9 Jul 2008

The changing art scene

(Nalini S Malaviya)

Last week at the preview of one of the art shows, I was fortunate enough to meet Professor MGK Menon, a renowned Indian scientist. Prof Menon was part of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai as a Director and currently he is an Advisor, Indian Space Research Organization. He was in the city on a holiday and one of the things that we talked about was the exorbitant price of artworks today. He incidentally helped build the art collection at TIFR during his tenure. Having bought KH Ara, Tyeb Mehta, MF Husain at prices that we cannot even dream of now, he felt how dramatically the art scene has changed over the years. It is so true when art lovers say that now people buy for investment and not because they have a passion for art!

It was interesting to see how most people comment on how the art scene in Bangalore has altered so much over the years. Well, the fact is that once the world sat up and took note of Indian art, the dynamics of the market changed forever. New Delhi is choc-a-block with galleries and artists, Mumbai, of course is the nerve centre, Kolkata is somewhat lagging behind, but Bangalore is one city that has seen some furious growth.

The art scene here is much more vibrant now than say five years ago, lots of shows are happening, many foreign artists are also exhibiting here, but on the flip side many local artists who are incredibly talented and are doing very well outside the city, do not show their works here. Which is such a pity!
And, sometimes one feels that at some level there is stagnation as well. When visiting exhibitions one hopes to see new and exciting works but one comes across familiar pieces. Well, if you look at the statistics, serious collectors and investors are opting to buy works by Indian artists whose works are more contemporary.

However, it is difficult for established artists to move to a different genre or medium - there is not only the comfort factor but often a genuine demand for those works. But, one wonders how long will this demand last? Shouldn’t the artists look at reinventing themselves? Galleries and curators should also take it upon themselves to encourage artists to experiment. Younger artists who have the talent and skill should be promoted. When that happens the art scene in Bangalore will truly be more alive and vibrant.

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