Showing posts with label Bangalore Mirror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bangalore Mirror. Show all posts

23 Aug 2013

Framing: Choosing the Right Frame for a Painting

Many readers find framing a challenge and wonder how to best frame a painting. Here are a few points to keep in mind while choosing the frame. It is important to choose a good quality frame which will not only enhance the look of the painting, but will also provide adequate support to it. These days most paintings come with a frame – when you buy one from an artist or a gallery, but these are generally a simple and a basic wooden frame. Very often, people prefer to change the frame according to their interiors. In fact, in some instances it is better to not frame the painting at all, such as when the canvas is mounted on a 2” or more of stretcher frame, or when the painting continues on the sides of the canvas. Adding a frame to the latter will spoil the beauty of the painted sides.

In case of line drawings or black and white works one can go for a simple black frame which will give it a sleek and elegant finish. A plain or a slightly textured wooden frame will suit drawings and sketches the best. The width of the frame can be chosen according to the size of the artwork.

Image courtesy artist Priti Kahar

Art on paper is usually displayed behind glass, and if necessary one can double mount them to make them appear larger. And, now that there is an additional distance between the painting and the frame, a slightly ornate option can also be used. However, do ensure that it does not clash with the colours of the painting, nor overwhelms it. The colour of the mount can be derived from the colours in the painting itself, so that new colors are not introduced in the scheme of things. However, the frame can be natural wood, dark wood or black in colour. It is important to choose a frame that will not dominate the painting, for instance, if you add a heavy embellished frame to a brightly coloured work, it may give it a cluttered look.

Oil paintings, for instance, portraits look elegant with ornate frames, but again care must be taken that the center of attention does not shift from the painting to the frame. It is not advised that oil paintings be mounted with a glass front, but they can be varnished when completely dry.
A frame that is darker in colour than the wall shade helps to delineate the space and creates a greater impact. Wide frames, for instance 4” to 6” in width, can be used to make smaller artworks prominent. These will also make them larger and more suited for bigger wall space.

Finally, always go to a good framer, who has experience in dealing with expensive artworks – the gallery or the artist can point you to one. The quality of the hardware used in framing is equally important, and can, in fact, affect the life span of the painting.

(Updated: Published earlier in Bangalore Mirror)

15 Jul 2010

Drawing essence of thought - The Power of Line

(By Nalini S Malaviya)
Noted artist Yusuf Arakkal presents an exhibition of drawings The Power of Line – a show curated by him that displays about 130 works. Reluctant to accept his role as a curator, Arakkal reveals that the show was conceptualized about a year ago, and although in the initial phases the plan was to include a few select artists, as time progressed the list grew from 50 artists to the present 75, who are now participating in it. The whole process was set in motion when he came across a few of his own drawings done many years ago. He then invited eminent and emerging artists from across the country to participate in this show dedicated exclusively to drawings.

NS Harsha
The exhibition endeavors to encapsulate the flow and evolution of drawing over time, regions and generations. “Most artists don’t like to work with a suggested theme; therefore the only brief that I gave them was in terms of size. They were free to give me any drawing from any phase of their career,” he explains.

A strong believer in the power of drawing as an independent medium, and superior to any form of visual art, Arakkal believes that it is the essence of thought, which is instantly translated through a line drawing. He feels, “A painting is an elaborate process, where the essentials get lost along the way and unwanted elements may creep in.”
Arakkal religiously practices the discipline of drawing every single day without fail even when he is traveling. He elaborates, “It took me some time to realize that the most important aspect of almost all visual applications is drawing. The basic structure of painting, sculpture, architecture, engineering and all that connected to visual expressions; is drawing.” He fondly recalls the days, when as a child he used to draw with pieces of charcoal behind the kitchen wall - most of those pictures were inevitably of cars! And, of the driver looming large over his territory!
Interestingly, an etching by Laxma Goud has been included to display the connect between graphics and drawing, as the artist is a well known graphic printmaker. The show is dedicated to FN Souza and KK Hebbar, both great artists of our times.
In his curatorial note Arakkal expresses, “While many of these creations are done as a guide to the final work, more often it is these drawings that in itself reincarnates as the final work of art. It is the power of those lines created in an inspirational moment which becomes the basis for the emergence of a great work in its final identity.” The results are there to see - the exhibition presents a wide spectrum of minimalist drawings, a few made with paint and brushes, and some even mixed media works. A few images here and there may strike a discordant note, but overall there is a cohesiveness that reiterates the curatorial intent.
(The exhibition continues at Galerie Sara Arakkal till July 31)

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

23 Jun 2010

A cinematic experience

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Shaheen Merali was in town last week for the preview of the art exhibition Cinema Verite Redux which he has curated for Gallery Sumukha. The show features works by seven national and international artists, including the Bangalore based Ravi Kumar Kashi. Merali is a curator and writer, currently based in London and Berlin, where, from 2003-8, he was the Head of Exhibitions, Film and New Media at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, curating several exhibitions. This year he has curated The 11th Hour, an exhibition of contemporary art from India/diaspora in Beijing and The Stalking of absence (vis-à-vis Iran) in Tokyo.

For Cinema Verite Redux, Merali modified the exhibition space to present an innovative display which is not often seen in the city; here he explains the concept behind the exhibition and talks about how the perception of Indian art has evolved over the years.

Artist: Charly Nijensohn

NM: This is the first time that you

have curated a show for a Bangalore gallery, how has the experience been?

SM: The experience of working with professionals in Gallery Sumukha has been precise, wonderful and an asset for working within an international setting. Bangalore itself has a wonderful sense of itself, and its ambition that seems to be gaining greater velocity within the visual arts in terms of the provision of high quality exhibition making.

NM: What were your selection criteria in choosing the artists/artworks?

SM: My selection always remains the same in making exhibitions- if a work moves my spirit and creates a sensual affinity to the work, its presence, its processes and its place in the history of art- I tend to hold onto it - as an image, as an experience and a place of communication- when the right moment arrives, a platform that can work for the (art)work, then I select it oft that moment.

NM: What is ‘Cinema Verite’ and how has it been presented through the artworks?

SM: Cinema Verite is a way of locating and recording the world, a use which has specific qualities that differ from other methods of recoding or documenting the subject. It chooses to be in proximity to the subject and a sense of uncluttered and more direct relationship therefore mediated by a lack of technology, which itself can create a distance. It is some of these and its other qualities that I use metaphorically to create a curatorial intention for this exhibition.

NM: From your observation and experience, what are the main differences in the art scene in Bangalore/ India and Berlin or London?

SM: A vast amount of difference- Bangalore has less then twenty odd spaces for the visual arts- London in contrast well over five hundred. The sheer infrastructure difference produces a vast difference in the way culture is disseminated, beyond that there are too many obvious differences, in the differences in the production of under graduate and post graduate students, art fairs, museums and the provision of studio facilities that harbour and enhance artistic praxis.

NM: In your opinion how has the perception of Indian art changed in the last decade, amongst people abroad especially non-Indians?

SM: On the whole the perception of art practice on the Indian community as a whole has very limited impact lets say in comparison to the growing relationship to film and sports culture. Within this limitation there are a few individuals who have been vocal in attempting to champion its place within the contemporary way India should and could be seen. The flurry of activity on Indian contemporary arts has started to be less present now as there is a vast fragmentation of the artists’ works within the system and therefore less evident as Indian and more as individual artists.

(The exhibition continues till July 30 at Gallery Sumukha)

- published in Bangalore Mirror

31 May 2010


Title of an Artwork

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Have you stood before an untitled painting and wondered what it was? Most viewers find it difficult to relate to a painting when it does not have a title, especially when there is an absence of recognizable elements in it. For instance, if it is an abstract work predominantly based on the play of colors, it may become difficult to decipher the intent of the artist.

So what does a title do? It provides a contextual reference giving pointers to the meaning and purpose of the artwork. It gives a point of reference to the viewer to build his or her response and observations around it and helps in understanding the theme or the subject better. An interesting title adds substance to the painting and helps in recalling the work. It also makes the job of cataloging and documentation easier.

However, it is common to come across works that are untitled, especially when the artist does not wish to provide that reference point intentionally and would like the viewer to interpret it freely. But, yes, there are instances where the absence of title is a result of the artist not being able to arrive at a suitable one either due to the complexity of the work or lack of imagination. Incidentally, having a cryptic title or one that is completely unrelated to the art may defeat the purpose completely.

Usually titles are added once the work is complete and a crisp and clear title can make the viewer more comfortable and involved. La Gioconda by Leonardo Da Vinci is perhaps the most famous painting ever, but it is better known as Mona Lisa and the title brings instant recognition. Would you be able to relate to Michelangelo’s David, Rodin’s The Thinker or Claude Monet’s Water lilies (a series of paintings), if they were untitled! It is difficult to have the same recall value for unnamed works. Joan Miro said, “I start from something considered dead and arrive at a world. And when I put a title on it, it becomes even more alive.”

Yet, there are several paintings that were done, particularly during the abstract art movement that were deliberately left untitled, leaving it to the viewer to interpret it according to his or her own sensibilities and experiential framework. For instance, Jackson Pollack painted several canvases by dripping paint over them and these were left without a name consciously, but instead they were numbered.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

25 May 2010

Art Matters

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Now that summer is here, everywhere art activities are on the decline. Fortunately in Bangalore, we are at the fag end of the warm season, but most other places across the country are feeling the heat as temperature continues to rise. As most of you must be aware by now, art exhibitions dwindle considerably in number during this period and start picking up only after June.

Recently, nothing much of interest has come my way, except for the following exhibitions, which should be worth seeing - select works by Gieve Patel at Gallery Chemould in Mumbai, The Silent Expression - paintings and prints by Kanchan Chander at Icon Art, Hyderabad, and the show Fables & History by Maya Burman and Binoy Varghese has been extended at Gallerie Nvyā in New Delhi.

I also wanted to share this little bit of information about a talk and presentation on Career in Art Education, which will be held tomorrow at Gallery BMB in Mumbai. The talk will be delivered by Phil Whittaker, Director of Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Singapore and will include an overview of the international art markets and a presentation on potential career opportunities in the global visual arts market. Sotheby’s Institute of Art organizes a number of professional courses in art throughout the year and these vary in duration from a few days to a fulltime master’s program. The reason that I have mentioned it as part of this column, even though it is not being held in Bangalore, is because I feel strongly about the lacunae in our arts education system. As I have often suggested in the past, there is a real need to revamp and upgrade our educational programs, especially those related to the art business. After all, the art business has grown phenomenally in the last decade or so, yet apart from the regular art history and painting courses, there are hardly any other programs that cater to the affiliated services linked to art, such as art advisory services or the business aspects of the art market.

Fortunately, there is a lot of discussion going on about professional courses that can be offered in conjunction with the conventional ones at a number of academic institutes, however, how many of these will get translated into reality, we will know only in the future.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

24 Mar 2010

Art of the Matter

As you might have noticed, several art magazines have been launched in the recent past. A couple of weeks ago, The Bombay Art Society had a formal launch of its Indian Contemporary Art Journal in the city. Today, most art magazines are available at limited venues, for instance at galleries and a few other outlets. The editor of the Indian Art Journal revealed that they plan to retail the publication through popular bookstores, which is an excellent idea as it will greatly enhance accessibility and availability.

Interestingly, at this point not a single magazine is being brought out of Bangalore. On the other hand, Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata have several art publications to their credit. However, what we do have are writers and artists. In fact, there are many writers from the city who contribute to these publications, (it is another matter that many of them write for most of the magazines - no exclusivity here!)

Quite a few artists have put forth the need to have a dedicated art magazine that is brought out of Bangalore. A publication such as this may give a much needed impetus to the art scene here. Even a simple online version, to begin with might be a good idea. Apart from being a source of information to people interested in art, such a publication could focus on a larger number of artists in the area – smaller shows and upcoming artists can also be profiled. A wider circulation to other parts of the country would provide greater exposure to artists and galleries.

Incidentally, the number of galleries in the city is rather limited, even though there are many artists who reside here, but end up showing their works outside, or moving out of Bangalore in search of opportunities.

The problem, I am sure is not in bringing out a magazine, which is comparatively an easy task, but in maintaining it. The logistics and financial aspects of running an entire publication is a daunting process and needs a large amount of support in order to be sustainable. However, it is eminently doable and one hopes that one of the many corporate offices in the city may take up the challenge to take on the entire responsibility or at least fund it.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

18 Mar 2010

Promoting the crafts

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Most of the time, we are so involved in discussing and promoting the fine arts that we often forget those hundreds and thousands of craftsmen and artisans who create folk and tribal art, handicrafts and other hand made products. Making such products requires a tremendous amount of skill and hours of labor, and financial returns are low. In most cases, the skill and craftsmanship is passed on from one generation to the next, but because economic viability is poor, the newer generations prefer to opt for alternative sources of livelihood.

Madhubani, Pithora, Warli are just some of the folk art forms which can be used in interiors to decorate walls either through mural paintings, or smaller framed works which can be hung on walls. Incidentally, there are many corporate spaces which have integrated folk arts and crafts in their décor – either as a small mural on a cafeteria wall or as bright paintings that liven up cubicle spaces. As any form of support from individuals or organizations can make a huge difference in the growth and sustenance of this sector, proposals that address this need must be encouraged.

In this context, an initiative by the Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur, which is organizing an event Saamanjasya 2010, deserves a mention. The forthcoming three day event aims to bring various key players responsible for social and economic growth together through a series of programs from 19-21st March. During the event, artisans will participate in Kalakaar Vikas, a program which will provide a platform to artisans to display their crafts before a large audience. This is being achieved by tying up with an NGO called Saarthi, which deals specifically with the welfare of artisans. Other plans include presenting the cause of these artisans before corporates, setting up meets for funding and providing technical expertise wherever possible. Overall, it seems to be a good initiative which could greatly benefit the artisans who are participating in the program.

However, it’ll be interesting to see how the proposals translate into action and what kind of monetary and other support artisans can gain from this venture. As a prototype the proposal has its merits, and if it works well it can be replicated elsewhere on a larger scale to include a greater number of affected people. As we all know there is an urgent need to focus on the revival of traditional arts and crafts that are on the decline, and corporate involvement can make a huge difference in the overall development and sustenance of indigenous crafts of India.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

7 Jan 2010

The year that was

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

It’s that time of the year, once again, to look back, reflect and evaluate how the art scene progressed through the year. Art activities unfolded quite hesitantly this year with most of the auctions showing average results, while some fared very poorly, as well. Although, during the art summit, sales picked up but then became sketchy once again during the later months. Fortunately, the last Saffron Art auction which happened a couple of weeks ago, performed really well under the circumstances. The highlights of this year in terms of auction reults have to be the exceptional amounts fetched for works by Jogen Choudhury at the Sotheby’s auction and Manjit Bawa at the recently held Saffron Art auction.

In Bangalore, the art scene was quite diffident with very few exhibitions being organized by galleries. On the other hand, there was a phenomenal rise in self sponsored shows with many self taught painters exhibiting their works at rented spaces. Incidentally, most of the bigger artists preferred to defer their shows until next year or at least to the later part of this year.
In effect, one came across a lot of poor and average quality works, and repetitive ones by the same painters. Still, there were some interesting works for instance, digital collages by Sudarshan Shetty, photographs by Atul Bhalla, Gigi Scaria, Vivek Vilasini, installations by Sakshi Gupta and a few other group shows with a list of artists too long to mention here.. Interestingly, the art activity was quite feverish through the year even though sales in the primary market were practically nil. While, some galleries have started reporting an increase in sales (where buyers are primarily from outside Bangalore), others are yet to see any noticeable difference.

In a way the recession helped in putting things in perspective, for instance many artists realized the futility of compromising on quality, or how over production could lead to a lowering of their market worth. During this phase, most speculators lost a lot of money as many had hoarded art in order to create an artificial demand and to inflate prices of a few select artists. Also, investors who had bought art blindly on the advice of unscrupulous galleries and dealers, learned their lesson, albeit the hard way. One hopes that the experiences that one went through during the lean period will help buyers and investors in the future to be able to make better judgment when it comes to art.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

8 Dec 2009

An arts education initiative

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

It cannot be denied that arts education in our country requires the necessary impetus in order to facilitate a more holistic environment for learning. Most schools follow the archaic system of having one or two classes of ‘music’ or ‘drawing’ in a week, however these are stand alone sessions that are not really integrated with the process of learning. The integration of arts education at the school level is a matter of grave concern and to address this issue, an arts education conference is being organized by the Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, Bangalore and the India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) later this week on 11 - 12th of December.

In the recent past, the film Taare Zameen Par, helped dramatically in creating awareness about the importance of arts in the process of learning. Although, the film highlighted the role of arts in facilitating learning in children with special needs, in fact, music, fine arts, theatre, puppetry and other creative practices are important tools that assist in the overall development of a child. And, with a little bit of an effort these can be adopted as part of the curricula in a conventional schooling system.

In the background note released by the IFA, according to the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, Paris in 2001, ‘Culture and the arts, in their broadest sense, are a critical mediatory force in the quest for understanding, empathy and dialogue between divergent thoughts, dogmas, ideologies and world-views.” This conference is an extension of Kali-Kalisu project that deals with the empowerment of school teachers through arts pedagogy training workshops, and through it the organizers hope to articulate frameworks and directions for arts education in the country. Some of the topics that will be discussed include the current legislative scenario and arts education, the structures of the arts education, arts and early childhood education, language, poetry and creativity, puppetry, music and movement arts.

In my opinion, an initiative such as this will not only help in creating the basis for supporting arts education, but also in creating wider awareness that will help in the actualization of various proposals that focus on the holistic development of every child. Legislations, children’s rights and bills, and proposals to ease pressures of examinations are all steps towards the right direction, but these have to be combined with a broader approach that stresses on the role of arts in providing quality education.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

29 Oct 2009

Art on wheels

(By Nalini S Malaviya)
A car completely covered with copper trimmings and intricate designs is not a common sight. But, this is exactly what you see when you arrive at Sara Arakkal’s gallery in Whitefield. The gleaming copper reflects the afternoon sunlight, highlighting the elaborate patterns that have been so painstakingly worked upon the body of the car. Artist Yusuf Arakkal’s brainchild; he has spent the last five years in conceptualising, designing and converting his old Fiat car into a work of art. There is an interesting story behind this car. Arakkal reveals, “I got this car – a 1956 Fiat Millicento in 1986 in exchange of a couple of paintings and a sculpture from art collector Harish Padmanabha. It so happened that Harish came over to collect the paintings and we decided to have a drink to celebrate the occasion. On the way we stopped at the car workshop and the moment I saw this champagne-grey coloured car I just fell in love with it. I asked Harish if he wanted to sell it and he agreed. We settled for it and I drove back home in this car.”
Yusuf Arakkal with his artomobile
This was Arakkal’s first car in Bangalore and understandably, he has been very attached to it, and when it started to wear out, he was reluctant to part with it. Fortunately, the artist in him took over and he decided to convert it into a sculpture-cum-installation. As he wanted to retain the original classic shape of the car, he toyed with several ideas before deciding to use copper sheets to cover the car completely. Not an easy task as the final product had to be artistic as well as aesthetic.

According to Arakkal, almost a ton of copper has gone on the car in the process of altering it. A team of highly skilled craftsmen have worked on it for the last few years. A pattern inspired by wheels has been used on either side of the body of the car. Synonymous with the mobility of the vehicle and as a symbol of development and progress, the wheels are also inspired by a series of paintings Arakkal did in the 1970s. Special care has been taken to retain the patina of copper and several coats of sealant have been used to protect it from oxidation or weathering effects.

This converted vehicle - an artomobile is soon going to Delhi and will be showcased on the lawns of a new art gallery. Well, one thing is certain, this car is sure to catch your eye.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

8 Sept 2009

Four of a kind

(By Nalini S Malaviya)
At the recently held art summit several works of art competed with one another to catch the visitor’s eye. Anish Kapoor’s installations were of course the biggest draw at the fair. Then, names such as Ravinder Reddy whose iconic Head in a brilliant red and Subodh Gupta, whose large scale installation made out of utensils created an impact right at the entrance. While, Nataraj Sharma’s humongous installation made out of metallic wire and tiny airplanes and Manjunath Kamath’s digital montage were outstanding. Apart from these well known names there were several others that were truly brilliant and that stood out either because of the thought process behind them, or they were just so spectacular that they could not be ignored. Although there were many that grabbed my attention, I have listed four of these below.
Lirio Salvador
Sandata ni Lila by Lirio Salvador
A sculptural assemblage by an artist from Philippines is essentially a guitar made out of scrap that stood against the wall at The Drawing Room, a contemporary art gallery based in Philippines. The stringed instrument was made out of gears, mixing bowls, utensils and door handles, and the interesting part of this assemblage was that visitors were encouraged to pluck at the strings. The musical instrument was a creative fusion of art and music.

Suchitra Gahlot
One Thousand Tears by Suchitra Gahlot
This installation comprised of a thousand 10 ml bottles containing artificial tears and a typewriter. Based on the replies that one thousand people gave to the question “Why did you cry last?” the vials were labeled. This installation caught my attention with its simplicity and poignancy.

El Anatsui
Black River by El Anatsui
A massive installation on the wall spanning approximately 8 feet by 12 feet made out of aluminum bottle caps and copper wire was displayed at the Sakshi Gallery. This stunning piece of work could not be ignored by any stretch of imagination.

Princess Pea
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious by Princess Pea
At the Rob Dean Art – a U.K. based gallery one encountered a fun and quirky series of photographs and installations that used a cartoon character to create the artworks. The stall was buzzing with activity with the artist wearing a ‘cartoon head’ while posing with the visitors, and offering everyone cupcakes. Although, the theme of the project was based on the angst that the artist faced in her growing up years as she was very thin, and was always reminded that her head was too big for her body. However, the treatment was fun and made literal use of cartoon figures. This one caught ones attention with its sense of humor, and the novelty of execution.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

1 Sept 2009

India Art Summit

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Last week, I was in New Delhi to attend the second edition of the India Art Summit 2009 being held at Pragati Maidan. The VIP and media preview organised on the 19th, from 3:00 PM in the afternoon saw the who’s who from the art community get together for this much awaited event. A Sculpture Park created right at the entrance greeted visitors with its large scale sculptural installations by artists such as Navjot Altaf, G. R. Iranna, Vibha Galhotra and Ravinder Reddy
Ravinder Reddy, Image source Authoramongst others. Beginning from the foyer, installations by some of the best known names in the art business were placed strategically at various locations throughout the exhibit area. These were specially created for the summit as part of the Purple Wall Project curated by Gayatri Sinha. Installations by Subodh Gupta, Nataraj Sharma, Riyas Komu, Manjunath Kamath, T. V. Santosh and Subba Ghosh were some of the exhibits that were on display.

Subodh Gupta, Image source Author
Out of the 54 galleries participating in this year’s fair, 17 were from abroad. Lisson Gallery, London, Arario Gallery, China, Beck & Eggeling, Germany, Galerie Christian Hosp, Germany were some of the major overseas galleries. Incidentally, galleries Sumukha and Ske were the only two from Bangalore who participated in the fair. The highlight of the exhibits had to be the sculptural forms and paintings by the Mumbai born artist Anish Kapoor, who is based in London, and whose works were brought to India by Lisson Gallery. In fact, this is the very first time that his works have ever been showcased in the country of his birth.

Thukral & Tagra, Image source Author
There was so much art all around that it would be impossible to go into details of all the exhibits, but to give an idea, the variety ranged from Souza and Raza at the Delhi Art Gallery stall, drawings and etchings by Picasso at Beck & Eggeling, a large triptych by Jitish Kallat at Arario and Thukral & Tagra at Nature Morte. Apart from these names there were numerous other artists who shared space in the gallery stalls. Unfortunately, some of the larger works were displayed in such a way that there was no viewing space in front of it, which was such a pity!
There was also a video lounge and a Speaker’s Forum that included eminent personalities from the field of art, both from India and abroad.

The four day modern and contemporary art fair provided an excellent opportunity to view art by some of the best known artists from India, as well as emerging artists - all under one roof. Compared to last year, the fair this time was not only bigger in terms of scale, but the quality was also better in terms of the galleries participating in it, and the artists that were represented. Obviously, not all the exhibits can be categorized as exceptional art, but overall it was quite good and definitely an event worth visiting.
(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

29 Jul 2009

Price Wise

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Last week, I wrote about how the recession gloom appears to be lifting, and as a subsequent result the art market also appears to be looking up. This does seem to be happening, but, what is surprising is that there are a few artists and galleries who have marked up the prices of their art significantly. Apparently, this is in response to the better than average auction results posted about a month ago.

In my opinion, this is the wrong time to raise prices. Auction reports cannot be directly correlated or extrapolated to justify a raise in price in the primary market, as well. While, it is true that some of the auctions did perform well, it helps to remember that the works that went under the hammer were also of good quality, and, in fact, there were some exceptional pieces as well. As a result, these went for a good price. To expect the same response for all gallery works could be optimistic.

When the general feeling is that the market is looking up, it implies that the art scenario is more ‘happening’ than before. It means that there are more events taking place, footfalls have increased in galleries and shows, and sales have begun to pick up. But, prices should remain competitive.

To go back in time, and think about the art bubble where art prices spiked sky high in a short period of time, most people knew that this trend would not be sustained for long. And, as predicted the bubble did burst and prices crashed significantly. It is unlikely that a similar situation will occur again. Prices are unlikely to shoot up drastically in a short span of time. The biggest advantage today is that the buyer is much more aware. He understands art, quality, artists, price curves and market trends. Especially, the ones who either lost money or got stuck with art that they could not resell, are wiser now. Such buyers will not buy a painting for Rs 5 lakhs when they know that the market price is around Rs 3 lakhs. They will also not buy a painting if it is of poor quality.

So, even if the market appears to be picking up now, the trend could see some ups and downs before stabilization happens. In such a scenario it would be better to go easy on the price front.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

15 Jul 2009

A photography show - Bangalore

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

A few days ago a photography show In Focus previewed at Hatworks Boulevard where six photographers presented their recent works. Photography as a fine art form is still in its nascent stages in the country, and, as this exhibition was organized by a mainstream art gallery, it sounded promising enough to tempt one to venture forth in the evening traffic. And, it turned out to be a very interesting show with excellent images on view.

Gigi Scaria
Most of these photographers have a fine arts background, and with an exception of a couple of them, they have exhibited their works widely. The visuals that they have presented capture delicate nuances derived from and related to urban living. Their inspiration ranges from crystalline reflections in still waters, the rapidly evolving skyline, graffiti on walls, and other urban phenomenon – concrete and emotional. For instance, Gigi Scaria first creates his own sculpture / installation which he then transports to the chosen site before photographing it. And, his sculptures are in fact elaborately detailed artworks that are crafted with meticulous precision. On the other hand, Atul Bhalla, a multifaceted artist, continues his penchant with water, where delicate reflections in the depths of water evoke a sense of beauty and contemplation that is almost surreal.

Atul Bhalla

Preeti Sood, who is a trained printmaker based in the UK has photographed walls with peeled plasters and posters. The images not only capture visual textures but combined with graffiti and torn lettering / pictures give an entirely new identity to the images. Rachel Immanuel is a graphic artist, and this is the second time she is exhibiting in Bangalore. Her intense black and white images are an exploration of the complexities and conflicts arising out of urban dichotomies.

Vivek Vilasini

Bangalore based Vivek Vilasini focuses on the absurd in the most unusual of circumstances. In a dump yard outside London he finds a stone statue of Buddha and a replica of the Statue of Liberty along with heavy artillery. The incongruity of the combination or co-existence of the varied objects cannot escape the viewer. While, Shankar Natarajan presents the fragility of relationships - the alignment of the profiles of the protagonists poses and answers questions that are loaded with a sense of expectancy. Overall, the exhibition is definitely worth a visit.

(The exhibition continues till July 25 at Crimson Art Resource, Bangalore)

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

2 Jul 2009

Faking It

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Last week, I was asked to look at a book, Faking It, which is an art crime novel, written by Amrita Chowdhury. Currently, Amrita is working as the Associate Director of the India Research Center division of Harvard Business School and this is her first foray into fiction. Passionate about contemporary Indian art, Amrita has set her fast paced novel in the art corridors of Mumbai. According to Amrita, she herself is an avid art collector, and as Indian art is doing so well across the world, this was a good time to set her fictional story around the Indian art scene.
The novel is about a finance expert, Tara Malhotra, who, against her wishes, is uprooted from the United States to Mumbai. Struggling to find her footing in Mumbai, indulging in extensive party hopping and high-end shopping, she ultimately decides to set up her own art gallery. But, for that to happen she needs to have that perfect piece of art in her personal collection to impress her social peers. So, when an opportunity presents to buy a newly found work by Amrita Sher-Gil she succumbs hook, line and sinker, spending all her savings in the process. And, as luck would have it, the painting turns out to be a fake. The second part of the novel is a chase around town (car chases to the airport included!) to nab the forgers, and eventually, to trap the kingpin behind this multi-million dollar racket.

The book turns out to be quite informative about the business side of Indian art and is full of little details on how the market functions, but I’m not sure how an art-unfriendly reader will respond to it. The vacuous life of a socialite as she flits from one party to another and buys every designer label in sight, paints a pathetic picture of a returned-from-abroad Indian who tries to compensate for the sense of isolation and displacement. While, the second part of the book portrays how the protagonist evolves and comes into her own.

It would not be fair to compare this book with Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code or even Jeffrey Archer’s False Impression – both of which have art as the basic premise. Nevertheless, Faking It is a perfectly enjoyable read that focuses completely around Indian art. A breezy, easy going style of narration manages to keep the reader sufficiently interested to keep turning the pages to the very end.

After reading the book, it is very likely that you may want to take a look at some of the works by Amrita Sher-Gil or by one of the numerous artists mentioned in the book (from the Bengal school or the Progressive art group), in which case you could take a walk through NGMA, Bangalore and you are sure to find most of these artists there.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

2 Jun 2009

Is the recession affecting art?

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Now that the recession has become a hard reality and has hit the art market also significantly, one wonders if this will change the way we look at art. One reads of efforts where cadavers stripped of skin and coated with resin to preserve them are displayed as art, or when butterflies pinned on a canvas and dead animals preserved in formaldehyde solution are presented as art or when an unmade dirty bed is paraded as a work of art, one wonders what next? And, in fact, some very bizarre and sensational artworks have sold for millions of dollars at auctions. Art that generates controversy has become a surefire way to make a name.

What is amazing is that people have come up with these ideas and have managed to market it so well that they have persuaded others that it is art. And, what is more surprising is that people have not only been convinced about its credibility as a form of art, but have also spent good money on it. The fact remains that till just a few months ago practically anything and everything could be paraded as art and it would succeed in finding a gullible buyer.

Well, art happens to be one area where hype seems to play a major role. It is noticed that most people are drawn to the name of the artist rather than the artwork itself. It appears that the trend seems to be reversing, one finds that there are hardly any takers for artists such as Damien Hirst now. Prior to the recession the contemporary art market seemed to have gone completely haywire. Speculation, manipulation and hype were some of the causes that inflated the market substantially. At the moment, whether it is good judgment that is affecting the sale of such works, or whether it is a genuine lack of funds that is affecting the market - to know that one will have to wait and watch.

One hopes that in the current phase as most artists and buyers have become quality conscious there will be a change in trend for the better. However, as long as there are vested interests and a hyperactive media, hype will never go away, but surely with time buyers will become more evolved and will be able to separate art from the chaff.

12 May 2009

Straying Off Course

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Of late, there have been several queries regarding courses in art appreciation and workshops on painting and sculpture. It just goes to show how the awareness and interest in art has grown in proportion to the art market. There is an ever widening audience that wants to know more about various aspects of art, but, unfortunately, avenues to fulfill these remain rather limited. Most art colleges offer a fixed set of conventional courses which cover full time programmes in various branches of fine arts such as painting, applied arts, sculpture and art history amongst others. However, with the growth in the art mart, there has been a spurt in demand for affiliated services such as art advisory services. Also, there is a need for courses that address the business aspect of the market. Art writing, curation, investment, valuations, appraisals are some of the key areas that need to be addressed through specifically designed programmes for art professionals. Of these, to the best of my knowledge, there are very few courses that are offered either as a degree diploma, or a certificate course in any of the fine art institutes in the country. There is no shortage of fine art colleges (comparatively speaking) in the country, but these are geared towards conventional disciplines rather than towards professional courses that support ancillary services relating to the business of art. What this means then is that the art market is buzzing with professionals lacking in necessary qualifications and this further adds to the chaos that characterizes the Indian art market.

A look at an international auction house’s official website reveals short term courses in Art Law, Ethics and the Art market, Art Valuation, and a number of other equally relevant courses, while semester programmes in Art and Business, and masters in various aspects of contemporary art are offered. It appears that the business of art is taken extremely seriously and efforts are made to plug the gaps that may occur due to lack of knowledge. As an auction house it makes a lot of business sense as well to address these topics. In India we are lacking behind sorely in imparting professional education in most fields and the same is happening in fine arts too. On the other hand, the business segment in art has grown exponentially, while the number of professionals who can authenticate art, provide valuation or information on copyrights and other legal issues are negligible. One can only hope that such programmes tackling the business side of the art market are initiated in the near future, as this will establish greater credibility and confidence in the market.

6 May 2009

Some tips for buying art

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

It may sound a little surprising but there are still a number of people who are buying art, although not many are flaunting the fact. If you are one of those considering buying art, I have put together a few points here which should help you go through the process.

Investing in art has always been a fairly controversial subject where purists believe that art should be bought only if one has the passion for it, while, investors with a high risk appetite have looked at art as just another investment instrument. Therefore, it is important that you identify your reasons for buying art. In any case, if you are spending a large sum of money on art use only any spare cash that you have.

If you are planning to spend less than Rs.50,000/- this is comparatively a small amount when you consider that prices of artworks can go up to lakhs and even crores. In such a case you can look at art which is aesthetic and one that appeals to you visually. If you are spending bigger amounts it is important to evaluate and analyze the financial investment potential of the artist. Also, instead of spending a large sum at a time you can distribute it within a certain timeframe. Incidentally, you should not consider spending more than 10-15% of your disposable income on art.

Buying art can be a fairly addictive process as many collectors have found out. There is always a better and more exciting work of art round the corner. Therefore, it is important to define ones budget and stick to it.

Make sure you buy from reputed galleries and dealers who have established their credentials over time. It is always better to pick an artist who is represented by a well established gallery, which ensures that the artist is promoted appropriately. In case you are buying from a resale be extra cautious about the authenticity, provenance and the condition of the work.

When you do a background check on the artist, also see how his prices have evolved over the years. A stable rise over time is a good indication that prices may follow a similar pattern in future. However, do not go entirely by the artist’s name, but also check for quality. There will be variations in every artist’s work and remember that someone who is very prolific is less likely to focus on quality.

At the end of the day buying art is a matter of personal choice, and you should be able to make the final decision after collating all relevant data.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

28 Apr 2009

Art of the matter

Some time ago, at an art event, a viewer whispered audibly that she could not make out what was so artistic about the painting. This in fact happens quite often. Sometimes, when looking at art exhibited in gallery spaces, one wonders whether everything that is presented as a form of art is really art. Thanks to the popularity wave, art has become a commercially viable venture for many. As a result, along with professional artists, self taught and hobby painters, photographers and architects, there are numerous others, from varied professions, whose experimental endeavors get an opportunity to be showcased at art exhibitions. Out of these, while some are brilliant and it is obvious that they have found their true calling in life, there are others that appear confused or mediocre to the extent that it is impossible to make out what the artist intends to convey. And, then there are some that are downright silly, to put it mildly. However, as most exhibitions these days are accompanied by enough hype to impress the general viewer, it can become difficult to look at them objectively. One can only wonder what the fuss is all about.

In fact, very often the intention behind such projects is genuine even if the resultant product fails to reflect that. There are some that lack in technique or craft or creativity or all of these. Sometimes, and fortunately not so often, one feels that the works should never have been allowed to be publicly displayed in the first place.

Artists that are sponsored and promoted by art galleries have at least been through a selection procedure. The bigger and well established galleries are in fact extremely particular who they promote and associate with. It is therefore self sponsored art shows that are suspect, because anyone can easily rent a gallery space and put up an exhibition of their works. This does not mean that every self-taught artist or an occasional painter is lacking in his craft. There are many senior and renowned artists such as MF Husain, Arpana Caur and Sudhir Patwardhan who are self-taught.

Still, it is important for buyers to be able to confidently evaluate the quality of a work and then invest in it. At the same time, it is equally imperative that artists, especially new ones, obtain critical feedback on their works before displaying them in a public space.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

8 Apr 2009

Where is the trust vote?

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

During the boom period art was projected as the next biggest investment class and many private individuals and dealers were quick to encash on this popularity wave. During that phase buyers were promised returns anywhere between 100% and 1000%, backed by data that was carefully weaned to suit the purpose. “Investment Art” emerged as a convenient bait to lure buyers to the maximum. The phrase was meant to identify a class of art that was sure to maximize investment. The situation today has altered drastically. One wonders where these promoters are now. What has happened to these so called Investment Art or Artists? The ground reality has always been different from the hype prevailing in the media.

Today, the market is abuzz with investors trying to offload their art. Unsuccessfully. In desperation many are willing to settle for whatever little is offered. This has resulted in the investors being a disillusioned lot. Many people had also invested in art funds, some of which have failed to provide the returns that were promised at the launch of the funds. At least those who have invested in art directly can take solace in the fact that they can see their art on the wall.

A number of people have lost faith in art as an investment. However, one cannot blame unscrupulous promoters and dealers only; some amount of responsibility has to be borne by the investor as well. After all, when one invests a substantial sum of money, say in real estate, one checks the credentials of the builder or developer, looks for clear titles and so on. The same is true for art. How can one invest without doing any background research? It is always essential to have an independent and unbiased opinion in such cases.

In any fast growing field, there will always be many speculators and people who will manipulate the market to suit their own purpose. At one time, many artists too, were churning out works by the dozen when there was a huge demand.

Today, demand is low, prices have fallen, and everyone has the time to introspect. During the last phase, gullible investors who believed they could treat art as stock or shares, and could exit at any point they wished are the ones that have suffered the most. It is only now that many have realized how difficult it is to resell art, especially now when liquidity is hard to find. At the risk of repeating myself, I have to say that this is a particularly bad time to sell, but a good time to buy, if you can afford to.

The market will take a while to recover, and hopefully there will be better regulation soon. And meanwhile, remember the old adage, it maybe clichéd, but still holds true – buy art that you can live with.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)