Sunday, June 10, 2012

Raja Ravi Varma and United Art Fair 2012 or What Happens in a Hotel Room?

(Raja Ravi Varma)

There is a parallel between Raja Ravi Varma and United Art Fair. Raja Ravi Varma wanted all the Indian households to have his works at least in the form of oleographs, which were affordable compared to the oil paintings that he used to do under the patronage of royals. United Art Fair also wants each household in India to have at least one work of art. Raja Ravi Varma operated from a proto-nationalistic template, says art historians. They say, that’s why Ravi Varma chose to paint the images of the gods and goddesses. United Art Fair operates from a Pro-democratic template. The directors of the United Art Fair, Annurag Sharma and myself say that we want to create a pro-democratic template for Indian art scene because any good artist working from any part of India could reach out to the patrons through the platform of United Art Fair. We say, artists are the real gods and goddesses in the scene of Indian visual culture. Why don’t you have these gods and goddesses in your homes?

The rhetorical question is to the high net worth individuals in this country. I should add that this question is to all those people who think about buying a house near around a minimum amount of Rs.1 crore. Don’t you know that when you buy a well furnished house for that kind of money or several times more than that in fact you pay through your nose? May be you are rich enough that you don’t know that through which holes the money is flowing out. You just don’t care. You look at the western commodes, the bidets, the sea faces, the garden views, the hillocks, the terraces, platforms, the split air conditioners, the fake oak wood shelves which will be the play ground of the white ants in a year or two, the town ships nearby, the malls in the vicinity, the schools, security, availability of water, playground for children and so on. You can drive your mercs and audis and park them without the fear of car-jackers. But what about your mind? Do you live only in your body?

(United Art Fair banner)

You satisfy your carnal feelings by splurging on material comforts. And what about your aesthetics? When you spend a crore why don’t you think of having a few good original works on your walls? I remember a story recounted to me by an architect friend. A person spent Rs.35 lakhs (this thirty five is a magic number- at the age of thirty five you are sexually very active and are prone to all consumerist desires, you need to pay Rs.35000 for taking a stall in the United Art Fair, 35 per cent is the commission that we are going to take from those artists who are taking stalls on Rs.35000/- Thirty five the average age of the people who are behind the United Art Fair, Thirty five is the age when you look mature enough and adequately playful so that you get a lot of friends to trudge along. Thirty five is a magic number) to refurbish the kitchen in his new apartment. Rs.35 lakhs alone for a kitchen (again it is the same amount that the planning commission spend on developing a few toilets in its offices). The architect asked him why didn't he spend a few lakhs to buy some original works for the drawing room?

Original works? No man. We get good prints from Khan Market or from some galleries or from the National Gallery of Modern Art. But each time you buy a print, you are killing a young artist. That does not mean that I am propagating ideas against prints. Prints should be a souvenir and it cannot be taken as a substitute to the original work of art. Now I am playing against Walter Benjamin. He debated the relevance of original works of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. Where can we have originals when the originals could be reproduced through polished technologies? But half a century after Walter Benjamin’s departure, still artists paint and even we have made Banksy, a super star. In that sense original work of art remains so are the artists. So who are going to support them if you are going to buy only prints? As Annurag Sharma, the founder director of the United Art Fair puts it, let United Art Fair be a platform where you find original works of art for affordable prices.

(Walter Benjamin)

Annurag Sharma also adds that original works of art are not just about aesthetic pleasure but also they are about appreciating values. One could always anticipate a thirty per cent growth in every ten years on an original work of art, he adds. But why we are still reluctant to buy original works of art?  Have we become addicted to copies and the so called ‘beautiful’ pictures? If you travel regularly you find the hotels rooms (of course the high end ones) that you live in have works of art. As art people we always look at those works and try to find out who have done those works? I have never found a good piece of work in any of these hotels. I don’t think the hotel owners have bad aesthetic sense. They are rich enough to have rich sense of aesthetics though money is not something that decides one’s aesthetic discretion. But the advisors who consult the interiors for them always misguide them.

I remember travelling in Switzerland, where even the metro trains have simulated cow mooing that makes you constantly think that you are in a meadow where cows graze and you can just have a fresh pot of milk from a village belle’s work worn yet still beautiful hands. I was living in a small room in a small hotel. I could listen to a couple making love in the adjacent room (that’s one feature I have been given free in all the hotel rooms. When I was staying in London in a hotel room, invariably around six thirty in the morning I used to listen the girl screaming and the man exhorting her from the paper thin wall of my room against which I lean my head hoping to read a book or listen the sound track clearly). Right in front of me there was this wall which if I got up with a jerk would come and hit my nose. But I always sensed that I was in the middle of a meadow perhaps under a plum tree like Omar Khayam having a good epicurean time. Reason was the wall paper. The wall paper had a long view of a meadow; cool green space a mild sun and fluffy white clouds for company.

(Annurag Sharma)

Wall papers could help you find some sense of space. So are the works of art on the walls where you live. Basically in no Indian hotels you have good works of art. So better look at the menu cards, massage services and look out for other facilities that would quench your secret thirsts. This is in this context that we prod on the rich people in this country to buy art; not all those hugely priced works of art. Annurag Sharma says, “We welcome the collectors to buy masters, modernists and the contemporaries. But our humble request is to buy the low priced works of the young and emerging artists also. This is your turn to help the Indian art scene to grow. While China has a thirty per cent share in the culture capital of the world, India is yet to grow beyond a poor one per cent. Why? Because our potential artists are not even helped by our own people. If all these young artists are supported by the patrons more than fifty per cent of these artists would grow up as potential investment points. So I urge all the potential buyers to collect at least one work of art from the young artists who are featured in the United Art Fair.”

“Come September, in Pragati Maidan you hold your Remi Martin and walk before the young artists and their works, and if you feel the urge that it is in your hands the future of Indian culture lies, then definitely you are going to contribute to the growth of India’s economy .  My motto is simple, let us buy a good work of art irrespective of its small price, let us live with it for a long time and see the growth of the artists whom we buy from. Let us enjoy the creativity of our country. If we have this vision, I am sure every household in this country would have a few original works of art. And there would be a great boom in the Indian art scene again. I anticipate slow but steady growth. That’s why once I wrote in my networking site, I am a tortoise in race with a rabbit. But history says tortoise wins,” Annurag Sharma is positive about the growth of Indian art market.

(JohnyML with Prof.R.Sivakumar)

We want everyone in this country buy a good work of art. And United Art Fair is the right platform to do so. We are sure it is going to happen. You buy gold or diamond. You keep it in the safe lockers. But buy art and flaunt it. Say proudly that I have one young artist. United Art Fair opens a huge platform for new works of art from all over India. And now it is your turn to support the artists by buying them and promoting them.

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