As I passed the shuttered doors of the Bodhi Art Gallery in Bombay on my last visit to the city, I wondered why better sense hadn't prevailed with the management, to create a business module that could have proved far more effective than the "blitz in your face" hype that is now like a spent phataka in the morning after. Genuine contributions to the longevity of the history of gallery practices in India cannot be achieved by a fly-by-night association ever, and those that came into the business only for the sweepstakes windfall of moola that contemporary art represented for them, are today running like mice from what they imagine is a sinking ship! Oops what indignity after that boastful chest thumping foray that we were witness to by the likes of these self proclaimed trail blazers!
The Bodhi Art Gallery always seemed slightly suspect to me in their intentions, and I was often surprised at the way many of my colleagues rushed to join the bandwagon of super stardom promised by the "big money" waved as temptation from this garden of Eden. I was hugely amused when on meeting me, the director of Bodhi boastfully claimed that he was "finally teaching the Indian art Galleries how to operates correctly!" If ferrying a plane load of socialites to Baroda as an audience for an exhibition was the paradigm to be followed, then I am truly glad that these "lessons" were well ignored by other galleries as bench marks of supposed success!
Being around as long as I have, I must admit that I am not too easily taken in by those who come into the gallery circuit, spinning illusions of instant fame to artists through grand gestures of hyped stardom. These con acts are normally ruses to lure the insecure, and are a bit like pyramid schemes which promise you dreams beyond your imagination, and then leave you betrayed at the end. The shutters are down on the dreams spun by Bodhi art Gallery leaving many artists wondering why the dazzling lights went off so suddenly!
Bollywood wasn't ever my calling and art is a practice that doesn't need the flashbulbs of page three to endorse your truth as an artist. It's not a ratings game dear friends. Paying for publicity and posing as the Aamir Khan of the art world with designer glasses and Gucci shoes is cute, but cannot be passed of as history in the making; nor hopping around with a cocktail glass as a permanent fixture, desperately trying to catch the photo moment either!
I hope that the locked doors of Bodhi Art Gallery serve as a warning to the Indian artists that big talk and grand gestures are best believed only when sustained. The clink of empty cocktail glasses make a hollow sound and show up their chips and cracks without the camouflage of our own desperation. It's high time to roll up the imaginary red carpet that you think is beneath your feet, and with it roll up your sleeves instead. There is no substitute for good old fashioned humility and hard work, and let's raise a toast to that!