18 Nov 2006

Contemporary Indian Art – what about quality?

Gone are the days when artists had complete freedom to express their creativity in various ways. With greater creative freedom came more experiments and newer art trends. Whereas now due to the phenomenal growth in art prices, commercialization of art has taken a turn where more and more galleries are dictating terms to artists. Not only are artists ‘under contract’ by art galleries, but galleries have begun telling them what to work on. Based on the current demand, galleries ensure that the artist delivers, even if it means repeating series with a few minor changes. This is not based on general global trends but specific to the market demand of that particular artist. Shankar Kendale, a Bangalore based artist says, “The demand for my figurative works is much more than my abstracts and most galleries insist that I keep giving them figurative works. I have not been able to work on abstracts for the last two years.” On the plus side this translates into more sales. Despite the regular source of income some artists feel in five to ten years they run the risk of getting stereotyped. Gallery owner Namrata Radhakrishnan feels, “the artists too should take a stand and refuse to create works that look like they are mass-produced. In the long run this trend will harm both the artist as well as the gallery.”

With greater demand, the contracted artist is also forced to supply a certain number of works to the gallery. Noted artist SG Vasudev cautions, “With galleries dictating terms the artist will be soon reduced to a craftsman.” He questions, “you might be safe in accepting such commissions but are you happy as an artist?” He insists there is a huge demand for good art and there are people willing to wait for your next series to invest in. Cleary, there is increasing compromise in the quality of the artworks. Generally, younger artists trying to find a foothold in the world of art are more susceptible to succumbing under pressure. Vasudev advises, “It is important to have the right perspective and grow step by step.” The contemporary Indian art market is all set to grow further, renewed focus on quality and use of best practices will ensure it makes a greater mark in the International arena.

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