ for art, even his friends had felt that he was attempting something foolish. But things turned out to be different. By the last day of the show sixteen out of the 22 sculptures had already been sold. Ranjana was very happy. Ratan was busy packing sculptures with his friends and sending them to the respective collectors. Now hold on, you may say that it happens in Jehangir Art Gallery. On the last day, the ‘collectors’ come and buy in bulk for throw away prices. But here Ratan’s case is different. His works were not collected by the bulk buyers, but the important collectors from Mumbai, who in fact had invested a lot in the so called ‘contemporary art’ in the boom years. When I recounted this incident (as I was happy for Ratan, Ranjana and their kids) to another ‘rich’ artist friend in Mumbai, he said slightly in a dismissive fashion, ‘He is lucky.’
I, however thought it otherwise. If we attribute Ratan’s commercial success to ‘sheer’ luck, we would be just writing off his works as some lucky charm with no aesthetic value. But the profiles of the collectors who took his works do not endorse this ‘luck theory.’ I believe that they bought it because they liked it. They might not have thought of selling them in the secondary market on the very next day the way they used to do during the boom years. As I mentioned before, Ratan is not a big name in the market. His name does not attract big time investors. If people have collected his works today, then they must have done it with a purpose of ‘living’ with it in their drawing rooms or offices. In short, they all have liked his works. What I am trying to say is the emergence of a new market where art is sold and bought for their merit (of whatever kind) in satisfying the soul needs of the collectors.
|( Aura Art Show 2013 opening day)|
At the other end of the Jehangir Art Gallery, on 15th October, Aura Art Developers presented their ‘Aura Art Show 2013’; a heady mix of moderns, contemporary and emerging artists. If you go by the ‘normal and accepted’ standards of the art market which was in place during the boom years, most of the works exhibited in the show were not of ‘that’ kind. But on the opening day itself Aura could sell a lot of works. And towards the end of the show they could almost sell seventy per cent of the works and the organisers are still confident to make it a hundred per cent ‘sold out’ show. In the opening of Aura Show I met Shashikant Dhotre, an artist based in Mumbai, who does super realistic renderings of rural Maharashtra people in oil pastel. I know Shashikant well because I had the opportunity to adjudge him as the winner of the India Art Festival Award of Rs.100,000/- in 2010. He was a lean thin boy and he went on to the stage to receive the award from a Maharashtra minister, his only cheerleaders were the young rural boys who had accompanied him from Kolhapur. Many brows went up in doubt as he was ‘not of the contemporary lot’. Today, Shashikant looks cool in his urban dress code and a BMW car. That means he is selling quite well. Ganesh Gohain, an artist based Baroda, who was a participant in the Aura show, upon my query on the Baroda scene informed me that though the ‘contemporaries’ were struggling, the youngsters are ‘doing well’ as their works are bought by some ‘invisible’ collectors.
Now, look at the other side of the spectrum. Big galleries in Mumbai and Delhi are struggling to find money for their day to day operations. In Mumbai, Guild Gallery and Volte gallery are closed down till they open next in some other location. Sakshi has moved to a smaller place. In Delhi, Lado Sarai street where around twenty galleries are located remain deserted. At night you get an eerie feeling while walking along the street as the galleries like temples well kept but without devotees. What has happened to our structured art market? During the boom years, galleries were behaving more professionally, with good shows, well produced catalogues, sophisticated client relations and publicity. What has happened to all those activities? It is not that today shows are not happening; they are happening but nothing much is happening in the selling front. Even if they are selling, no details are revealed. It is like a market that sells contraband wares.
|( Opening of Aura Art Show 2013)|
While the structured market suffers from its own past misdeeds, the unstructured market still thrives. Artists still sell but they are not treated as stars or investment points. From another end, art developers like Aura put in their energy to create a different set of collectors not based on speculative rise of the artists and their prices but solely based on the taste of the potential collectors. Unstructured market and a market based on the clients’ taste are not really bad as we used to think during the boom years. Or perhaps, this market was always there, but was considered ‘shameful’ in some ways. But today, as this type of market helps the artists to survive, we cannot be cynical anymore. And there are all the reasons to believe that at least a few artists from these lots would develop themselves as really good artists who would become investment points.
Doesn’t this ask for a restructuring of our art market? While the galleries create a demand, especially for the contemporary and emerging artists, the unstructured market addresses its own demands and finds the right kind of wares from the shops. In that sense, I feel, it is high time that our galleries exhibit works of the artists and let the clients decide their demands. Once the clients’ tastes and demands are identified, after satisfying them, they could be led to new avenues of aesthetic experience. It would take time and we need to be patient. The present scenario also reveals that our future art collection is going to be of a different kind, extremely different from the ones that our galleries have been promoting, as the collecting pattern is going in a different direction. The gallerists and a structured market is expected to wake up to this reality and change their course.
A duet on figuration
The Workshop Model
|(A work on display)|
Sir J J School of Art, Mumbai presents a unique retrospective of renowned printmaking legend, Dr Krishna Reddy. The retrospective, titled ‘The Workshop Model’ traces the life of the legendary artist, printmaker, some of his techniques and his conversations with the art world legends of yesteryears.
The retrospective also displays some of his prints, photographs and writings of his interactions and journeys around the world. The show is to be inaugurated by printmaker Jyoti Bhatt on 28th October 2013 between 4:00 to 7:00pm at the main hall of the Drawing and Painting department of J J School of Arts.
Curated by Prof Anant Nikam HOD JJ Printmaking Studio, and Zasha Colah and Sumesh Sharma of Clark House Initiative, Mumbai this show is on view till 5th December 2013.
A quiet harmony
|( A work on display)|
Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, presents a solo show of Installation works, sculptures, garments and sound created for installations by eminent artist Vivan Sundaram. The show titled, ‘Postmortem (after Gagawaka).
Vivaan is known for his immense works in various mediums and often use of multiple mediums in the same work, having explored a variety of isms in his art works.
( News reports by Sushma Sabnis)