In a country that has produced some of the best artists, India’s domestic art scene isn’t as brimming as its western counterparts. And in Hyderabad, the activity is only at simmering level. With as many as seven art galleries sprinkled across the city and an art exhibition happening almost every month, Hyderabadi’s are yet to develop into a more keen, art appreciative audience.
Echoing the same, Sonal Sinha, head of sales, Christie’s India said, “India is a country where art is not appreciated much and it is always the private organisations which focus on it. People do not understand the finer characteristics and thus haven’t developed a taste.”
Working with the Indian office of the international auction house since 2007, Sonal has over the years interacted with both Indian and Pakistani artists in close quarters. In the city to participate in the Krishnakriti Art festival, Sonal was joined by acclaimed artist Bose Krishnamachari for a discussion on curating art and preserving it in India.
While Sonal pointed a finger at the government for not promoting art as much as it should, Krishnamchari, who is the artistic director of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, begged to differ.
“The Kerala government was in fact the first sponsor for the Kochi Biennale. And as far as understanding art goes, it depends on people’s perspective on how they wish to understand it.”
Recipient of the Kerala Lalita Kala Academi, Bose has been an active modern artist with his works encompassing a variety of mediums – from abstract paintings, figurative drawings to sculpting, photography and multimedia installations. Most recently, his collection ‘Stretched Bodies’ was used as the fabric design on swimsuits of models for the Kingfisher 2014 calendar shoot.
Explaining further about how one’s perception affects the art world, he shares, “MA Baby, the former education minister of Kerala, was the one who planted the seed of a biennial. From there, seven of us got together to make it work. India was a country where even a triennial happened, but over time, everything has vanished.”
While nurturing the art scene is one thing, taking care of the art itself and collecting it is another task.
“The process of putting together artifacts from different places is the biggest challenge for a curator or collector. The more the collector or curator educates and exposes themselves, the more they can understand their own tastes. It is all apart of the learning process and to build it up, one has to keep visiting galleries and exhibitions,” opined Sonal.
As a curator herself, she spoke from experience of the difficulty of preserving art.
“The most important aspect of preservation is to archive it by clicking a picture and noting the details. Artifacts must be kept very carefully by storing them away from damp areas, protecting them from rust, etc.”
With all these factors, good art has become a pricey hobby to have and the notion is perhaps what prevents a larger audience from acquiring a specific artistic taste. However, Sonal points out that to develop a taste in art doesn’t require deep pockets.
“Art is free. Though Christie’s is a small organisation as far as India is considered, the main aim of it is to create an awareness over art. The more you see it, the more you understand it.”
Agreeing, Krishnamchari added, “In recent times, art in India is back on track despite everyone not having a proper understanding of it. In order to improve that, one has to experience it by learning and seeing.”
Of late, there has also been a sporadic growth of young artists getting their work out in public spaces. With smaller galleries willing to showcase pieces done by first-timers, the future looks promising. However, this also leads to the issue of authenticity.
For Krishnamchari, the work has the final say on his decision to buy it and maybe even support the artist, but Sonal feels that verifying it is important. “Supporting the artist or the art depends on the work and its authentication. This is because there are many people who replicate old canvases that are more than 100 years old and try to pass it off as their own.”
The discussion, which was organised at the Park hotel in association with the Kalakriti art gallery and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Ladies Organisation, finally ended on the agreement that more exposure to art by means of exhibitions was required to generate a more appreciative audience.
“In classical forms, you have gurus to rely on, but with contemporary art, you are your own guru,” pointed out Bose.
For people interested in learning more about art, an art appreciation workshop is being held on January 11, from 9 am to 5 pm. For details, log on to www.krishnakriti.in.