13 Mar 2008

Paper Tigers

I recently read a report that talked about how artworks on paper are gaining ground with investors, especially works by Indian artists. The article went on to elaborate on the history and tradition of Indian art on paper, and also listed the prominent Indian contemporary and modern artists who have a significant number of works on paper.
Good quality art paper is probably as good as canvas. But art on paper, especially low grade paper, can have a significantly short life. This is not to say that all artists are using substandard paper, but as an investor you should be aware of what you are buying. In fact, these days most artists take utmost care when it comes to using quality materials – pigments, canvas, paper and so on. But then, the stakes are now very high and one is spending thousands to lakhs of rupees for a single work of art, in which case you have every right to check and validate the quality of paper used. After all, there are a few artists riding the popularity wave and may not hesitate to cut costs. Framing of paper works requires special attention, so keep that also in mind when buying art on paper.

On a completely different note, it is an interesting fact that the kind of art people buy has a lot to do with their geographical location along with other factors such as age, profession and so on. This is not a result of any scientific study but observations made by a few experienced people involved in organising art exhibitions.
For instance, a ‘curator’ (a term used loosely here to denote a person organising an art show) from Mumbai told me that many Bangaloreans are fascinated by paintings with rural women and their earthen pots. But then, it could also be linked to the fact these are the kind of exhibitions that we are exposed to. This trend is more popular with the first-time buyer or those looking at decorating their walls.
Nothing wrong with it, except that one wonders how many of these paintings make sense from an investment point of view. On the other hand, discerning art lovers know exactly what and whose works to buy. Young buyers (in their 20s and 30s and there are many of them now) are more open to newer concepts and media, and are also more willing to take chances with an artist’s name.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

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