16th Jan 2007

Fringe art is not as popular in India: Baiju Parthan
Aside from all the expected interest that people generally have in art, it's a very important asset class. It's important to look at aesthetics as well as the financial aspects. Here are people, who have an overall perspective of the art world: Art curator, Ranjit Hoskote, Director of Saffronart Gallery, Dinesh Vazirani, art critic and curator, Nancy Adajania and artists Baiju Parthan and Krishen Khanna.

Dinesh Vazirani runs India's most successful auction house. Hopefully, globally too he will become a force to reckon with, as he has got ambitious plans and he's got a very unique perspective - having watched the progress of art in India, over the last few years. So, what are his thoughts about where the Indian art scene is headed?

Director of Saffronart Gallery, Dinesh Vazirani told CNBC-TV18, "You have this market where we are hitting a million dollars for paintings. You see prices which have escalated by an average 20-30 times in the last five years. My belief is that this market is really poised right now for a global phase."

"The international community will not take notice unless we in India have created a platform for them to take notice and I think that's happened now. So, the general indicators are that this market is probably going to keep going the way it is. There are more players that are coming in, there is more awareness being there."

"Talking about the past, I think there are some fundamental things that have happened. One is a mindset change. I think Indians themselves now value art. I remember in 2000, we used to walk into someone's house - the last thing you looked at was the wall. You looked at all the lovely crystal on the table, you look at all the objects all around you but you hardly ever looked at a wall. The paintings happen to be there but it wasn't an area of interest. Today, the first thing people do when they walk into someone's house is look at the wall and I think that's a really big mindset change."

He adds, "Indians themselves - whether in India or outside India have generated enormous amounts of wealth. With that wealth, over time, comes a maturity that they want to look at their cultural heritage. They want to invest in it, they want to be a part of it, they want to have it on their walls, they want to have it around them and I think that has contributed to people who have generated wealth and can afford to put some of that wealth back into something that they enjoy."

But though the money is flowing in, artist Krishen Khanna finds that there was more self criticism back in the late 1950s, which he misses in the present lot of artists. Now, there is a great deal of money talk, as opposed to earlier times.

Fellow artist Baiju Parthan admits as much, "I belong to a generation which started off with not much of sales, we went through our hard times. Then gradually things changed. It was a very gradual process till maybe three years ago - that's when the boom began. So, prices have escalated, which is wonderful but at the same time I feel as an artist that creativity needs a certain amount of discontent on certain days - to be able to sketch."

Art is just beginning to interest many people but the market for it is not all that mature. Art curator, Ranjit Hoskote agrees, "The questions that I would look at is - is this market entirely concentrated on what you might call head or tail and I am fascinated by Chris Anderson's beautiful image that the market is a long tail. And what you often see is a lot of kite making (hype) in the last five years, which has led to a place where we tend to look at certain masters, certain signatures and certain media. But there are many media that haven't been explored. How does one go about addressing artists working on different sorts of forms and in different contexts?"

Even art critic and curator Nancy Adajania agrees with Hoskote and says, "First of all, instead of framing the question where is the Indian market going - we should frame the question where is the Indian art situation going because today we have art which is apart from conventional paintings and sculpture. We have sculptural inspiration, we have video art, net art forms. What's happening is that we are not accounting for the value of such non-orthodox forms. We have been able to put some value on the painted surface but we have not been able to create awareness about the value of unconventional art forms."

Baiju Parthan feels that unconventional art forms will not be as easily accepted as a painting. He says that, usually people would like to buy a painting and if that is not available then they move on to the next painting or buy a print of the painting. It's only if these options are not available that people will think of buying fringe art forms.

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